New on the Job: Putting Your Best Foot Forward

A bit of fun with Fluevogs

Congratulations! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newly minted graduate, you’ve passed the gauntlet of honing your CV and cover letter, making the employer’s shortlist, and approaching references (particularly challenging for the new grad with limited paid work experience) even as you prepared for the interview process. You may have undergone skill testing or more than one interview, as organisations are increasingly turning to one-to-one telephone interviews as a preliminary step before investing additional colleagues’ time for in-person interviews.

Now, you’ve accepted a job offer and are approaching your first day in a new role. Whether this is your dream job or a stepping stone as you build your career, you want to treat both the work and your personal brand with the same high level of respect. How to begin? It starts even before day one on the job.

Take a test commute so you’ll know how early to depart home; plan your wardrobe for week one

Bear in mind what your new colleagues wore when you were interviewed and, if in doubt, dress a bit more conservatively while still fitting in with your peers. Do your ironing or arrange for dry cleaning ahead of time, so you’re not scrambling out the door to reach the office on time. In my early days, I paid attention to advice to dress for the type of position I hoped to hold five years down the road.

Consider how you will build your reputation, or brand, in this workplace

Unless you’re already accustomed to this particular commute, take a test run to determine how early you should leave, whether by car, foot or public transit. When you were competing for the position, you likely coordinated your schedule in order to arrive a bit early.  Maintain that pattern so that you’re composed and organised as you start each work day; just don’t arrive so early that you might be resented by already established colleagues.

Dressing appropriately  and arriving in a consistently timely manner will form the initial foundation of your reputation with your new colleagues. Some other basics for your first few days in the office?

Be prepared for introductions; you’ll want to be professional and personable, without overstepping boundaries

It begins with good manners and, in many cultures, with a smile, a firm handshake and direct eye contact. It can be overwhelming trying to match names, faces and departments, so be kind to yourself; this will take a bit of time. If your organisation has a website that can help speed up this process, take advantage of it.

People will have varying degrees of curiosity about their new colleague. Beyond practicing a few brief words about who you are and how pleased you are to join the team, you may wish to pick up on social cues from your colleagues as you find your place within the social network. A friendly smile, a can do attitude and your work ethic will speak volumes for you.

Let your work speak for you at first. Recognise that, however knowledgeable and talented you may be, you’re still the new kid on this particular block

Temper confidence with a bit of humility, and don’t hesitate to ask questions that will help you to do a great job. Show the courtesy of taking notes so that you don’t need to repeatedly ask the same questions of those training you. Practice listening, and exercise the table manners you were taught at home. Engage in employee networks, online or otherwise. Remember that it won’t reflect well on you if you’re overly eager for breaks, or if you race out the door at the end of the day.

Build a rapport with your boss and strive for open communications, but be patient; it takes time to earn trust and confidence

One question I don’t hesitate to ask a new boss early on is what I can do to help him/her succeed. It may also help to ask your boss what specific practices and systems s/he would like to ensure are maintained, and if there are any your boss has already identified as ripe for change. You may have terrific ideas on how to enhance systems, but wait until you understand this new environment and the dynamics involved before offering suggestions, which might initially take the form of questions.

Plan your professional development

While on the topic of enhancements, assess your skill sets and what types of professional development (PD) you might undertake to enhance your value to the organisation. Ask your boss, and other informed people you respect, for advice on this front. Consider the type of long term career to which you aspire. Establish goals, and plans to achieve them; map out timing for specific goals, and then act upon them. Read, network, and read some more.

Speak with confidence, clarity and courtesty

 Being new to a job can be daunting, but that needn’t detract from your sense of self.  Your tone of voice, grammar and attitude speak volumes about your confidence and professionalism, all of which impact your reputation and personal brand.

Focus on the positive

Not what you expected? This may or may not be your dream job. Once the initial thrill over landing a job has subsided, and routines settle in – or if you find yourself in close quarters with people with whom you’d not otherwise associate – you may wonder why you wanted this particular position in the first place.

Do yourself, and your employer, a favour. Make the best of things. Endeavour to enhance the situation, and show your strengths as a candidate for promotion, if such opportunities are available.

Discouraged? Identify and focus on one aspect of the job you do like, or can tolerate

Whatever it is, focus on that aspect – though not to the exclusion of other responsibilities – by becoming as strong a contributor as possible on that front. Take a part time or online/open source course; take internally provided courses, if there are any, to enhance your web editing, public relations (or whatever) applicable skills are involved.

Grow, and stay positive and focused during the process. By enhancing your skills, and building your reputation for expertise in this particular aspect of the job, you are also enhancing your brand … and you may find, in the process, that you’ve created new opportunities for yourself.

Remember what it was like to be job hunting. If none of these resolve the situation, plan your exit gracefully and with an eye to how a short term stay may reflect on your resume.  Above all, take the high road.

It is the job you expected, but you’re not sure you’re up to snuff?  You will make mistakes, particularly while new to the job.  Own and learn from yours; then correct the situation, asking for help where needed, and move forward.  All of us were new at one time or another and, as Oscar Wilde said, experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.

You may also be interested in …

Public Speaking: Learn from Some of the Best (

Minutes: Less is More (

Strategies for an Organised Office: Your Brand at Stake (

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