There is a lot of value in having a good first few weeks at a new job. For one, it’s hard for other people to really evaluate how you’re doing when you first start. It takes a while for new projects to get to a point where they yield results. But, there is evidence that when you have a favorable impression of someone, you evaluate their actions more favorably than when you have an unfavorable impression. This is called “the halo effect.”
To construct your halo, there are a few things you can do to get your work off to a running start:
IT STARTS BEFORE YOU START
You should be preparing for your first day on the job even before you get there. If you’re new to a company, you should be reading up on it. Ask your new boss for some information if they don’t provide it. Find out as much as you can about what your responsibilities are going to be.
You aren’t going to be ready to get actual work done before you start, because you won’t know exactly what you’re being asked to do. But, the aim is to familiarize yourself with terms you might encounter at work and to have a set of questions you’d like to get answered as you get started. Once you begin the new job, information is going to come at you fast and furious, so the better prepared you are in advance, the easier it will be for you to handle the flood.
This preparation will give you an opportunity to look confident on your first day. It will also enable you to ask better questions. On top of that, you’re likely to remember more of what you’re told. All of those will give that first impression that you’re really on top of things.
LISTEN AS MUCH AS YOU PLAY
When you first arrive at a new job, there is a temptation to make a big splash right away. The pressure to have an impact can be particularly strong for people who are coming into a leadership role, but it is true for almost any role. As a result, you’ll probably feel compelled to contribute early and often in meetings as a way of making your presence felt.
This is where a piece of advice given to jazz musicians comes in handy. Jazz musicians frequently have to play with new groups. And when you sit in with a new group, you should listen more than you play. The reason is that you cannot hope to fit yourself with the style of music being played by the other musicians if you don’t hear what they are doing.
Similarly, when you first get to an organization, really listen to people. What are their concerns? How do they talk about the work they are doing? What do they articulate as their priorities. The more you understand about what everyone else thinks is important, the better you will be at devoting your efforts to key tasks.
BE OF SERVICE
In his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” That attitude of finding ways to serve is true for any organization you are a part of. No matter what role you take on, your initial focus should be on how you can help the people around you to achieve their goals.
People remember others who have helped them in the past. In addition, most people want to repay the members of their community who have done favors for them. Starting your time with a new team by helping others reinforces a favorable first impression and also generates a sense of support from people you can rely on when you need help in the future.
This service mindset is particularly valuable for people taking on supervisory roles. People who are leading others for the first time are often concerned about coming across as a strong leader. They may want to give orders to others in order to demonstrate that they can command a team. A leader who finds ways to help their team achieve their goals, however, can develop loyalty from the people who report to them, which pays significant dividends down the line.