So you got that phone call. After working yourself to the bone formatting your CV, writing your cover letter, preparing for your interview, acing it, then inevitably fretting over the possibility that you somehow messed it up, you did it; you got the job. Congratulations! Now it’s only after you’ve finished celebrating that the real challenge begins – that first month or so, the dreaded induction period.
As daunting as those first few weeks can be, they’re not without their benefits. First impressions count and you don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities an introduction to a new job can bring. So here are a few tips on how to make the most of your induction period:
When starting a new job, it’s always a good idea to get to know your co-workers; you will be spending a lot of time with them, after all – especially if you’re relocating to work within a confined space. If you’re working in an absolutely ginormous office or a crowded plant with hundreds of people, hard at work, eyes constantly glued to their screens or their latest project, why not just focus on those in your immediate area, then branch out when you can?
Not only will a couple of new friends make your tenure with your new job a lot more enjoyable, you’ll also find that your co-workers will be more inclined to help you out after a positive introduction. While it can certainly be helpful to ask questions; nobody likes having to run to their supervisor every five minutes just to ask questions like; “where’s the coffee machine again?”
You should also try your best to remember as many of your co-worker’s names as possible. As Dale Carnegie, lecturer of salesmanship and best-selling author wrote: “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” It may seem trivial but addressing a recently met colleague by their name rather than with a “hey”, or a “good morning”, or perhaps even the occasional “yo” can be a surprisingly quick way to start a friendship. Plus, remembering names can be helpful for your everyday working needs. What’s easier to work with? “I gave the paperwork to Michelle” or “I gave the paperwork to… what’s her name? The one with blonde hair.”
If you’re not great at remembering names, try to pinpoint defining traits in people you meet. It will be a lot easier to remember David’s name if you remember him as the guy with a trimmed beard and a tattoo on his arm. Ideally you’ll want to remember people by traits and details that could work as conversational topics in the future. Remember when Lucy told you about her son whose starting school next year? Great! You now not only have a detail to remember her by, you also have something to ask her about next time you’re in the elevator together. You may also find use in repeating a newly learned name in your head a few times, it seems like a silly idea but it works surprisingly well.
Learn the ropes
Chances are you won’t be nominated for employee of the month on your first day. In fact, it’s more than likely you’ll spend most of your induction period either lost in a labyrinth of hallways, or trying to work out what you’re meant to be doing. Don’t worry, this is fine – it happens to everyone. Don’t forget, your manager went through this as well.
It becomes a lot easier to integrate into the workforce when you ask questions, so don’t hesitate to ask as many as you need to. No one will blame you. What you shouldn’t do is pretend to know things you don’t. Not only will this lead to plenty of awkward situations when you’re eventually caught out (and you will be), you also run the risk of missing out on learning important information. If everyone thinks you know everything you need to know, who’ll bother to teach you? Whatever happens you should never pass up on a chance to learn something new; whether it be something insignificant, like a convenient shortcut on a piece of software you’re learning to use or something crucial, like the only correct way to safely shut down a piece of powerful machinery. It’s all information you’re going to want to know at some point down the line.
It’s strange to imagine, but it’s true; every workplace is a unique environment, complete with its own geography, politics and communities. While I can’t advise getting involved in the politics, you’ll certainly find value in investigating the other two. Ask around and find out some good places to eat during your lunch break. Where are some good places to hang out? Where’s the bathroom? What about the coffee machine and the water cooler, where are they? These are the sorts of questions you should endeavour to have answers to as soon as you can.
You should also keep your eyes open for examples of your new workplace’s unique etiquette. It’s not uncommon to find that some actions that were commonplace in your old job will be considered totally unacceptable in your new one, and vice-versa; so it’s a good idea to stay observant. Are your co-workers openly checking their phones? If so that may well be considered acceptable. On the other hand; have you ever seen someone using their work computer to browse Facebook? If not, it’s probably not the best idea to try and start a trend.
Watching out for patterns in the way your co-workers dress and groom themselves can also be helpful, especially if a dress code hasn’t been set in stone. If everyone seems to have their hair either cut short or tied back, for example, you should consider asking if this is just a coincidence or company policy. You’ll need to know if it’s the latter. If you’re working in an industrial or scientific environment, this will more than likely be the case.
Relax and enjoy the challenge
Let’s face it, that first month or so will be an uphill walk. You’ll meet new people, learn new things, and grow as a person. It’s always going to be a challenge. So, the best thing you can do is accept that challenge and enjoy yourself while you soldier on through it. As intimidating as the induction period can be, it can prove to be an extremely rewarding and uplifting experience if tackled with the right attitude. Don’t forget that for the time being, you’re not just there to work, you’re there to learn.
You’ll undoubtedly be eager to impress the higher-ups and merge yourself into the bustling community that inhabits your new workspace, but try not to work yourself into a frenzy. It may be tempting to prove your dedication and show off your gumption by arriving early and leaving late, at least for those first few weeks. And while your employers may well appreciate the effort, it’s important not to overdo it burn yourself out. You are only human after all. Work too hard and you might just find yourself falling asleep at your post and nobody wants that! Take care of yourself; eat well, keep hydrated, and rest as much as you need to. Relax and keep yourself going, and you’ll be a regular part of team in no time!