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How to Excel During Your First Week at a New Job

So you’re starting a new job — congrats! But now what?

Any kind of big change takes an adjustment, but the stakes feel higher in the work environment. So how do you prepare? And, most pressingly, how do you put your best foot forward to make those career moves?

The answer: it all starts in your first week. Set your intentions! Manifest! And follow along to learn how to excel during your first week in a strange new world.

Research the company

You probably did some research to get the job and ace the interview, but now it’s time to refresh.

This time, you want to focus on the nitty gritty. Who’s who at your company? Memorize the masthead, the directory, and the names in your department. See if you can use your investigative skills to find out more about your coworkers, including what they do and their specialized areas. This is more applicable in creative industries, but the point remains: use the skills you learned Insta-stalking your crush or your ex to get really familiar with LinkedIn and your company portal.

This is also a good time to scope out potential mentors (more on that later), and get familiar with the kinds of things you’re attracted to about the workplace. In the long run, you’ll also be able to make workplace friendships easier. If you’re familiar with what people do, you’ll seem more personable. People love to talk about themselves, so do your research, and then ask them more!

Be prepared

Just like on the first day of school, you don’t want to be the kid who shows up to class without a pencil. Be as prepared as possible. Research what other entry-level positions in your industry look like. If you can find reviews from past employees from your company (sources like Glassdoor are great for this), then even better.

Study up and anticipate what you’ll be asked to do as much as you can. Make sure to read the company handbook and fill out all the requisite paperwork as soon as possible — don’t give yourself the chance to forget. And, most importantly, when you show up, whether in person or on Zoom, be on time! Armed with all your knowledge, you should be able to anticipate some of your tasks. Your supervisors will be impressed by how on the ball you are and how much you already know.

Get a sense of the company culture

This may be more difficult to do over Zoom, but try your best to ascertain the company culture and get acclimated. Is it a more traditional office? Is it casual? Is it totally laidback? Play on the safe side until you’re certain. For example, dressing on the more professional side at the beginning is always a good idea. It’s better to be a little overdressed than underdressed.

Understanding the lay of the land can help you figure out how to communicate with your coworkers and supervisors, and what’s expected of you. Some offices will send memes over the #general slack channel, some won’t.

Part of this is figuring out how much independence you’ll have and how much support you can expect. Even offices that are generally friendly might not be set up to walk you through everything. If that’s the case, good thing you’re prepared! But if they make a point to tell you to ask for help if you need it, don’t be afraid to! They probably mean it.

Assert yourself

Here’s the hardest tip: confidence. For those of us who struggle with imposter syndrome, it can be hard to feel like you deserve the job you’re in. But you do. Bring that knowledge into the space with you and let it give you confidence.

Do not shrink yourself in fear of doing something wrong. Instead, assert yourself from the very start. Introduce yourself with confidence to your new coworkers. If you manifest a self-assured version of yourself, you’ll be taken more seriously, and it’ll be easier for that version of you to become reality. If there’s an opportunity to help one of your coworkers on a project, or to pitch something, share your ideas and be proactive!

Reach out and find a mentor

Reaching out, in general, is always a good idea. Whether for insight or support on a particular project, or for bigger concerns. You’re the new kid — people will expect you to have questions. If you’re interested in a particular aspect of the business, ask the person in charge if they need help. If there’s time, try asking your coworkers to lunch or for a Zoom meeting to find out more about what they do.

This can also help you figure out who in your department would be willing to talk more about their trajectory, career path, and experience at the company. If you’re looking to move up in that job, this will be someone who has the job you want, or someone who has the job you want next. If you’re not tied down to a particular company, find someone whose work seems interesting. How did they get into it? What lessons have they learned? Be a sponge. Learn anything and everything from the people around you.

In general, people love to talk about themselves, so ask and you shall receive!

Don’t stress (you’ll burn out!)

A little stress can be useful. If you’re like me and thrive under pressure (at least, this is what I tell myself to justify my procrastination), a little stress can push you to be your best. However, too much can burn you out.

If you’re tying yourself in knots with anxiety and second-guessing every decision, try to chill out! Remember that the whole fate of your company probably doesn’t rest on your shoulders — so if you mess up once or twice, it’s not the end of the world.

Your first week doesn’t have to go perfectly; don’t ruin it by being paranoid. You deserve to be there, but it’s not your whole life. Learn as much as you can, make connections, then sit down and unwind after you clock out.

Langa is a freelance writer from NYC. She is a recent graduate of Scripps college in California who remains loyal to the East Coast.