Whether it’s your first full-time job or just a part-time temp gig, you beat the odds in this bad economy and you’re finally getting a paycheck for your labors. Kudos to you and your persistence.
Now comes the hard part: making a good impression and staying employed. You know that all eyes will be on you—co-workers, your boss, and especially the HR manager that recommended you. He or she favored your resume and interview over at least a dozen others. So welcome to life in a fishbowl—at least for the next week or so. The job is yours to lose. Some tips to help you survive the first week:
Observe the corporate culture
Listen, look and learn the way your coworkers interact with each other and their bosses. Every co-worker group has unofficial leaders and go-to experts. There are “rainmakers,” fair-haired “do-no-wrong” types, and those who have the ear of upper management. You need to quickly identify these individuals and learn how the company operates by listening to them at meetings and informal get-togethers. If you’re invited to an after-hours function, go, drink as little alcohol as possible and listen more than talk
Ask the right questions
Yes, there are dumb questions regardless of what people tell you. Don’t ask about things you can find in the company’s employee manual. Questions about time off, parking, medical benefits, bonuses and pay raises should all have been handled during your orientation meeting with HR. You can ask fellow employees what the boss is like, how long they’ve been with the company, and what they like and don’t like about the organization. Avoid interrupting a co-worker with a single question every hour. Save your questions for the break or lunch.
Know this by heart
Get an organization chart and memorize your co-workers by name and function. Put the org chart on your wall and make sure it has everyone’s phone extension and email. Learn the company’s main products or services and how they generate revenue. During your break, walk past and memorize the location of the copy machine, the restroom, and where your co-workers work—their offices and cubicles. As a newbie, there’s a limited grace period and tolerance level for those who get lost. Another thing that will help you blend in is to learn the various insider acronyms the company uses. You can usually find these in past press releases and emails sent to outside clients and the press.
Play it safe
Watch your co-workers and follow their lead, but stay on the conservative side. There are always co-workers who dress flashy, take long breaks and lunches, and spend time on cell phones talking and texting personal messages. Don’t assume it’s okay to do these things. Follow the more conservative co-workers in dress and behavior. Another useful thing to keep in mind is to remain as neutral as possible when it comes to co-worker alliances. Make new friends slowly and carefully.
Finally, don’t complain
No one wants to hear you gripe about the copy machine, outdated software/hardware or your small cubicle. Let the others complain about the parking, short lunches and bad coffee in the break room. The job is yours—but it’s also yours to lose.