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 Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston

December 22, 2014

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New on the Job

Getting ready for the first day of a new job can feel eerily similar to preparing for the first day of school. You plan your outfit, double-check that your bag is packed, wonder whom you’ll eat lunch with…But unlike high school, there’s a lot more to worry about than getting the cute guy in your homeroom to notice you. There are forms to fill out, office space to navigate, and, oh yeah, lots of work to get done. Here’s how to make the most of your first weeks on the job.

Sign up for employee benefits. Don’t wait to enroll in your company’s health plan or 401K, because it’s easy to forget once other projects start to pile up. And if you’re making more bank at your new job, it’s a good idea to up the percentage you contribute to your retirement plan. You won’t miss that money now, but you definitely will when you’re forced to spend your retirement living in a trailer park.

Ask lots of questions. Few of us want to admit when we don’t understand something, but “fake it till you make it” doesn’t work in the office. Get clarification when something doesn’t make sense. Your boss would rather answer your question now than have to fix your mistake later.

Get a good read on your boss’ communication style. Ask your boss how—and how often—they want to hear from you. Some like to have weekly status meetings, but others want you to check in whenever questions come up. (Just because your last boss welcomed calls on the weekend, your new one may not want to know you until Monday morning.) Also, take note of how your co-workers interact with your boss. Then follow suit.

Survey the scene. If you work in a large office, people may not know you’re new, so be friendly and introduce yourself. The last thing you want to do is snub the secretary only to discover she’s the VP’s daughter on summer break from college. On the flip side, you should also be careful of getting caught up in office cliques. You don’t know the history between your co-workers, so try to remain impartial until you get the whole story.

Don’t stand out—yet. Every office is different, so be aware of how your colleagues come to work. (If they aren’t observing casual Fridays, you shouldn’t either.) Also, look to see if they spend lunches in the staff room, at their desks, or doing yoga at the studio down the street. And pay attention to whether your co-workers prefer face-to-face conversations or would rather just e-mail. These nuances probably won’t come up in your orientation or in the employee handbook, but they tell you a lot about how to adapt to your new office culture. Remember, your comfort level at the office will definitely affect how well you do your job. Whether or not the cute guy in IT will notice you is another story.