There is no doubt that the first week at a new job is full of emotions (Nervousness, Excitement, Uncertainty, and Joy - Among Many Others). And by all means feel those emotions, experience them and learn from them. You only hinder your success and happiness when you let them rule your first week and you lose sight of your larger career picture.

Of course, keeping your emotions in check that first week is easier said than done, which is why I've put together this insightful little guide highlighting vital tasks to complete and ideas to maintain while you're getting adjusted in that first week.

Remember your emotions will balance out, but the actions you take have a lasting impact. By achieving the following within your first week, you'll be securing your success and happiness for a long time to come.

Set Realistic Expectations

When I talk about emotions directly impacting your success and happiness, I'm mostly talking about this section. We want to impress our bosses and colleagues, especially that first week - it's only natural. When we let this need to overawe dictate our first week, we tend to do things that harm us in the future.

Two that instantly come to mind are our willingness to take on tasks outside the scope of the positional requirements and working at a pace far beyond our normal rate. Believe me, both are only hurting you in the long run. In the first scenario, this task can easily morph into something permanent. And 9 times out of ten, you're not going to enjoy this task, it's going to interfere with your main workload, and you won't be compensated for it. In scenario 2, you're just putting yourself in a position to fail because you're only human. You will get tired or injured, and when your production drops, your boss will certainly notice (and that's not what you want to be noticed for).

Avoiding these Situations

It's important that you sit down and have a thorough discussion with your manager - preferably day 1. You want to gain as much clarity on your role as you can. I recommend defining the following...

  • Day-to-Day Tasks / Key Responsibilities
  • Long Term Goals of these Tasks
  • Time Frame to Achieve Goals

This is going to give you strong positional foundation. So if a co-worker asks you to take on an assignment, you can properly assess how this will impact your overall role. If you can handle the task now, let them know that this is outside your role, but you'd be happy to do this for them the one time. Obviously, you don't have to sound as robotic as that last sentence, but you should set a tone that lets them know this won't be a regular assignment for you. And if you can't fit it into the schedule, be honest and let them know.

Now, if your boss asks you take on this task, you can use that as leverage in the future when trying to get a promotion or raise. Without that prior discussion, you wouldn't really know if it was outside the scope of your normal duties. Just keep track of how often this task is done, its impact on the company and how you managed to maintain your regular workload.

As for working beyond your normal pace. Just take a few deep breaths and relax. This is a marathon. You sprint out the gate and you're never going to finish, and you're only going to be miserable. Yes, there are going to be times where you have to work harder than normal, your first week is not one of those times.

Be Observant But Don't Be Silent

If it's not our eagerness derailing us that first week, it's usually our nerves. And for many, when the nerves show up our voices shut down. This can be a big mistake in the first week. We need to communicate in order to better understand the new situation we're in. So my number one tip for this section is, ask questions.

Use your newness to your advantage and ask questions about any uncertainty you may have. There are no dumb questions at this stage of the game. However in a month or 2, when the uncertainty comes up again and you decide to ask about it or just guess at it again (probably getting it wrong), you may be seen as not picking up things quickly and that's not a reputation you want to start building. Now don't get me wrong, always ask questions. Just ask it the first time it appears - it's the best way to seem competent.
Bonus Note: A great way to impress your manager is to ask a task-related or procedural-related question once and only once. By this I mean, you ask it, they answer it, and you know exactly how to do it... forever. So how do you do that? I recommend writing answers down on post-it notes and sticking them to the computer or in a notebook. It's extremely simple and extremely effective. They're right in front of you, and you can quickly look at them for reference. Eventually as time goes on, the task becomes second nature and you can easily discard it.

Bonus Bonus Note: Title your post-it notes. It makes searching through them that much faster.
I want you to ask questions about anything and everything, but in that first week, I think it's vital you focus on and observe the company culture. It's the quickest way for you to assimilate with the situation and become part of the team. (I just started this blog, so stay connected. I'll be explaining the different aspects of the culture you should be watching and why.)

Mentors = Success

The most effective way to set yourself up for success in the first week and beyond is to gain the support of a mentor. Now some companies will automatically assign someone to this role, which is great. But if you feel that they're just going through the motions, don't hesitate to reach out to someone more willing. Listening to someone with terrible, half-hearted advice can be just as bad or worse than going at it alone.

However, when you get/find someone who cares and is full of useful insights, the value is priceless. These people have been there, seen the struggles, and fought those uphill battles. They know what you don't, and they can guide you through it all (Just remember to ask questions.)

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Article By: Tom Kieley

About the Author

Tom is the creator of Fulfillingly. He absolutely enjoys giving people the tips and tools they need to find a satisfying career or dependable employee. Tom does
this by combining years of experience with incredible outside sources.

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