Tips for Succeeding in Your First Few Months at a New Job

By Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant, METRO

This past summer, after years of budget cuts, the public libraries of NYC had a funding increase that led to open positions for librarians at all three systems. With these and other library jobs being recently filled throughout the area, there are many new hires to be congratulated!

Tips.jpgWhile this is certainly good news for these information professionals and for the city, getting hired is just the beginning. Whether the job is a first professional position or a new opportunity for an experienced librarian, the first few months of training, learning, and acclimating to a new workplace are crucial to long term success. Making a good impression and avoiding any missteps will enable new hires to establish themselves positively in their new roles.

Listen more than you speak, and take notes. In the very first days and weeks at a new job, a lot of information will be coming at you regarding both the duties of the job and workplace policies and procedures. These will soon become routine but don’t expect to remember it all without notes or review/repetition. While your input and suggestions are valuable, it is best to focus first on learning how things work and what is expected of you on a day-to-day basis.

Learn the rules before you recommend breaking them. As someone new to the organization, you may look at how something is done and feel that you know a better way. Until you’ve been there a while, though, you won’t have enough information to back up your push for a change. It is also important to understand how to present your ideas in this new venue, and to whom, and you’ll need to be there for a while to figure that out. Jumping the gun may make you seem like someone who makes suggestions impulsively and that can give a negative impression.

Refrain from stating any strong negative opinions, especially about the new employer. Again, while your input later will be welcome, colleagues will have limited information about you early on as you are building your reputation with them. Saving the critical comments for later will ensure that you don’t seem negative in general from day one. And while we’re on the subject of watching what you say…

Don’t confide in anyone until some time has passed. You don’t know yet which colleagues can be trusted, so it is better not to reveal any personal or sensitive information about yourself or be perceived as part of any clique right away. Beware of those who gossip or pry for private info, as it is too soon to know if their information is accurate and/or their intentions harmless.

Meet as many people as possible. If you work for a small organization, you may meet everyone there is to meet on the first day, while in a larger workplace you may still be introducing yourself weeks or months into the new job. However many people there are, each of them are potential new contacts in your network. They can help you to stay in the loop at work, and you never know where an alliance will lead down the road.

Reserve judgment regarding what may appear to be dysfunction. Be on the alert for possible red flags, but just make a mental note and see how things play out. In early days you are operating with limited information, and you may mistakenly perceive something as a problem when it is not. If unusually stressful experiences at a previous job are affecting you in the new job, remind yourself that this is a different workplace with different people and responding as if you are in a past situation is not in your best interest.

Pay attention and adapt to your boss’s communication preferences. Does s/he want to meet with you weekly, with occasional updates via email in between? Or perhaps in informal in-person daily reports? Or if you don’t see your boss every day, texts as necessary? Will you be expected to check messages after hours and on weekends? Note how others are communicating with him/her, including which other team members receive group messages, and if it is still not clear, ask.

Request feedback from your supervisor. This is especially important if there is no formal evaluation process, and can be as simple as a few minutes of conversation in a one-to-one meeting after you’ve completed three months or six months or so.

Take time off only if absolutely necessary. You don’t want to be known and remembered as being out a lot, especially before you have accrued any annual leave or sick days.

Volunteer to help out in any way you can (with your supervisor’s approval). This will help to build your reputation as a valuable employee.

Don’t neglect professional development, networking, service to professional organizations, updating your resume and other job search and career-enhancing activities. Your current nine-to-five should not be the entirety of your professional “work” or identity. It may seem odd to advise someone who has just started a new job to keep up the behaviors that led to getting hired. Those same actions, though, are also important for long term career success.

You may have heard the saying “live each day as if it were your last". My advice is to think of each job as if it is definitely not your last, no matter how much you are enjoying it or how stable it seems to be. If you do find yourself job hunting down the road, you will be very glad that you are prepared and have continued to grow professionally, and if not, your career will be richer for it anyway, so this is a win-win tactic.

Be kind to yourself. Starting a new job is not easy! You will make mistakes and may feel overwhelmed at times; this is normal. While you will no doubt be watched closely, in a reasonable workplace perfection is not expected. When you stumble, learn from it and move on.

Before you know it, your first months will be behind you and will be fully functioning in your position, no longer the “new one”, and ready to help welcome and train the next person hired. Good luck!