At 6:45 a.m. on the first morning of my new job a very wise mentor called to wish me luck.
She said “Today is your statement day. You have one chance to make this first impression so think about how you want to begin this day.”
Her words have stuck with me through this first week. As many professionals begin new jobs this summer it is important to think about how you want to start this next new professional chapter.
A few things to consider before your first day:
Appearance: Moving from graduate student to pro-staff member? From entry to mid? How could/should your attire reflect this? Understanding institutional culture is an important factor to consider. Day one is your first chance to demonstrate that you positively represent your institution and department. Consider a look that is polished, professional and represents you.
Attitude: Nervous? Tired? Anxious? All of these are common emotions associated with starting any new professional endeavor. The key is to remember that you were chosen above all other candidates for this position. Try to focus on the opportunities that are headed your way and walk through the door with a positive demeanor. Your team has been waiting for you to arrive!
Demonstrate Respect for Institutional Culture: Don’t be the person who says “Well, at XYZ University we did it this way…” Be open to a new way of doing things. Remember one of the most important things you can do in a new position is show respect for the traditions and processes already in place, even if they seem drastically different from your previous experience. I maintain a motto of “Learn, Maintain and then Create” when thinking about potential opportunity for departmental change. There will always be time to change things down the line, but take the time to learn the “why” behind each decision and process. You might just find that their way suits the goals of the department better than you previously anticipated.
Determining Priorities: I call this the people vs. processes debate. During the first few days there are so many tasky things to do—apply for benefits, get your parking pass, obtain your ID, etc. We can feel the pressure to make sure that these details are completed immediately. While all of those items must be taken care of, remember that the first couple of days are excellent opportunities to get to know your staff. Perhaps ask someone if they have a few minutes to walk with you to complete one of these tasks so you can get a feel for the layout of the campus. Or you can determine if any of these processes can be done on-line after the workday ends so you can focus on getting to know your new team. What do you want your new department to remember about your first few days?
Be Prepared to be Uncomfortable: Change is always difficult, but if we accept that we are going into a situation prepared with the skills and abilities to do the job it helps us to lean into the uncomfortable situations like not knowing how to find the shared drive or having to ask someone about various account codes. Six months from now you will be amazed at what you have learned!
As for me, day one was a success! I kept Dr. Cissy Petty’s words in my head and did my very best to remember that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
What other tips would you give new employees about their first few days?