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First 30 days on the new job, what your manager really wants

first 30 days

First 30 days

Your first 30 days on your new job!  Congrats, you just landed an offer.  You made it through the interviews, and you negotiated a salary.  Now the real work begins, literally.

Starting a job can be stressful.  For many, it is one of the more stressful/nervous life experiences, high on the list with public speaking and the “first kiss”.  Just like a first kiss, the two events can be stressful because of the following unanswered questions:

  • Will I be liked?
  • Will I be able to do the work?
  • Will I be able to learn the job fast enough?

This above, combined with what is most likely going to be a lack of a training plan doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.  Training plans can range from the abbreviated plan of “don’t f*** this up” to the all-encompassing plan complete with “two weeks of books, 2 weeks of OTJ and 2 weeks of job shadowing, complete with a graduation ceremony”.  Unfortunately, most programs lean more towards the first option.

The first 30 days in a new job are critical to setting the tone for the rest of your career with the hiring company and this is why we need to minimize uncertainty.  You established a first impression with your resume and then in your first interview.  These impressions landed you your interview and carried you through the interview loop.  You had a plan for the interviews; you need a plan for your first 30 days.

Too many new employees allow their job, manager, or both to dictate their career.  Even though we may have been successful in school or prior positions doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed in the new job.  Although staying late and learning the job is a good start it isn’t always a guarantee of success in your first 30 days.

Below are a few actions you can take that I believe are CRITICAL to establishing a great first impression and putting your co-workers and managers in a mental mindset of great expectations vs. zero or “less than zero” expectations.  When your co-workers expect great things from you, they treat you differently, look at you differently, and will even justify your mistakes differently.  When co-workers look at you with “no expectations” the mindset is very different.

A few quick tips on the first 30 days.

Learn about the culture:

You took the time to learn about company culture during the interview process, but make an effort to learn more.  Take people to coffee and join co-workers for lunch.  Do NOT decline any meetings, coffee breaks or drinks after work.  I do not say “avoid” here, I say “do not”.  This is where real relationships are formed.  Decline these invitations in the first few weeks and you will establish your reputation potentially crossed off future lists.   Use these opportunities to not just getting to know your co-workers but to ask specific questions about around communication styles, how meetings are conducted, dress code, etc.  We are not looking for gossip, we are looking for company values, more specifically DEPARTMENT values.  Ask everyone you meet with:

“Do you have any advice for me in my first 30 days?”

One of the most common mistakes I see is that after the job is landed, is two-fold:

  1. The new hire stops learning about the culture, the dynamics, and the values of the department they are working in.
  2. The new hire tries too hard to make a home run impact with their work.  New hires are well-intentioned, but usually uninformed.

Take voracious notes:

Carry a notepad and a pen EVERYWHERE you go.  Make sure that everyone you meet with sees that notepad, and more importantly, sees you taking notes.  This will instill confidence at a subconscious level with those that are giving you instruction.  If I talk with someone on a new topic for 15 or 45 minutes it is hard to have confidence that what I am saying will be remembered if I don’t see any notes taken.  I am a fan of Evernote on my smart phone to jot down notes, but if I travel with execs, or new clients, I take the little black Moleskin.   People that are NOT used to my work style don’t know if I am sexting someone, answering email or taking notes when I am thumbing my phone.  I run the risk of creating doubt.  Taking notes on a cell phone in a meeting just isn’t universally accepted yet.  I want to instill confidence, not lose it.   There is a reason doctors and lawyers take notes in front of you on a yellow pad, and you should do the same.

Meet with your manager in the first week:

Make a point to meet with your manager the first week and bring an outline of what you think your first 30-days should be.  We do not want to come to a manager with a blank sheet of paper and ask, “What should I do?”  The manager hired you to make their life easier and to help solve problems.  A blank sheet of paper that they need to fill with instructions is only reinforcing that a hiring mistake was made.  Your plan doesn’t need to be right and it probably won’t be, but show some effort.  Some ideas that you can bring to your manager:

  • Verify what team members you should meet with to learn about the job and the company.
  • Go through the training plan (often times there will be no training plan, which is why we need to come up with one to ensure our success).
  • Research the company, and the competition.  This probably isn’t in the training plan, but during the first week there will be times where you will find yourself with nothing to do because everyone is busy.  This is a project you will do during the down time so your manager knows you are always busy.
  • Set-up a meeting schedule for the first month or so.  Depending on the pace, this could be once a week, or twice a month to check in and confirm progress.

Don’t piss anyone off:

The reality of the matter is that, as much as everyone wants to see more help in the department, very few will take the initiative to help train you.  The flip side of this is that no one will deny helping you if they are asked.  Make sure that you ask for help, drive your training plan, and take the initiative.   Just remember, when asking for help, be considerate of your co-workers time, keep your conversations short.  Remember:

You are not being paid to socialize; you are being paid to learn the job.

Make friends and influence people:

Bring in a box of donuts or snacks and send out an email to the department or group announcing your offering.  The point of this is to introduce yourself to co-workers when they come by for the free donut.   There will be people who come by and don’t introduce themselves.  Take the initiative.  Keep it short, but let the team know you exist and are there to help.

If you make a mistake, admit it quickly and do not give any excuses: 

Everyone makes mistakes and new hires with the least amount of training are going to make more than others.  This is expected and why you are not being given more responsibility than you can chew.  The trick is to raise your hand as soon as you make a mistake, take ownership, and give no excuses.  Offer to help fix it the problem and make try not to make the same mistake twice.  Everyone makes mistakes.  It’s how you handle that mistake that will set the tone and establish credibility.

Watch and Observe:   

Too often, I see new hires come in and try to prove their value from day 1.  It isn’t the way to influence people and make friends.  I am in the camp of “it is better to keep ones mouth shut and let everyone THINK you are fool, than to open it and remove all doubt”.   My advice to new hires is to hang back and not offer too many opinionated diatribes.  Even if you are right, proving your are right at the expense of others is a dick move.  Before you prove your smarts, learn the company culture, the business and get to know the team.  Find out what worked and what failed in the past before dishing out your opinions and diatribes.  I don’t remember ever looking at any new hire and saying to their manager, “That dumbass has been here for a month.  Do you mean he to tell me he hasn’t solved any of our challenging problems in his first 30 days?”.  Rest easy newb, if the company hasn’t solved any problems in the last months or few years, I certainly don’t expect anyone to come in and solve them in the first 30 days.

A few ways to avoid pissing co-workers off is to start your sentences with:

  • “I am sure you guys tried this before, but I was thinking. . .”
  • “You guys have been doing this a lot longer than me, but here is a thought. . .”
  • “I am the new guy on the block and still learning.  I was wondering if we had tried this in the past. . .”

Change your email settings to engage Spellcheck and a 1-minute send delay: 

  • No need to elaborate on this one, just do it.

Hopefully this list reminds you that getting the job is only the beginning, the first 30 days is where the real work begins.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty 

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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