New kid on the block?
Many of us, often through no fault of our own, have found ourselves in jobs to which we are patently not suited or with new colleagues we just don't gel with. While it's true these situations can't always be avoided entirely, there are a number of tenets which can at least start you out on the right foot. They may seem obvious, but ask any recruitment consultant or personnel manager for examples of horrendous first day stories and you could be settling in for a long evening?
Mark Marjoribanks, a student with a leading accountancy practice and an 'Aussie with attitude', believes good first impressions are vital. 'Whether you're starting out in Sydney, London or Toronto, I've found it's crucial to show enthusiasm, willingness to learn and, above all, organisation', he comments. 'Quite often, people fall into the trap of thinking that because they've just started, they can take it easy. In fact, the reverse is true. As the new kid on the block, you almost have to go out of your way to impress those who've been around for a while.'
This doesn't mean being sub-servant and, in Mark's experience, far from it. 'I believe in stamping your personality on the job as soon as possible,' he says. 'If you pitch in from day one and show you're not sitting around waiting to be spoon-fed, people take to you much more easily and get to know you far better on a more personal level.'
Do's and don'ts for starters
Working out what the form is over your first few days can present a challenge, as the culture of companies and firms varies considerably. Some basic but important reminders are:
- Arrive early
- Show enthusiasm
- Demonstrate knowledge about your new employer
- Ask lots of questions
- Look smart and business-like
- Be organised (write things down)
- Be too quiet or reserved (or conversely, too over-the-top!)
- Sit around doing nothing if you have finished a task - take the initiative
- Ask what time you can leave that evening
- Make personal phone calls without asking or without judging what is tolerated
- Get involved in office politics (it's too early to make judgements about who are potential allies or enemies)
- Book holidays on day one
Everyone makes mistakes
Rebecca Wright, finance director for a leading services company, says in her experience, trainees sometimes try to be too assertive, but not always with disastrous results.
'One graduate joined us as we were approaching a series of rail and bus strikes. She spent her first day complaining that we didn't provide overnight accommodation or taxis on strike days to staff living within tube zones. It was irritating her new colleagues to hear about all her friends being shipped in on luxury coaches and gave the impression of her being a cut above everyone else, particularly the non-graduates.' However, a quiet word from her boss did the trick.
'It was simply naivety,' says Rebecca, 'and a degree of peer group competition. She was horrified. I've never seen anyone offer to make so many cups of tea for colleagues the following day! She also proved a real trooper by getting in at the crack of dawn on strike day and is still with us today in a line management position herself.'
You're not alone
Something forgotten by many recruits in their urgency to impress is the role their manager fulfils. Managers are also under pressure to make a good impression on new joiners. Remember, personnel managers get feedback about staff at all levels! A manager's role in this situation can be that of a mentor, explaining the firm's expectations, disclosing hidden agendas, encouraging, supporting or cajoling. Many new recruits are initially blinkered to everything except their own agenda and fail to realise communication is a two-way process. There is much to be gained from acknowledging your new manager is working just as hard to impress as you are.
Brendan Collins, human resources manager for Mazars Neville Russell, says, 'One of the main roles of a good line manager is to create a welcoming and supportive environment, allowing recruits to make the right impression on arrival. In any office situation, it is always hard to make a good name for yourself - and easy to lose one. As a result, it's critical that managers help. The reality of course, is unfortunately sometimes different and recruits are often blind to the fact that a manager is there to help and guide'.
Make an IMPACT
Remember how to make a good first impression by learning the mnemonic IMPACT:
- Instigate social activities outside work
- Manage your time effectively
- Present yourself well
- Ask questions
- Contribute ideas
- Think before you speak
What if I blow it?
Following this advice can unquestionably improve your chances of success in the first few weeks in a new job. However, what happens if all your overtures of friendship and efforts at the workplace are in vain? How easy is it to overcome poor first impressions and should one expect team members to give you a chance to recover?
Brendan Collins comments, 'It goes without question that many people are overly quick to make judgements. It's this which causes us to place so much emphasis on making a good first impression. However, starting off on the wrong foot or rubbing somebody up the wrong way is not the be all and end all. Poor first impressions are reversible and people will generally give you the benefit of the doubt - unless of course their perceptions continue to be reinforced.'