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Work Daze: New Kid in Town

It’s your first day at a new job. What do you think about?

If it’s you, you think about how long it will take before you reach your last day at your new job. But I’m talking about normal people. Normal people want to do their best from Day One, so they can grow and learn and have long and fulfilling careers.

Or so I learned from Julia Malacoff in her recent post on glassdoor.com. Titled “8 Things to Do on Your First Day at a New Job,” the piece explains how a new employee can “make an impression on the people you’ll (hopefully) be working with for years to come.”

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Malacoff assumes you’ll “want to ask smart questions,” though she is a little vague about what these might be. To my mind, there are only two important questions that need to be answered on Day One — where is the bathroom and when do I get a raise?

Knowing the answers to these super smart questions on Day One is sure to pay off, because with this information, you’ll have a place to hide while waiting for your raise to arrive.

What other moves should you make to “set yourself off as an exciting member of the team”?

No. 1 is to “define success in your new role.” You’ll want to know “how your success will be measured and over what time frame.” To acquire this nugget of knowledge you will have to speak to you boss, which is something I definitely do not recommend. Besides, you already know what defines success is for you — not being found out. And the time frame — infinity.

“Focus on people, not issues” is No. 2. This is important. You’ll want to know who has the real power in your office. These are not the managers, clearly, but the real decision makers, like the person who chooses the candy in the vending machines. If this person chooses Karma, Love and Apricot Ginnybars instead of Double Stuf Oreos or Laffy Taffy, you’ll know your tenure is sure to be short and not too sweet.

No. 3 is “seek out the right reading materials.” This is a good idea, but ignore the old newsletters and employee manuals Malacoff recommends. Focus on the personnel files of your managers and co-workers. You’ll find them locked up in the HR department, but don’t let that stop you. As a recent hire, simply introduce yourself as the new head of HR. Act imperious and twitchy; no one will question you.

No. 4 is “shift the focus to your new colleagues.” This is an injunction against talking up “your own past accomplishments and future ambitions.”

Not a problem. You have so few accomplishments there’s really nothing to talk about. As for your ambition to be King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, you might want to keep that to yourself.

No. 5 is ” confirm how your manager likes to communicate.” If the answer is “grunts,” you’ve got it made.

“Don’t wait to be introduced” is No. 6. “Reach out your hand and initiate a greeting,” is the advice of Katie Rasoul, Chief Awesome Officer at Team Awesome Consulting. I recommend that you make the most of these first introductions by using the occasions to borrow money. $500 dollars is a good number to start. Clearly, once your co-workers get to know you, no one is going to lend you money, or a paper clip, and you certainly don’t have to pay it back. Now, that is awesome!

No. 7 is “listen for language cues.” As HR pro Colin T. McLetchie puts it, “if you can catch some of the lingo and patterns early, you’ll sound like you belong faster.”

Be especially cautious if the lingo includes expressions, like “May your mother sip borsche through a straw,” or “Your face looks like a cossack’s spodniki.” You may have stepped through a black hole and are now working in Bulgaria in 1873.

It happens.

No. 8 is to “offer to help during downtime.” According to professor Alexander Lowry, “there may be some downtime during your first days on the job as your boss and team adjust to having you there.”

You can offer, but do explain your limits. You will not do anything that requires a computer, a phone, or a broom, but you are willing to nap if everyone who is working keeps quiet.

And don’t worry. Even if you never implement any of these Day One suggestions, it really won’t matter. Chances are that you’ll be fired on Day Two.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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