Your First Days Working at a New Job: 20 Tips to Help You Make a Great Impression
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D. and Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
You know how it is.
Early on in life you learn its importance.
As you learn about job-hunting, its value again gains prominence.
And now, as you are about to start at a new job, it reaches a critical state.
What is it?
It is the impact of first impressions. In categorizing people, we all take shortcuts, and first impressions about people often turn into long-term perceptions and reputations -- which are good for people who make positive first impressions (the halo effect), but bad for people who make negative first impressions.
"I think the early days are when your boss and colleagues form the most lasting impressions about you," observes Ann Marie Russell, a program coordinator with AmeriCorps. "This is when they make assessments about your 'typical' behavior -- the 'type' of person you are. If you have any attendance/punctuality issues in the first few days or weeks, you've already lost a significant battle -- their confidence in you. People will take you as seriously as you seem to take yourself -- and your work," says Russell, a psychology grad from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
And in the workplace, during those first few early days where you are meeting everyone -- and everyone is meeting you -- first impressions about you and your future potential can make a major impact on your future success with the organization.
"You have to realize that first impressions are remembered," says a general-business major, "and even if you talk to someone who isn't related to your job. they may know someone who is. Watch what you say and do. Things can come back to haunt you."
Not to worry, though; in most situations, employers don't expect you to knock their socks off or hit homeruns during those first few weeks. Most employers realize that there is a learning curve for most positions. So, there is often an unofficial grace period while you settle into your job.
How can you improve your chances for making a great first impression when you're starting a new job? Here are 20 tips -- along with some comments and suggestions from job-seekers who have been there -- to help you make a great impression.
Have a Positive Attitude
Nothing works better -- in all situations -- than having and expressing a positive attitude. Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organization show to everyone you interact with. And always leave non-work problems at home.
Dress Professionally/Blend in With Co-Workers
You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally in your new job. And in the beginning, even if your department has casual days, you should dress professionally because you never know when you'll be called out to meet a top manager or key client. "Dress how you want people to perceive you because it plays a huge role in how you are initially treated," advises Desiree Devaney, a financial analyst with GE Capital Credit. "Perfectly groomed means efficient and reliable in work; unkempt means disorganized and therefore difficult to trust with different assignments. After awhile, people realize these things do not necessarily correspond, but initially, your looks and dress are your representation to them." (See lots more comments from rookie workers about dressing for success in our collection of entry-level quotes, How to Make the Best Impression in Your First Days on the Job .)
Learn Co-Workers' Names Quickly
"Volunteer for things even though you don't know how to do it or what needs to be done to accomplish it," suggests Stephen Magennis, whose first job out of college was as a benefits analyst for Hewitt Associates, Orlando, FL. "There will be people [who need] help, and they will appreciate your efforts to start making an immediate impact. Many times, there may be some tasks that you can accomplish with a little guidance, which will probably free up
time for someone who needs to work on more important items," Magennis offers.
Establish a Good Attendance Record
Avoid Office Politics and Gossip
Magennis agrees: "Stay out of the office politics for as long as possible," he says. "It's inevitable that you will be exposed to them sooner or later, and you will most likely participate in them as well as it's human nature. But stay out of the game for the first few months."
Meet and Network with Key People in Organization & Profession
"Network," advises von Staudach. "Join an organization outside of work. Take additional classes to stay ahead in your field. Take advantage of every opportunity to network with key people in your organization and profession -- attend staff meetings, professional organization conferences, trade shows -- every opportunity to meet colleagues in your field. Just because you have a new job does not mean you suspend your network; constantly manage and grow your network of contacts because you never know when a problem or opportunity will arise. And networking with key people can also help you in finding one or more mentors.
Similarly, a psychology grad cautions against getting too comfortable: "Keep setting goals, networking, and keeping your ears open. Most college grads will switch positions or companies many times before the age of 30."
Final Thoughts on Your First Days on the Job
Being the newest member of the organization -- the rookie -- is both challenging and exciting. You'll be faced with both difficulties and opportunities, and your goal should be to make the most of all situations. These 20 tips should help provide you with some insights and direction as you approach that new job, but don't worry if you don't make a perfect first impression in those early days on the job -- few of us ever do. Remember to relax, keep your mind open, get to know your team members, and do your work -- and you should go far in making a lasting impression and reputation.
Read lots more comments from rookie workers in our collection of entry-level quotes, How to Make the Best Impression in Your First Days on the Job.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D. creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine , an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career . Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus .
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers. one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press. including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine . Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus .
Succeed in the workplace! Find great tools and resources for succeeding at work: Workplace Resources for Dealing With Your Job .