Kool Derby

In the old days, there was time to learn a job. I remember my first employment position out of college was with Shell Oil Company in Houston. In the interview process, I was informed that my mentor would work with me for 30 days to make sure I understood the work. I could go to this person and ask any questions.

I was also told that nothing important was expected from me for at least three months. In other words, I had time to learn the business and my particular work. The first week, my manager said, “Please make sure to spend time reading the policy manual. It’s sort of boring stuff, but some of it actually is important.” The manual had more than 500-pages, so I was going to stay busy for the near future.

What worked in the 1990s is no longer applicable today. When hired today, the employer wants for you to hit the ground running. In fact, you are expected to have major deliverables done in the first week. In some cases, individuals are hired to fill a gap in knowledge or expertise. In essence, the company is looking for the new hire to lead the work effort.

Here are 3 tips during your first month at a new job:

#1: Take a proactive approach.

Your first month at work is important, and you should take a proactive approach. You want to learn fast, and you want to ask as many questions as necessary. Many new employees understand the work, but they need to learn the process, or the corporate culture. Every organization has a specific chain-of-command that needs to be followed.

#2: Avoid acting like a know-it-all.

While you might be a very capable person, you should take a humble or learning approach when starting a new job. The impression you make early on might define you, so it’s best to get off on the right foot.

I know of a senior manager who made the following statement during her first meeting with the team: “We are going to change the way we do things around here. I hear that people are used to doing the bare minimum, and I’m not going to put up with this approach. Those who are unwilling to change will no longer have a place in this organization.”

There was a hush in the room, and I could tell that the veteran employees were not too happy about this approach. During the first year of her employment, these old-timers did everything possible to make her job difficult. They were able to create enough resentment in her policies that she eventually quit. The point here is that diplomatic skills are important when initiating change.

#3: Avoid the petty stuff.

The most successful people in your company are big-picture minded. They avoid the coffee breaks that are used to circulate rumors. Top-notch employees are aware of office politics, and they do whatever possible to work within the system. The key here is to focus on your work and not on the small stuff that distracts you from the requirements.

Most managers will label you within the first 30 days of employment. If you look and behave like a top performer, your chances of succeeding increase. Make sure you are action-oriented, and avoid stepping on other people along the way.

The organizational culture has a current, and you need to get work done within that environment. However, you do have a good level of control regarding the pace of the current, and this is what will set you apart from the rest of the pack.