It happens to everyone at some point: You land a new job. That being the case, what does every technology employee need to know about her or his first week on the job? What are the keys to making a great, first impression? Who is the most important person to impress?
Beyond personal interactions, how much time should you expect to spend getting up to speed? What are the best resources to help you get up to speed right from the start? What are the top five resources or important notes to help any employee succeed right from the start?
IT is about people
First off, I often say that there are only 16 personality types in the whole world. Technology will change and individuals will have to learn new technology and new processes. Even most companies will go away some day. If you master your interaction with other personalities, however, and you can teach people how to interact, then you can build any team to accomplish anything.
In the very first week at any new job, my top advice is to understand the players — not the game. Your experience within the first 90 days will take care of your work and how you can accomplish it. There is no substitute for learning how a company’s hierarchy works.
If you learn whose hand is on the levers of power and who is really in charge — who makes waves, who causes drama, who controls situations, who sits back, who works hard — then you can use that info to understand how to effectively get things done.
Once you have landed a new job, making a first impression is probably the easiest thing that you can do. It is also the most important thing. And you can master it in four easy steps.
First, make eye contact. We are still animals with instincts, and the system that evolved millions of years ago to establish trust — or not — is making eye contact. It shows honesty and integrity without saying a word.
Second, the non-verbal smile is always a winner. Whoever you encounter, be sure to smile. You can’t get more disarming than a flash of the pearly whites.
Third, dressing up and communicating your story or values in a few readily digestible points is also a good game plan. Understand the dress code of the company and then go up one notch. Have a few brief anecdotes or one good story about how you came to be there, or what your history is. Keep it short — no one wants to listen to your life story, they want the headlines.
My last tip for making your best first impression is to be authentic. You don’t have to act like you do at home, but you need to be yourself enough to let others know you are sincere and genuine. I often do this by sharing a heartfelt, true story about my past that I can tie to my core values. I want others to see that my history, my core values, and how I project myself on a day-to-day basis all line up.
Who should you focus on?
Speaking of impressions, who is the most important to impress? This is the point of figuring out who is in charge for real, or who are the people on the spot when the rubber meets the road. That’s who you want to impress.
Also, you can always make a good impression by jumping in and getting something done. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and tackle a problem that has been lingering in the company. Your most important impression will be made by what you accomplish, not who you rub elbows with — always.
Take your time
How much time will you need to get up to speed? This question is easy: It’s 90 days. In the first 90 days you must make a splash and set your impressions with everyone. I recommend the book The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. It spells out what success at a new company means, as well as what you will need to do to achieve that success.
You can also understand how to succeed at a new company by parsing its history. Go back 100 days and look at the items that were being talked about and that have taken off. You will get a good understanding of the company’s culture and what they are trying to achieve.
Look at blog posts, track projects started, and check out work product from 100 days back until the day you start. This will help you really learn what the company is doing, where it’s going, and how you can most effectively join in that effort.
Know your resources
When you start at a new company, the most important resources to ensure success can ideally all be found on the spot. The following are the five most important sources that can help you settle in and take off.
1) Financial resources — Pay attention to how company funds are allocated and where investments are being made. This will help you develop a sense of what financial resources are available to help you do your job, including everything from purchase orders to discretionary budgets.
2) Human resources — Who are the people you can lean on? Get an understanding of how the people and culture in your department interact: who gets in trouble, what issues and hot buttons there are, who can help you get your work done. (There is also almost certain to an actual human resources department. Those people are there to answer questions and be your ally.)
3) Educational resources — Does the company have a continuing education (CE) program or something similar that you might take part in? Does the company support enrolling online courses, pursuing industry certifications, or getting involved in other similar programs?
There are both short-term and long-term benefits to taking full advantage of educational resources. Anything that you learn or accomplish here will go with you to your next job/employer.
4) Physical resources —You need a really good workstation and location in order to be successful. You need office supplies. Maybe you need a standing desk. Don’t overlook your immediate working environment — it could be the make or break your success.
5) Emotional resources — Get to know the people you work with. Having a buddy or supportive manager is vital to success. You need someone to bounce ideas off of, or who can discuss problems and challenges with you.
We've all been there
There is a lot of advice out there to help your succeed in your first week at a new employer. Some systems and programs work, while others are less helpful. Whatever else you take away from this discussion, one thing is universally true:
Everyone you will see, interact with, or talk to, had their own first week on the job at some point in the past. You’re not alone.