IN THE MIDDLE | career advancement

Do’s & Don’ts: Starting Off On the Right Foot at a New Company

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published August 18, 2022

Finding a job is never easy. It can be weeks of anxiety, stress, and frustration. So, once you land the gig you want, we tend to think that we can now finally breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, when you get hired (good for you!), the anxiety, the jitters, and even the sense of uncertainty don't just stop there; you just get a change of trigger. 

The process of starting a new job can be a scary thing to go through both for fresh graduates and those who have long been a part of the workforce. With new people to work with, a new environment to get used to, new rules to follow, and a new goal to work on, the fear of the unknown is there as well as the pressure to do the right thing right away and the desire to make a great first impression and get in everyone's good graces. It carries with it a different kind of stress, so to alleviate that pressure even just a bit and help you settle into your new job, we've put together a simple do's and don'ts guide for your first months as a new hire to get you to start off on the right foot.

Equip yourself with necessary information about the company and its culture

Assuming that you already have a fair knowledge of the company you're entering because researching a prospective employer is a must during a job search and prior to a job interview, it's crucial to expand that knowledge, get a feel of your new work environment, and maybe even check on your new colleagues.

So be sure to do your research, get acquainted with office policies, attend meetings, and build strategic connections early on. Just take the time to learn whatever you can about your position and the organization. This way, you get a better understanding of your role and your new employer's goals, and you'll also be able to adjust to your new work environment according to workplace norms, rules, and practices with ease.

Be careful with your humor

We could all use a bit of levity when working, but it's crucial to understand what's funny and what's not.

Humor is one way to really make a great first impression and get along with people at work. However, keep in mind that what might be funny to you may not be funny to some. There will be things that are okay to poke fun at and things that you should not. Learn to read the room and always watch your humor. Adjust your humor accordingly if needed and don't be too buddy-buddy with everyone. 

One way to get the hang of adjusting your humor is to get to know your co-workers better to really understand what's funny for them and what's below the belt.

Speak up, get involved, but learn to understand when it’s best to mind your own business

Since you're the new kid in town, you must appear capable and confident and prove to your new team that you are the right person for the job. With this, you should learn to grab every opportunity to have your voice and opinion heard. The tricky thing, however, is that while you have to show them what you've got, you also have to stay humble because, as a newcomer, you're seen as someone who doesn't know a lot about the job or the organization, and that's not entirely false. That given, take the time to listen and learn to understand if a specific issue matters to your role before you air your ideas and suggestions.

Ask for help when you need it

New hires may feel hesitant to speak at times, let alone ask a question or seek help, but it's better if you do once you've exhausted all your options (or even before you’re out of options because, for most businesses, time is money).

Latching on to the need to appear as capable and confident as ever to prove your value, most professionals steer away from asking questions or seeking help or any form of assistance and instead try to figure things out on their own. Yes, you may succeed and be perceived as capable and confident, but from your colleagues' and superiors' points of view, it would be easier to answer a question than to fix a potential mistake. So don’t hesitate to seek support and ask questions. Showing initiative and doing things on your own is good, but it’s better to learn how to handle things correctly from the right people than learn that you’re doing something incorrectly after a hard day’s work. Remember, you’re new to the organization. There may be expectations, but no one expects you to know everything right off the bat.

Take notes and set goals for yourself to track your progress

It’s easy to get lost in your work, especially for newcomers in the middle of foreign terms, unfamiliar processes, and diverse tasks. So, to avoid forgetting important reminders, assignments, deadlines, and other information, be sure to take notes and do so where you’re comfortable. As for me, using a good old-fashioned pen and paper to take notes instead of a laptop works best to remember better, but to each their own, so don’t hesitate to try different ways to track your daily to-do and keep a hold of important information you might need later.

Aside from notetaking, setting short- and long-term goals is also helpful for you to stay present rather than lost in time. This helps you keep track of your progress and see yourself grow and improve both as an individual and an employee.

Set healthy boundaries early on

New job or not, setting boundaries to have dedicated work time and dedicated time to recharge is vital.

“Failing to set boundaries early on is not only exhausting, but it also traps you into high expectations that you need to continually live up to.”

- Melody Wilding

Early on, try to figure out what's important to you and what's making you comfortable or uncomfortable, be it physical, mental, or emotional, to safeguard your time, energy, and mental health. Anchor it on your values and your life's priorities; after all, this is you choosing yourself, putting yourself first. After that, whatever boundaries you aim to establish for your well-being, remember that communication is key here. For others to respect your limits, they need to be aware first, so communicate with your colleagues openly and don't be afraid to call them out politely once they step over the line you've clearly drawn.

Don't overshare

When we're surrounded by new co-workers – people we barely know but see regularly – it's only natural to want to build a bond or a connection with them, so we talk.

There's nothing wrong with wanting some sort of connection, but we need to be cautious about what we talk about at work. You wouldn’t want to blurt out a story that has the potential to come back to haunt you, right? Because some things are better left unsaid, especially at work. So remember to leave your emotions as well as stories with too much information (TMI) behind, preferably right at your doorstep, when you get to work. Don't let the lines between your personal and professional lives blur in your mind. It's okay to be comfortable in the workplace, and it's actually ideal, but you should always bring your professional self to work.

Don’t be too intent on proving yourself

Give yourself a break, and don't try too hard. It's all new to you; it will take time. So, don't expect to learn everything and be everything your boss expects you to be all at once. You'll get there eventually after a mistake or two, which is totally fine as long as you're learning from those mistakes. But for now, enjoy the transition, be present, take in your surroundings and the learnings available at your new company, get to know your teammates, and do what you can that's enough to make a good impression and show and that you deserve the job.

For more discussions and content about job search and professional growth, feel free to explore our IN THE MIDDLE and HEADHUNTED sections, where you will find solutions and career development advice for aspiring professionals and middle managers.