Your First Year

Maximize your first year on the job!

Your goals for the first year must include more than just productivity; they should include gaining acceptance, respect, and credibility. Becoming an outstanding employee—which should be your goal—requires much more than technical skill or know-how. Getting results will require you to work with other people and within an organizational system.

Adopt the right attitudes

Look around and find those people in the organization who seem successful and respected by others. Model your attitudes after theirs. Key attitudes that managers in almost every organization say new graduates need are: humility, a readiness to learn, readiness to change, respect, confidence, an open mind, long-term perspective, work ethic and a positive attitude.

Adjust your expectations

Frustration is nothing more than the difference between expectations and reality. Expect to be surprised—the odds are that many things about your job will not be what you expected them to be.

Master breaking-in skills

You are an outsider until you prove otherwise. When an insider criticizes the organization or tries to make changes, it is considered constructive. When an outsider criticizes or suggests changes, the odds are good that it will be seen as an attack.

Work on building a track record; become known for your dependability and willingness to work hard, for fitting in, and for professional maturity. Show appreciation to people that help show you the ropes.  Establish a good attendance record.

Manage the impressions you make

You must place a premium on impression management in your first year. Whenever you start any job, there are many people watching you and trying to assess your ability to succeed. Everything you do early on will be magnified in its impact. Since colleagues won’t know you well yet, pay attention to the little things that create strong, positive first impressions.

Build effective relationships

Take the time to develop relationships with as many people—and that includes support staff—as possible. Learn to work in teams and find a mentor. Every new employee needs the guidance of more senior colleagues. Seek out respected and more experienced employees who seem to have an interest in helping you. Listen carefully to their advice, even if you don’t like it. Even if you're an introvert, take advantage of after-hours social activities, they're a great way to bond with your co-workers.

Become a good follower

There is no more important person than your boss on your first job. He or she will be largely responsible for getting you opportunities to showcase your talents, seeing that you get the training you need, setting the tone of your first year, shaping the organization’s opinion and evaluation of you, determining your advancement beyond the entry position, and socializing you to the organization’s culture. You must give top priority to learning how to build a positive and mutually productive relationship.

  • Never surprise or embarrass your boss. Keep your boss informed
  • Offer solutions, not problems
  • Do what is asked and do it well
  • Be consistent
  • Know your boss’s agenda—wants, needs, and expectations
  • Support your boss. Work with them, not against them
  • Work hard and be available
  • Don’t waste resources

Keys to being an easy employee to manage:

  • Respect your manager’s authority. Accept criticism and feedback well
  • Be flexible; expect the unexpected
  • Take ownership of the job
  • Eliminate your need for supervision
  • Play it straight
  • Keep disagreements behind closed doors
  • Ask for help if you need it, but attempt to solve issues independently first
  • Motivate yourself instead of waiting to be motivated
  • Do more than you’re asked to do
  • Accept assignments willingly

Understand your organization’s culture

  • Mission and guiding philosophies of the organization
  • Basic values and norms
  • Behavioural expectations
  • What gets rewarded
  • Social norms
  • Ethical standards
  • Sacred beliefs and events
  • General atmosphere
  • Attitude of employees
  • Communication norms
  • Work norms

Develop organizational savvy

  • Learn to compromise with others. Involve others in decisions—before they are made
  • Understand the “players” in every activity
  • Learn good negotiation skills
  • Understand which battles are worth fighting and which ones are futile
  • Learn to build coalitions of people who agree with you on an issue
  • Don’t go out on a limb by yourself
  • Learn what the difficult political issues are
  • Understand who has the power and who wants it

Understand your new-hire role

Perform the roles and tasks with a smile on your face and to the best of your ability. Master the art of being new. Pay your new employee dues. Don’t take it personally. Understand the bigger picture. Consider carefully the role the organization wants you to play-and do it well.

Develop work savvy

There are numerous professional skills you will need to develop to perform your job. These include managing your time; setting priorities; juggling multiple projects; writing memos, letters, and reports; making oral presentations; managing your work flow; managing and participating in meetings; selling your ideas; setting and meeting deadlines; producing the right level of quality; and motivating yourself. Focus on developing professional work skills.

Master the tasks in your job

While the emphasis in previous steps has been on the non-task elements of your job, you must master the basic tasks of the job. Make the most of any training offered. Ask for special assignments to challenge you to learn new skills and abilities.

Acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities you need

Employers expect you to need development; take advantage of this and don’t be embarrassed to ask for training or help. Ask for feedback and learn how to improve. As a professional, you have to take responsibility for your own development; nobody will force you to develop as they did when you were in university.

Take Responsibility for Your Success

Putting these steps into practice takes work and time. Unfortunately, few jobs allow you to work through these steps one at a time. Instead, you’ll be involved in all of them at once, at least to some degree. Use the steps to set priorities, since they build on each other.

It is your responsibility to make your transition to work a success, not your employer’s. The good ones will help you, but it’s your career.