ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Do that job right

By The New Recruit

A new work place has everything in common with an obstacle course – you're sweating as you shove competitors out of the way, you're grunting as you dodge, duck and weave past spiked bars and death pits, and all the while you're trying to maintain a sportsman like appearance for the cheering spectators and the judges, (in this case your new boss.) And most of all, you're trying not to swear loud, long and inventively when you glance up and discover you are very, very far from the finish line.

This was supposed to be exciting, remember? This is another dramatic chapter in your wonderful professional life, and is possibly accompanied by a substantial pay hike.

Out of the trillions of suckers who applied for the job, they picked YOU and that feels very good. But it's your first day on the job, and all those things you said at the interview about being professional, enthusiastic and ready to learn are coming back to haunt you. You're looking at a learning curve that is less a curve and more a cliff, your boss does not come with a mute button, and your new computer has some cutting edge viruses built right in.

Of course, since we're on your side – we always are – we've put together a handy little guide for you.

Your first few weeks on the job are critical, but only in the sense that you need them to adjust. As long as you don't do something extreme, (socking your section head smartly in the jaw falls into this category) people are going to be willing to answer your questions, cut you some slack and generally treat you with extreme courtesy.

Of course you need to apply things you learnt at your old job, or in your studies but avoid whining about how things used to be done differently in your old company. Remember, you can pick up a lot – from office politics to the expected dress code by simply observing, plus the less you contribute to the office grapevine, the less likely you are to be caught in any crossfire.

Don't let the fear of appearing dumb stop you from asking questions up-front. Even if your boss seems to expect you to be psychic, in an attempt to keep him or her happy, you could end up making stupid errors, omitting important work or simply wasting your time in hot pursuit of something unnecessary.

If you haven't been assigned a mentor, it's a good idea to get the law of the land. Figure out who knows the most about each department, and ask them. Don't be afraid of letting everyone know that you're the new kid on the block, and that you could use any advice or guidance they may be willing to throw your way.

Helpful hint – if everyone is busy, a constant stream of questions might have people throwing their coffee mugs at you in an attempt to get you to shut up. So, pause for a moment and see what your colleague is up to. If he or she looks harried, it might pay to hold off 'Question and Answer' time for a little later. It might work to email your questions so they can be answered easily and allowing you to have a quick reference guide.

Speaking of which – taking notes may be one of the simplest ways to make sense of the seeming chaos at a new work place. Obviously, you don't want to be dragging out your notebook, sleuth-like in the middle of all the making eye-contact and shaking hands.

However, when you get back to your desk, take a moment to write down what you can remember of your co-workers' names, duties and contact numbers if you have them. While you're at it, write down where the office supplies are, when your deadlines are, and any other of the 100 nitty-gritty details that you are expected to keep track of. If you're not sure how to fill out a form or write a particular document, ask for an example you can keep on file.

Clerical assistant or high level colleague – be nice to the people you meet. Over the course of your career with this company (and we're betting you'll stay the course) you're going to interact with employees at every level, and you never know when you might desperately need some help.

You'll find it's the little things that will predispose people to like you – a ready smile, an appreciative word, an interest in them as people, even a willingness to simply hang out. For instance, no matter how tempting it might be, eat with your new colleagues, instead of setting up lunch dates with your former workmates.

Finally, don't panic. If there's a situation in which you are expected to not know everything, and to make mistakes, this is it. Concentrate on doing the best you can, and the rest will take care of itself.

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