I’d like you to think back to some point in your past when you heard the words, “Congratulations! I’d like to offer you the job.” Whether it was 2 month’s ago, 2 years ago, or over a decade or two ago, you’re probably able to recapture some of the feelings that came with those words. Relief, joy, pride, happiness etc. Likely a combination of many things all jumbled together. With the success you’ve just achieved, you emerged from a stressful job search, and the satisfaction you feel at the moment feels good.
It was important back then – as it always is – to celebrate your success and share the news with people who were most invested in your search, because like you, they felt stress and worry along with you to a lesser but equally real degree.
Know however, that the stress of the job search has been replaced with the stress of now living up to those expectations of your new employer. Your goal in the short-term is to successfully pass your probation period. Actually, while it’s important to pass probation which could mean month’s from now, you’ll have shorter goals, which if achieved, will go a long way to taking care of performing well enough to pass probation.
So let’s look at some of your short-term objectives. For starters, there’s your very first day, so don’t look past it. You’ll want to choose clothes that fit in with others who perform the same work as you will. Presume that your co-workers are all past probation and may have relaxed some of their clothing choices and behaviour, so don’t pick the most casual employee to model either after. For all you know, someone you take as a role model could be a poor choice. If you’re really unsure, you could ask your supervisor for guidance with respect to who provides a good example to follow.
Something as simple as what to do for lunches might stress you out. Eat out or pack it? If you can’t find out in advance, pack a lunch but be financially ready to accept an invitation to join a few people on your team and eat out on day 1 if the offer comes. Your goal is establishing connections and relationships with the people you’ll be working with closely here in your new role. When people are at lunch, they are likely relaxed, more at ease and friendlier too. Take care you mind your manners, pass on ordering alcohol (you have to return to work remember), and engage in conversation so you all get to know each other.
Remembering names is a challenge for a lot of people in the first few days on a new job. The more people you get introduced to, the harder it becomes. Everyone understands this, so don’t put undo pressure on yourself to memorize them all. Look out for nametags on uniforms, name plaques on desks or cubicles, or on employee ID/swipe cards if they are easily spotted. You’ll eventually get there, just take it slowly and learn one at a time.
One of the best things you can do when you first start is learn what you’re expected to know and by when. In other words, how are you going to be evaluated when it comes to making a decision on whether you stick around? You’ll likely have some orientation to undergo too. During this time you might have manuals to read, agreements and contracts to sign, additional people to meet such as in Human Resources and Finances. There could be off-site training to undergo with other new hires, someone assigned for you to job shadow, or a person you’re told is your ‘go to’ person when you have questions. Employers may do any or all of these things in an effort to give you every chance at being successful.
Of course many times, you simply learn on the job and one person does all the above. This is true in small organizations, and your goal above all else at these times is to find positive chemistry with the one, two or three people you’ll be spending 7 to 12 hours a day with for the foreseeable future. When employers talk about finding a good fit, what they are referring to are your soft skills; your people skills. You may know their product inside and out at hiring, but if you don’t gel with the existing workforce, you could be viewed as disruptive to the harmony the company is looking for and find yourself again unemployed. “It’s just not a good fit; I’m sorry it didn’t work out”, is what you might hear.
In the simplest of terms, keep your professional guard up and don’t suddenly become so comfortable and self-assured in your new job that you leave early, show up late, take long breaks, or cause friction with your co-workers. Because it’s assumed you’re on your best behaviour, they’ll assume things will get worse not better.
The painful stress of a job search has been replaced with the good stress that comes with fitting in with a new employer and possibly in a new role. It’s a good stress of course, but stress nonetheless. It’s normal, so be prepared for it.
And if you did indeed recently begin a new job, a sincere congratulations!