Color & Control:

Handling the first week of a new job

Dear Joanna,

Thanks to my job coach, I’m starting a new job next week as a stocking clerk in a retail store. I’m excited and nervous as I want to make a good impression but I feel lost. How I can handle new employee challenges?

Signed: Nervous Newbie  

Dear Nervous,

Congratulations! I definitely get it that starting a new job is no less terrifying than starting your first day at school. The difference is that you are now an adult transitioning into a new workplace and job. I’ve consulted with Victoria Ghouchandra, Reena’s leading program coordinator)
who offers the following advice:

1) Prepare in advance. Research, research and research! Learn as much as you can about the company culture and your new job’s tasks and duties before you start. You can do this by exploring the company’s website, and analyze the job description. You can learn about other employees at the company by viewing their profiles on LinkedIn. Register receive the company newsletter. Learn as much as many of the tasks for the job on your own or at least understand them before your first day. For example, if you want to learn how to handle cash, check out YouTube for a teaching video clip. And if you can, practice it. Employers like employees who are self-sufficient and use their resources wisely.

2) Dress for success. First impressions do influence how surrounding people perceive you. When you receive the job offer, you can ask this question about the company’s dress code. Reviewing policies on this topic helps as well. Always be clean, perfume/cologne free and dressed professionally. Prepare for “wardrobe disasters” warns Victoria, who recommends having an extra shirt and pants in your desk, car or bag, especially if you are working in the food service business. When you look good, you feel good and this goes a long way to getting respect at your new workplace.

3) Understand the culture. Learn the unwritten rules of your team and company. There are behaviours and protocols that you need to know. The dress code, the use of equipment (personal telephone calls, the computer), handling food and beverages, supplies, computer stations and more. Discuss scheduling issues. Ask for the ‘do’s and don’ts’ in these areas with your supervisor or fellow team and watch how others behave during your first week. 

4) Orientation week. Generally, the employer will be giving you a lot of new information at the beginning. Write everything down. Information that isn’t relevant now might be relevant later on. The first week you will learn your boss’ expectations. If a task or responsibility is unclear, ask for clarification.

5) Be ready to ask questions. Before you actually engage in the task or assignment ask for clarification. Write questions down notebook as you go through the day. Each boss has a different style of managing and responding to your questions. Find out what works best for him or her.

6) Admitting mistakes. If you do make a mistake, learn from it. There is no perfect employee out there and taking steps to correct the mistakes is best.

7) Take initiative. Be as self-sufficient as possible in learning the job. Don’t depend on others for everything. Take charge. Again, if there is something you don’t understand, first research and try to determine the answer yourself. Your boss is there to help, not do it for you.

8) Maintaining your work ethic. Typically, new employees work their best during the first weeks of probation. Learning throughout your work life at your company.

9) Meeting new people. How you act in the beginning can make or break your success. Build relationships. Introduce yourself. Eating in the lunch room with the team helps.  

Joanna Samuels, MEd, is an adult educator with an expertise in career/job coaching and community/business partnership building.

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