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5 Things You Must Do During Your First Month on the Job

Monday, June 4, 2018
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Congratulations on your new job! You’ve passed all the difficult hiring obstacles: composing a strong resume and compelling cover letter, answering tough interview questions, and waiting patiently to hear back from the hiring manager. However, there’s still one more challenge: getting through that first-month-new-job transition.

More than 25 percent of the U.S. population goes through a career transition annually, and unfortunately, many of these employees do not have a successful first month at a new job. To excel at your new position, there are five steps you must follow right away:

Step 1: Set Realistic Goals

Don’t get caught up in trying to solve the company’s most profound issues just yet. You do not have enough institutional knowledge your first month on the job to tackle anything major. You can, however, have breakthrough ideas using your fresh perspective. Jot any ideas you have the first month on the job and save them for later. Walking into a job and assuming you know more than you do about the organization can be overwhelming to your colleagues and detrimental to your career development. Instead, try to prioritize what is most useful to know at your current stage in the job.

Sometimes it’s not clear what the most important things to know are when you’re first starting out. Take into consideration if you have deadlines, but also pay attention to how your co-workers operate. Are they focused on end results or more on customer service? Is there an emphasis on office politics or company culture? Asking questions like these will clarify any confusion about what you should be learning.

If you’re still struggling to prioritize all the aspects of learning the job, you can always ask your supervisor or co-workers. You and your manager may have different ideas of what is considered important, so always check to see if your priorities align with theirs. If they don’t match and you find yourself in disagreement with your boss, try having a constructive talk. Just keep in mind that you need to respect their decisions, whatever the outcome may be.

Bonus tip: Although asking more questions leads to better performance at work, don’t bombard your co-workers with them. Time your questions well: If it isn’t information you need to know immediately, save it for later.

Step 2: Socialize and Network With Co-Workers

If your manager hasn’t already introduced you to everyone on your team, take the initiative yourself. Don’t feel limited to interacting with only those people in your team, either—learning about the different responsibilities and departments can give you a better idea of how your company operates as a whole. It can also help you create important connections, build trust, and communicate better with your peers.

There are lots of ways you can socialize with your peers at work—having lunch together, walking during a break, mingling during company team-building events, or even making small talk can help you learn about the job and the company culture.

While interaction with co-workers is essential for your career development, be careful of excess socializing. Discussing partying at work and taking part in workplace romances are not going to benefit you, so don’t let socializing ruin your career.

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Step 3: Manage Expectations

There are a couple ways to understand what is expected of you in your new role. The simplest way is to directly ask your manager by scheduling time with them. Ask them what you can do to make their job easier, or what the company needs more of. Some sample questions are below:

● Besides what was in the job description, what else is expected of me?
● How can I go above and beyond these expectations?
● What do I need to do to succeed now and in the future?

With a clear definition from your manager of what you need to do to become a valuable asset to the company, you’ll find the work much easier.

Step 4: Prove You Are Reliable

The first month is crucial for new hires when it comes to proving your capabilities. Some jobs even have a probation period, so your first month needs to count. Understanding and completing the tasks you’re assigned is one thing; but how else can you show you’re a responsible employee?

Showing up to work on time, being proactive when communicating, meeting deadlines, and helping out your coworkers all seem like obvious ways to get ahead, but sometimes just having them spelled out can help keep you on track. These are the quickest and simplest ways you can earn reliability points.

Step 5: Keep Track of Your Progress

At the end of each day, write down in a notebook things you did well and things you need to improve on. Taking some time to reflect is beneficial; if you can identify early on what is and isn’t working for you at the job, you can save yourself unnecessary frustration down the road. Writing down the things you need to improve upon will remind you to not repeat any mistakes.

Dedicate some self-reflection time outside of work and ask yourself the following questions:

● What am I best at and what can I do better than anyone else?
● What am I struggling with and how can I improve in this area?
● Are there any adjustments I need to make in my work style?
● Is there anything I should continue to do with regard to my work style?

Additionally, making note of your workplace successes will help you keep your resume up-to-date—if a promotion comes up, you’ll be ready to show off your experience and achievements to get a senior position.

Above all, remember that everyone once started where you did, and we’ve all dealt with the stress of information overload at a new job. You were hired for a reason, so don’t get discouraged about making mistakes and feeling frustrated—those experiences will help you grow into a stronger employee.

About the Author
Lauren McAdams is a hiring manager, career consultant, and lead writer at ResumeCompanion.com. She’s been quoted by sites like Forbes, Fox Business, and TechRepublic, and her resume templates and career advice on Resume Companion have helped hundreds of applicants find their dream jobs. When she’s not busy enriching the lives of job seekers, she’s sipping on either coffee or a glass of wine—depending on the time of day, of course.
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