Tips for Starting a New Job

Starting a new job can be extremely stressful. This is a topic that is near and dear to me, since I have changed jobs twice within 3 years. Both were great moves and next steps in my career. I also learned a great deal about how to better job transition. With these tips, hopefully your transition can go more smoothly. 

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Ask Questions

This is the number one piece of advice I can give someone starting a new job. Not only is this my number one piece of advice, but when I asked friends what advice they would give to someone starting a new job, EVERY SINGLE ONE responded with “ask questions.”

It’s much better to ask and do something correctly than to not ask and do something incorrectly. – Kate, Marketing Consultant

Not only does asking questions prevent you from making mistakes, it can show that you are thinking proactively and paying attention to next steps.

Ask questions, even the dumb ones. The questions that seem dumb probably aren’t. Often, people just assume you know what something is or how it works because they have been wrapped up in it for so long. When they assume you know, it can make you feel like you should know. This can make you feel like your question is dumb. Ask it. You’ll learn faster. – Matt, Sales Manager

Matt brings up a good point, transitioning into a new group or company where you don’t know the lingo is intimidating. Most companies have their own acronyms and terms. What you learned in school or at your old company might even be called something totally different in your new environment. They would not have hired you if they did not think you were up for the job and competent. Be confident and ask questions.

Keep A Notebook

Starting a new job can be sensory overload. Everything is new, especially if you have changed companies. I highly recommend keeping a notebook with you at all times. Use this notebook for any questions that you think of and as a place to dump all the information that you are (hopefully not!) drowning in. By keeping really good notes, I have found that I do not need to ask as many questions and am able to become independent faster and adapt more quickly to a new work environment. If you are looking for ways to make sure your notes stay organized, check out my post on notebook page numbers.

Question Page

Confession: This is basically Tip #1 and #2 combined. Keep a page in your notebook allocated for questions – even when you are not transitioning or starting a new job. I keep a list of questions for 1-1 meetings with my manager. If something comes up during the week, I know exactly where to write it down. During my scheduled meetings with my manager or mentor, I can go through the questions I have. I am often surprised by how often I have resolved a question on my own, making me relieved I did not bug my manager. When you are new, it’s normal to have lots of questions. By keeping a concise list, you can keep your communications with your peers and mentors streamlined.

Some sample questions that you may want to ask your manager, in addition to anything job specific that comes up are:

  • What hours do you keep? What are your expectations for when I am here? Should I be reachable when not at work?
  • What is your preferred communication style?
  • When is lunch? How much time can I take for lunch? Does the team eat together?
  • What is your policy on attending conferences and doing independent learning? Will the company pay for these endeavors?

Be Patient With Yourself

You are probably going to feel overwhelmed at some point during your transition. Try to stay positive. Take a break and go to the gym or meditate. It is important that you keep a balanced schedule during this hectic time. It’s so easy to get stuck at the office or have a complete freak out that you have no idea what you are doing. It will come. Be patient with yourself and ask questions. Keep an open mind. 

If you Bullet Journal, Start with Daily Entries

If you are using the bullet journal system to stay organized, I highly recommend you start with daily entries. Haven’t heard of Bullet Journaling? Head over to the bullet journal website to get started. There is a reason daily entries are a focal point of Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system. Daily entries are extremely flexible and low maintenance. You just started a new job — you probably don’t have time to spend making intricate spreads. Right now, your focus should be staying organized. Just write the date at the top and go. If you desperately need a week overview, sure, but I wouldn’t recommend putting all your tasks on a weekly list. Here’s why.

By keeping daily entries, you are able to best gauge the demands of your new job. Do you have 5 hours of tactical work and 3 hours of strategic planning each day? Or do you have 12 hours of tasks that you are trying to cram into an 8 hour day? By having each day spelled out, you are able to see what a typical workload looks like. Furthermore, because you should be migrating incomplete tasks at the end of each day, you will develop an understanding of your work capacity. Understanding workload and work capacity are essential to being successful in your new role.

My Experience Starting a New Job

During my first transition, I was using a weekly list. I was leaving work every day feeling overwhelmed and like I wasn’t accomplishing what needed to be done. Had I been using dailies, my daily progress would have been more clear. My notebook could have served as clear documentation of my workload and work capacity. If there is a large gap between your typical workload and work capacity (i.e. you have a significant portion of your tasks left incomplete at the end of each day OR you are completing all your tasks and aren’t sure how to spend your time), I encourage you to discuss with your manager.

During my most recent transition, I used dailies. Not only did my transition go very smoothly, but also I was able to recognize that a weekly layout is better suited for the research-like environment I am now a part of.  It is very easy to transition from daily to weekly planning but much more difficult to go from weekly to daily.

For task prioritization, I highly recommend an Eisenhower Matrix. This tool helped keep me on track. Starting a new job, you want to please everyone. We all want to be the new employee or colleague that is super helpful and amenable. Beware. This is a trap. Is it really easy to get sucked in to what other people want you to do. Only you can know your priorities and what is truly important and worth your time. Quickly after my first transition, I learned about the Eisenhower Matrix. I immediately realized I was spending too much time on unimportant, non-urgent tasks. Because of this realization, I could communicate with my team members and manager to make sure I had proper support to spend my time where I needed to.

Understand Your Goals and Objectives

This is a mistake I like to think I will never make again. During the rough transition I previously mentioned, I did not get a clear understanding of my goals and objectives for the year. Despite constant battles with my manager about what I thought was important and feeling like we were on the same page, my performance review cycle was a shock. It turns out my manager and I were not in alignment about what I should be working on and how my success was to be measured.

Set time aside to go over your yearly goals with your manager. Take time to understand the metrics on which your performance will be evaluated. Come up with a 30-, 60-, 90-day of what your manager is expecting to see from you during your first months on the job. Write these goals out. Divide them into manageable milestones and tasks. I like to post these on the wall next to my work computer to serve as a constant reminder of what my goals are. With clear goals, you are able to best understand if what you are working on is aligned with these goals or not.

Next Steps

If you need extra assistance, I would be happy to help. With the holidays fast approaching, this list of professional gifts can help you spruce up your office and get excited for the new year.

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Starting a New Job? Transitioning to a New Position? These tips will help you keep your cool and minimize stress during this hectic time! The Paper Gazer.

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