Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ryan McRae.
The first day of your new job can be harrowing and exciting. It’s a fresh start. You made it through the resume olympics and the interview spartan race.
You’ll sit through an orientation. You might get a desk. You’ll be introduced to a lot of people. Maybe six. Maybe fifteen. The experience is not unlike your first day of high school where you’re left wondering, Will people like me? Will I fit in? And how great is this?
But you might be left with a gnawing question: what about tomorrow? And the next? How can I make my first 30 days the best they can be? How do I hit the ground running?
Making a dent in the universe might not be possible your first 30 days, but you can make significant progress on getting your new job or career going in the right direction. (Tweet this.) These strategies will help you make more connections and gain successful traction towards making a difference in your workplace.
1. Have lunch with someone at least every other day.
When you’re “the new kid,” most people in your company want to get to know you. Take advantage of it. When you get the chance, ask your coworkers out to lunch.
Asking people to go to lunch sounds basic — and I agree. But in our digital age of being glued to our screens, these vital connections happen less and less.
When you go out for lunch, remember it is a “no agenda” deal. You are simply trying to connect and get to know your fellow employee. Once you meet your immediate coworkers, repeat your lunch invitations with people outside your work area. Work in the finance department? Have lunch with some HR folk. Work in the art department? Meet someone in the operations department.
2. Ask your manager great questions.
You will probably meet with your manager, or the person you directly report to, at some point in the first five days. Your manager will say, “How are you settling in? Everything good?” Rookies will answer, “Oh yeah, everything’s great. That coffee machine, though. That could use some work.” And then both of you will laugh and laugh.
Any time you are meeting with your manager — even an impromptu one at the coffee machine — you want to have questions at the go. Here are some I would ask depending on your situation and what you’ve learned so far. I wouldn’t recommend a rapid-fire execution with these. Instead, select two each time and take voracious notes.
- What are our main priorities this quarter? You want to focus on the main things when you are at work. Once you know these, you’ll know exactly where to spend your time.
- Where do you need me to focus a majority of my creative energy? If you have a job where you can create new material, this is a key question. You want to know what doesn’t need changing and what does. You want to fix the stuff that needs fixing and build the stuff that needs building.
- Who should I connect with outside of our department? There might be a person that your team works a lot with but might be on the other side of the building or on a different floor. Ask your manager to do an introduction and then follow up with a lunch/coffee invite.
- How does the team celebrate? I would ask this question to understand the culture. Are birthdays a big deal? Does someone not celebrate at all? Are big achievements celebrated? What about benchmarks or key performance indicators (KPIs)? How so?
- What is the team currently struggling with and how can I help? You weren’t hired on a whim. They didn’t spin a wheel or pull your name out of a hat. When you were interviewed, you hit on specific issues that the company needs help with. Maybe you have a knack for breaking down silos. Maybe you are the Excel whiz they have been hoping for. Maybe you know how to develop new employees. Ask what the best strategy would be to start addressing the problem and get to it.
- Good books? Podcasts? Questions like these may sound pedantic, but they’ll let you know your manager better and see what they value.
Any of the above questions give you a fantastic way to connect with your manager.
3. Do not eat at your desk.
We all need a break from our desk. Your brain needs a little bit of a reboot, a jolt, to keep the productivity flowing. If you don’t leave your desk, your brain will have a hard time realizing you’re on a break. It will not be refreshed and may even slow down if you’re carb loading while at your desk. So get up. Move. Eat somewhere else. No one, and I mean no one, is impressed if you are always at your desk.
4. Find a gym that’s close to work, not to home.
Simply, if you want to start adding fitness into your life, get a gym close to work, not your home. You’ll never hit that treadmill if you start the commute back to your comfortable living room. I bet some of you are saying, But Ryan, you don’t know me. Oh, but I do know you.
Your willpower has been depleted from work. If you have to choose between heading home and hitting the elliptical, you’ll pick home every time.
It works the same when you are on your way back. Simply peel off and go from work to the gym; it’s a short path. Your willpower is on empty right now. If your gym is close to home, well, you know what you’ll likely do. Pick the gym that’s close to work and you will hit that treadmill much more often.
5. Don’t be afraid to participate, but take time to learn the history.
When you’re the new person, you might fear coming across as the know-it-all. To combat this, take time to understand the place where you’re working. I’ve made the mistake of saying, “Wow. This needs to change,” without the knowledge of why it was that way. My words did not win me points, just glares.
A better approach might be to use phrases like:
- “Help me understand.”
- “What has been the history of that decision? Why do we do it that way?”
- Trade “What we did at my company was . . . “ to, “I’ve seen this work . . . “ or “I’ve seen this be a successful best practice.”
Demonstrate that you are wanting to contribute from the start to build your reputation as someone who is involved.
Your first 30 days at a new job can be overwhelming and exciting. They should be! But having a plan to connect and knowing where to spend your time the most efficiently helps you generate the greatest contribution you can.