Wow! It must be the New Year, because I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from readers who’ve just started new jobs and are looking for advice.
We’ve all been there. It’s your first day, and you’re not even sure where to hang your jacket. Or whether it’s OK to use what looks to be the community coffee station. You want to fit in ASAP, but you’re not sure how. And guess what? You’re correct about wanting to fit in. Studies show that the sooner you “own” your new position and establish yourself in an organization, the more likely you are to be successful—on all fronts, including eventual promotion. And conversely, those who never really become a part of the essential fabric of the organization are more likely to be unhappy, dissatisfied, unsuccessful, and to move on (either by choice or by “invitation”) to other jobs. I’m fairly certain you prefer the former scenario rather than the latter, so let me share my top four newbie suggestions:
First, be careful and go slowly the first few days. Look around. Observe. You’re in “knowledge acquisition” mode, and there’s a whole lot more to learn than just the tasks at hand—in fact, things that might even be more important, if you’re intending to stay a while in your new position. Rushing in with a “HEY LOOK—I’M HERE!” attitude can get you noticed—but not necessarily in a good way. You want to be congenial, outgoing, and open, but wait until you get your bearings and can accurately decipher the social vibes and culture of the organization before you boldly announce your political affiliation (ahem: that’s actually never a good idea!) or sing happy birthday to the CEO in the hallway (I would personally love that, but I’m not your average CEO!). Instead, read the tea leaves for a while, until you determine what’s what. Think integration. Think assimilation.
Second, as is true of life in general, it’s all about the relationships you develop. Even if you’re a remote worker, even if you work in a back office inputting reams of data, even if you’re a park ranger on the most desolate mountaintop, you still must interface with someone at some point. So, do your best to create positive relationships with those around you. Be courteous, helpful, and approachable to everyone you work with, everyone you meet, even everyone you see in the hallway—and that includes the parking lot attendant and the lunchroom busser. It’s simply the right thing to do, plus you’ll reap the rewards of likability and trustworthiness.
Third, be honest about what you know—and what you don’t. No one is going to scream at you if you don’t know everything there is to know during your first week (or even month) on the job, but they might just strangle you if you screw something up beyond repair, and now the whole department is suffering because you broke an important piece of equipment or lost a major sales account to a competitor. Ask questions. Take notes if you need to. Ask again if you’re unsure of yourself. Don’t just go charging off into the unknown—you’re not expected to know it all, or to go it alone. Plus, here’s something interesting: a recent study shows that people like others better when they ask for help! Evidently, the opportunity to help a fellow human being actually stimulates the pleasure centers in the helper’s brain. So, asking for help when you need it not only prevents you from making potential mistakes, it makes you more likable! Talk about a total win-win.
And fourth, do what you can to be friendly and approachable. After all, relationship development is a two-way street. You’re going to be spending your first several weeks on the job getting to know your co-workers, your boss, and your clients or customers. But they’re just as interested in figuring out who you are, as well! While you’re sizing them up, they’re doing the same, so it’s important to be the person others want to get to know. And how do you do this? By developing your “likability quotient.” And yes, “likability quotient” is a real thing that’s been studied and verified—it’s also sometimes called your “attractiveness quotient.” Here’s a brief list of qualities most people find likable and attractive in others: a warm smile; a friendly voice tone; direct, steady eye contact; relaxed posture; calm demeanor; a willingness to help out or answer questions; (appropriate) sense of humor; positive attitude; empathy for others; and great listening skills.
So there you go. If you think about it, these four suggestions—starting out slowly, developing good relationships with others, admitting what you do and don’t know, and being friendly and approachable—really amount to being a decent human being! And being a decent human being will always serve you well, no matter where you go or what you do in life. I promise.
What about you? Do you have a topic you’d like for me to address in a future article? Please submit it to me on my website: denisemdudley.com. And if I use your suggested topic, I’ll send you a free copy of my latest book, “Work it! Get in, Get noticed, Get promoted!”