This post is dedicated to all the seniors out there who will begin full-time jobs in the next few months—CONGRATULATIONS! I know you all have worked hard over the past few years and your positions are well deserved.
Personally, as excited as I am about having a job post-graduation, I am also apprehensive about entering into a full-time work environment. Like many of you, I have had plenty of internships in the past, but a full-time job marks a more significant transition. It is essential, therefore, to have a strategy when entering into the workforce that enables you to make the best impression possible in your first few weeks with an organization.
WHY: First impressions count. In the early days of a job, your boss and colleagues begin to form lasting impressions about you. They observe and assess your ‘typical’ behavior, including attendance, punctuality, enthusiasm, and even what ‘type’ of person you are. Especially in the first few days when introductions have begun, first impressions about you and your potential can influence your future success with the organization. Of course, employers do not expect you to know everything right off the bat. There will be time to learn the ropes at each job. However, there are several ways you can increase your chances for making a great first impression and have a major impact on your future standing.
WHAT TO DO: You want to be seen as enthusiastic, competent, and motivated in your first few weeks at a company. The key is to remember that you are under careful watch in the beginning from bosses, co-workers, and the organization as a whole, so act as professionally as possible while observing other co-workers’ habits.
1. Be Positive. Having a positive attitude is not only infectious, but it may help your cause if you accidentally blunder in your first few days. Having enthusiasm for your work, as well as enthusiasm towards your team, department, and company can go a long way towards forming new friendships, and carving out a positive niche within your organization. If at all relevant, you should show loyalty to your co-workers and, at least in the beginning, find opportunities to share credit or success with the team. And remember to learn their names quickly!
2. Watch and learn. Observe your co-workers’ dress, habits, punctuality, etc.—they will give you a good indication of what is expected of employees, even if nothing is specifically stated in your contract or training. When in doubt, dress professionally to your new job. In the beginning, even if your department has casual days, try to dress professionally because you are still trying to make an impression. Young new-hires may emulate the attire of those who are in higher-level positions to gain some credibility. Once you are comfortable in your position, watch how your co-workers dress and behave, and start to slowly merge your styles. Often times, observing how a co-worker answers a phone (always politely) or drafts an internal email (professionally) will tip you off on how you are expected to conduct business within your department. Though you should try to arrive early your first few days and work full hours, also keep track of when your co-workers arrive, take lunch breaks, and depart from the office. If people come early, eat quickly, and leave late, chances are you are expected to do the same.
3. Listen and learn. Along with watching, comes listening. Take your first few weeks and simply listen during conversations, meetings, and gatherings. In the early stages of a job, listening is much more important than talking and having some of your new ideas heard—it shows that you value and respect your co-workers existing communicative relationship and that you are not a ‘know-it-all’ straight out of college.
4. Socialize. Try to stay away from any office gossip, but do try to get to know your co-workers. Take advantage of after-hours activities such as sport leagues or happy hours, while being on your best behavior. Ask plenty of questions to your employers, co-workers, or HR representatives if you are stuck on an issue—it may even be a good way to break the ice with less friendly employees—and always show your appreciation for advice received. You should also consider finding a mentor down the line, to help guide you through your career path and introduce you to other members of your organization. Above all else, continue networking and expanding your circle of contacts—and never stop!
5. Get Informed. Learn everything you can about your company in the first few days. Gather employee handbooks and company literature to make sure you are informed before speaking up at meetings. But also keep track of your accomplishments and milestones: tracking your progress, achievements, successful projects or meetings will not only help boost your confidence, but will also help guide future conversations with your boss. Request meetings with your boss to review performance and be sure to share your own achievements with him/her too. Create goals together and work your hardest to achieve them.
Making a good impression should not be too difficult, however these tips are sure to set you ahead of other ‘rookies’ in the group. Enjoy your first job—excel—and remember, if for some reason you decide to leave your company and begin another job search, as a Princeton graduate, Princeton’s Career Services is available to assist alumni at any stage of their