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Starting a new job is an exciting but sometimes scary prospect. You’ll probably be on probation from anywhere between 1-3 months. Not only do you need to fit into the company culture and get along with new colleagues, but you’ll be continually assessed and challenged throughout the probationary period.
According to research by UC Berkeley in 2011, people decide whether a person is trustworthy in just 20 seconds. Rightly or wrongly, most people will use your general appearance, outfit, tone and body language to inform their decision. As the newest addition to the team, here are some practical steps to ensure a smooth start and solid foundation at your new workplace:
Michael Watkins, the author of “The First 90 Days”, commented in the “Harvard Business Review” that company culture shapes how employees think and behave. This is one of the most influential factors when developing a working style that aligns with your team and new organization as a whole.
Extra effort should be made to observe how colleagues interact, particularly their working style and how presentable they are. Remember that even if you initially perceive a relaxed environment with flexible working hours for example, it’s important to continue being punctual and hard working for those first few months. You want to demonstrate that you’re capable of going the extra mile when required.
You’re keen and highly motivated to make a good impression, but this can backfire if, for example, you unwittingly move outside your remit and do someone else’s work. This is a common source of conflict for new starters but easily avoided. Molly Thompson, a National Security Analyst for the U.S. government, points out the importance of clarifying your role at work with your manager. To avoid any confusion, re-read the job description and compare the responsibilities with those that you’ve started to undertake. Note down any discrepancies and bring them up for discussion with your manager.
Brandi Britton, the Regional Director of OfficeTeam at Robert Half, suggests that building good relationships with colleagues is of utmost importance for new joiners. Of course, establishing relationships with new colleagues in an unfamiliar environment can be quite intimidating, yet networking in the work environment has been proven to bring a lot of (sometimes unexpected) benefits. Try to briefly introduce yourself in casual settings, such as the hallway, pantry or kitchen, wherever it’s acceptable to be socializing. If you’re lucky enough to get a welcome lunch with the team, then this is usually the easiest time to get to know your colleagues, however you should still try to get some one on one time with each other them. A simple but effective ice-breaker includes putting some snacks on your desk and offering them to colleagues when they pass by. Small acts like this go a long way to create a good impression.
As well as a firm understanding of your responsibilities, checking in with your manager from time to time on your performance will ensure you’re on the right track to pass your probationary period. Remember that checking in too often can sometimes be misinterpreted as a lack of confidence or understanding, so once every few weeks is usually enough.
Once you’re reached a certain level of understanding in your role, you will start to become more and more efficient. At a basic level, this could be organizing your desk or documents in an optimal way to find the information you need quickly, now that you’ve built some knowledge of what information you’ll need and when. Improving efficiency demonstrates you’re starting to know your role and serves as a great indicator of progress.