There are some key milestones that every new employee should achieve within their first year at a new company. How you fit in with your team and your professional growth the first year can determine your success in the years that follow.
Make those first 12 months count. By integrating yourself into the company culture and showing enthusiasm for the work you’re doing, you begin to earn the respect of your colleagues, which leads to more interesting projects and greater opportunities. At least once a quarter, review this list to make sure you’re doing what you need to set up the right foundation for a long and prosperous career.
Think 3 moves ahead
Think about how your actions will be perceived and what happens next. The best chess players think several moves ahead before making a decision. You can approach a similar strategy for your job. I like to think of my career as a puzzle that I’m putting together one piece at a time. Each piece is based on the relationships I’m building, the tasks I’m completing, and the projects I’m a part of. Think about where particular actions or tasks may lead you and whether it’s the direction you want to go in. Speaking of thinking 3 moves ahead, what should you never ever do no matter what? Do not act like you’re too good for an assignment. This will lead you to a dead end. Whether you’re inputting numbers into a spreadsheet or making copies, do not complain or think for a second that you’re above this. Just like anyone else at the company, you need to pay your dues. Once you prove that you have a good attitude and are open to anything that comes your way, people will trust you to be involved with higher-level projects.
Keep a brag list
Start a brag list of what you have been working on since getting hired. You’ll thank yourself (and me!) when your midyear and year-end evaluations come up. Keep a list of all of your accomplishments and major contributions to the team, regardless of how minor you think it is. You can always filter the list later in the year if certain items pale in comparison. We’re so focused on the task at hand at times that we don’t realize what we’re accomplishing on a larger scale. Not to mention it will be impossible to remember everything when it comes down to listing your accomplishments. Get in this habit early so that you have everything you need for performance reviews and bonus time.
Follow Through on Your Promises
If there is something you mentioned during the hiring process that your interviewers were impressed with, make it your mission to demonstrate this while on the job. Within 2 weeks of starting my job, I was asked to present on a recent article focusing on social media and mobile applications because I had talked about it during my interview. It’s great to have a niche at work and having your name come up in conversation when a particular topic is mentioned is never a bad idea.
Establish Your Reputation
Think of your first 3 months at your new job as an extended interview. If you come to work on a daily basis feeling like you need to prove something, you will naturally work harder and make a greater impact. Although it’s wonderful that you have a job, you need to prove to your company that you deserve to be there and that this will be a mutually beneficial relationship. Set goals for yourself in the beginning that go beyond your manager’s expectations. Your first few months at work may be pretty mellow because you need to be trained and can’t jump right it in immediately. This is a great time to build relationships and see if anyone on the team needs help with projects they’re working on. Just because you’re new, doesn’t mean you’re the only one that needs help! Do what you can to establish a positive reputation for yourself, which will follow you throughout your time at said company.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask (Thoughtful) Questions
As a new addition to the company, asking questions is critical to help ensure you understand what is being asked of you. Asking intelligent questions shows that you are engaged and interested in the task at hand. Never be afraid to ask someone to clarify an issue. It may be common knowledge to veterans within the company but it’s uncharted territory for you. If there is even a hint of uncertainty in a conversation, I like to restate what I’ve been asked to do to have the opportunity to fill any gasps and also to demonstrate my understanding of the situation or project.
This is so much better than assuming you’ll figure it out and then spending hours on a project that doesn’t meet the expectations of your manager because you never took the time to clarify. Hint, be resourceful and see if you can figure something out for yourself first by doing your own research or using the all-knowing Google. If the answer goes beyond your standard search engine or other resources available in the company, then proceed with confidence.
By the end of your first year, and probably way before that, you should know the names of your immediate colleagues and some background information on what makes them who they are. Do they live in the area? Do they have kids? What do they like to do for fun? In my first year at my current job, I was surprised to find out that one of my coworkers also plays in a local band. Hint, you can find out really interesting things when you go out for happy hour! Take the initiative to meet people beyond your comfort zone. Whether it’s in the bathroom, hallway, or elevator, say hello and you’ll thank yourself later. Taking the time to get to know your team beyond the tip of the iceberg shows that you care about the people you work with.
It also helps you create roots and become a vital part of the group. Each connection you make with someone can lead to a number of great opportunities that you can’t possibly predict. Avoid getting to know only co-workers who are in a leadership position. You’ll only create a reputation for yourself you don’t want and it will alienate you from the team. Build relationships with everyone, including the administrative assistant, parking attendant, janitor, and hall monitor, regardless of whether or not they can do something for you. Networking begins the first day of your new job and continues throughout your career.
Ultimately, you should never forget why you were hired in the first place. This may be a great chance for you to build your career and establish yourself but also remember that you were hired to help advance the goals and objectives of the company. What you accomplish in your first year will really set the stage for you.
Prove yourself. Follow through. Be enthusiastic. Be reliable. If you take the time to build worthwhile professional relationships and earn the respect and trust of others, you will truly be on your way to a meaningful career.