How to Survive Your First Week at a New Job

You've landed a new job. Congratulations! Although now that you've left the comfort of the familiar and opted for an adventure into the unknown, you're confronted by the pressures of having to learn new work processes, meet new people, and possibly understand new industries in a very short time frame. It's a lot to take in, we know. But hang in there. We bring you hope.

We've collected our top 4 battle-tested strategies for surviving the "mess" that you will face on the first week at a new job. These tips, which were all learned firsthand by my various colleagues, will help you bring order to the chaos and will allow you to be productive despite the onslaught of unfamiliar tasks.

Top 4 Tips for Surviving the First Week

1. Step Back, Observe, Capture

Situation: Everything's new! You don't know who's who, and you're still trying to figure out the unwritten rules of the office. The office supplies are hidden, and the coffee machine works differently than the one at your last company. On top of everything else, you're dragged into a dozen different meetings regarding projects that are already running, but which you've only just learned about in the last 15 minutes. How do you handle it all?

Solution: Sit down and burrow through everything you can access on the network drives: old marketing materials, pricing specs, customer testimonials, contracts, memorandums. Read everything you can, and take notes.

Find a project management web application (such as Wrike) or a note-taking app that can capture all this new information and allow you to organize it into appropriate buckets that you can customize.

For example:

  • jot down the names of people you meet
  • attach a soft copy of the org chart and the building plan
  • outline protocols and processes as you stumble across them
  • find out who to turn to when you have questions
  • file bookmarks to all reference websites and articles you'll need to return to
  • keep a log of all account usernames and passwords

Our customer success manager Wenbo Liu shares this: "Be a huge note-taker. Take down notes on everything. Create a folder for your personal notes and fill it up so you can make sense of the information overload." In his first week at Wrike, he was busy filing away notes on training videos, webinars he attended, and was already collaborating with two other colleagues who started on the same day by sharing insight on support tickets they worked on.

As in the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, the point is to offload the data into a tool that you can trust, so your mind has more bandwidth to deal with higher-level problems. Plus, tools are searchable, and they can be organized any way you want.

2. Build Relationships

Situation: Sure, you may have been introduced to everyone and their dogs. But you still have a ton of unanswered questions — and your hiring manager may not always be the right person to answer them. How do you deal with this?

Solution: This only means one thing: networking. You need to make friends, build relationships, and in doing so, figure out who knows where the office supplies are stored, who can explain the process for filing a leave, and who knows the good places to eat or park.

Sure, having the org chart in your note-taking software will help you connect the dots as to who does what. But really, the best way to get to know people is to share info, and offer to help when you can. You can then get some help in return.

Talking about first impressions, our productivity coach, Errette Dunn, destroyed a car in his first week at Toyota. Despite his explosive start, he was able to use this as a great conversation-starter when meeting and networking with his new colleagues.

Bonus tip: Befriend the secretary to a C-level executive. It's a great way to get first refusal on leftover food from the board meeting. I did this at a previous job at a magazine publisher, and even after I resigned and became a freelance writer, the secretary would make sure my payment checks were ready when I'd visit!

3. Figure Out Your Place in the Value Chain

Situation: Your job description is new and it's vague. The interviews gave you an introduction to the company and your boss, but now that you're actually here, the path is not clearly marked. How do you proceed?

Solution: Sit down with your project management tool or a simple pen and paper, and map it all out so it becomes clearer— at least in your head. Start by outlining the answers to the following questions:

  • What's the purpose of your role?
  • Who's your customer, i.e. who are you generating value for? (It could be internal (colleagues, manager, direct reports) or external (paid customers, agencies, suppliers, freelancers) or a combination of both.)
  • What are your customers' needs and expectations?
  • What tasks do you need to do to fulfill those expectations?
  • What resources and input do you require to execute on those tasks? Who can you turn to for help?

Our energetic customer success manager Tim Chingos, says: "If you want to stand out from your peers, then take initiative. Seek out opportunities, execute against a game plan and follow up to ensure positive results."

The point to this exercise is: the clarity of your purpose can be self-defined, if it hasn't already been done for you. Setting it down in writing is a way of mentally concretizing your goals and taking the initiative to contribute to the organization. Check your map with your boss later to make sure you're on the right path.

4. Create Value ASAP

Situation: Sure it's only your first week, but you have to prove your worth. How does one create value in such a short amount of time?

Solution: You have the advantage of seeing everything with new eyes. Find small opportunities for improvement that you can immediately contribute to, and go for it.

My fellow content marketer Ashley Coolman read the company blog as part of her onboarding. Being the consummate editor, she started listing down all the typographical errors she was finding, and feeding them to the blog manager. She was doing it so much, she got early access to the blog platform so she could do the corrections herself. Instant value!

Pass the First Week Test

Survive the first week at your new job by doing 4 things really well: (1) take down notes on everything, (2) network like a movie star, (3) reflect on how you can really add value to the organization, and then (4) go add value, you workaholic!

Hopefully, your first week is a great success. You only get one chance to make a good first impression; use these four tips to get it right. Live up to all the good stuff you wrote in your resume, and turn even the most stressful onboarding situation into a victory.

Any other tips you recommend? Tell us below.

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