Hey, milspouse. Congratulations! Your hard work has finally paid off and you got the job. You were given your start date and now it’s time to shop — a new first day of work outfit, a new gel pen to match your planner — oh, and maybe a new laptop bag to pull it all together? Or wait, maybe that’s just me! Sorry, I digress…
So you got the job and you have your start date. You’re more than likely about to enter unfamiliar territory, with a lot more new things ahead of you than a chic new blazer. Some of it will be fun, some not so much. Here are a few tips on how to look less like a newbie as you adjust to your new gig.
Put yourself out there. This may seem like the most obvious, I know. It’s also the most important. Make an effort to get to know your new co-workers, learn people’s names and say hello when you walk in each morning. Not only will you get the feel for the office culture, but you may find a lunch buddy or someone to chit-chat with at the water cooler. (Although, let’s be honest. The printer is totally the new water cooler. It’s also a better ice breaker because you can ask what they’re working on!) If you telecommute or are a virtual employee, find out if there is an interoffice instant messenger, and make an extra effort to say hello and ask about your co-workers’ days before communicating about an assignment or project.
Observe. At any workplace, there are unspoken expectations. Take cues from your new co-workers so you can adapt more quickly. Are people always on time for meetings, or do they consistently arrive early? Do they leave their desks for lunch, or eat and work? What hours do most people start and end their days? Is there a lot of socializing during the day, or is the workspace more quiet and focused? Do they primarily use email, instant messenger, phone calls or meet in person to communicate? Are cell phones kept out on their desks, or silenced in the drawers? There are so many little things to note so that your transition into your new work environment is a good one.
Don’t compare. Comparison can be a killjoy, so refrain from thoughts about “how it was different at my last job.” Sure, maybe the way things were done at your last job made more sense, you made more money or the people were cooler. Instead, focus on what’s good and what’s working in your new position. Take the time to understand why your new employer does things a different way, and after you have a good understanding, consider offering ideas that might work better. And for goodness’ sake, don’t get roped into any office drama or cliques! Keep a healthy distance and your personal thoughts to yourself, at least until you get a better idea of who’s who around the workplace.
Ask for examples. When you’re first starting out at a new job, it’s all new, even if you’ve been in the same field for years. Every company and manager has their own way of doing things, and it’s best to ask for an example of a task rather than assuming. You may not get it right the first time, but you have a much better chance at knocking it out of the park if you have something to base it from. If you’re not sure how to fill out a spreadsheet or sign off an email, ask for an example and keep a copy of it for future reference. Even now, four years later at my current job, I keep a folder on my desktop of templates so I can just fill in the blanks for various assignments. It saves a lot of time (and formatting).
Ask for feedback. At the end of your first few weeks, schedule a quick one-on-one with your manager or drop by his or her office to get a feel for how you’re doing so far. Is there anything you can be doing differently? An area you can focus on more? Ask, smile and thank your manager for taking his or her valuable time with you. End it with an enthusiastic, “Looking forward to seeing you next week!” Engaging with your boss by discussing your goals and proactively asking for feedback helps to establish a positive relationship, which can lead to more opportunities for you down the road.
Adjusting to a new job takes a little bit of time and a lot of effort. As military spouses, you may have to do this often throughout your careers. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the quicker you’ll adjust and make new friends along the way. Cheers to you, and congrats again on landing the job!