In many ways, starting a new job feels much like being the new kid at school. You don't know the other people. Your colleagues already have a group of friends. Your nerves are spinning out of control on the first day. You can't expect your teacher — erm, boss — to chaperone you the whole time, so you have to navigate your new company mostly alone.
Whether you're starting your career or have already held several positions, adjusting to a new job takes time and hard work. Even when you've landed your dream job, it may be difficult to adapt to your new company's culture and way of doing things. You may worry that you don't mesh with the people who work. At times, you may even question whether the position is actually the great opportunity you expected it to be, or if you should have stayed put at your old office.
These feelings of apprehension are normal. After the initial exhilaration you experience when you receive a job offer, that excitement can quickly turn to anxiety. Fortunately, you're not alone. Countless people before you have started new jobs and survived. Many of them grew to love their positions, even if it was a little (or a lot) scary at first.
Here are seven ways to ease your adjustment into your next great opportunity:
1. Expect that it will take some time to adjust.
You won't and can't know everything there is to know about the ins and outs of your new role on the first day. Every job has a learning curve.
No one — and that includes your manager — thinks you should know how to do every task your job demands in the beginning. It takes months to get fully acquainted with your job, the company and the team.
Don't rush yourself or assume you've failed if you haven't had a giant victory within your first week. It's natural to feel confused and overwhelmed. Take your time, and learn your job by working it.
2. Ask questions.
Since you don't know how to do absolutely everything (yet), ask for help when you need it. It may take some time to figure out the right person to ask for help with different tasks or processes, so if you're not sure, ask someone on your team to direct you to the correct person or resource. Chances are, she'll be able to point you in the right direction and won't be bothered by your question; asking shows that you want to learn and don't assume that you know how to do everything.
An ideal situation is having a more senior colleague who performs a similar role to yours or has in the past. That way, she knows exactly what you're going through and what tools and skills you need to be successful. If there's no one who fits that description, your best recourse is your direct supervisor. You may be reluctant to ask your manager for help — you don't want to appear needy or poorly equipped to handle your responsibilities — but training you is most likely part of her job, and asking for help is the only way you'll learn.
3. Explore your new digs.
If you have trouble finding your way around a new location like I do, spend some time walking around to get the lay of the land. This is especially important if you're in a huge office. Walk down the halls, so you can find out where various employees and departments sit. Find out where the kitchen and bathroom are. Pay attention to the numbers on conference rooms.
If you have some down time, which is very possible in a new job, go exploring. That way, you'll know where to go when you need to in the future, and if someone says, "Take this to accounting," you'll know where accounting is.
4. Introduce yourself to your colleagues.
You're the new kid on the block. While your manager may take you around and introduce you to some colleagues, you'll probably need to take some initiative and reach out to others. Doing so establishes you as friendly colleague.
Some of your neighbors may make an effort to welcome you, but if they don't, introduce yourself first. All you need to do is say, "I'm so and so. I just started in the X department. Nice to meet you."
5. Discuss goals and expectations with your manager.
You probably discussed your overall ambitions in your interview, but don't expect your manager to remember everything you said. She probably has some expectations for you as well, and she may not have outlined everything the role demands. In the first couple weeks, schedule a meeting to sit down and chat. Ask about her expectations of you, and share your expectations for the position. Make a point of discussing long-term goals, too. She may be able to help with your career trajectory. If she's a good manager, she will certainly make that effort.
6. Pay attention to the company culture.
You may have spent the better part of your career at another office. That doesn't mean you should constantly remind the other employees. One of the worst things you can do as a new hire is constantly bring up your old office and how people did things there. Frankly, nobody cares. This is a different company with a different culture, and if you constantly bring up your old job, your colleagues will wonder why you changed jobs at all.
Instead, focus on how this company does things. Look for opportunities to have new experiences. Do your colleagues go out for happy hour nearby? Join them. Are some holidays a big deal? Rev up your enthusiasm, and start decorating your cubicle.
That doesn't mean you have to go crazy over every interest people seem to share in the office. Still, you should make an effort to appreciate how people interact and what employees prioritize in the office. Small details matter just as much as big ones. For instance, if people tend to email each other with questions rather than walking over to a neighbor's desk, follow suit. If the rest of the office adheres to an earlier schedule than you normally do, adjust accordingly.
7. Find out how you're doing.
Don't do this just to dig for compliments or receive vague reassurances that you haven't royally disappointed your new boss. Seek out real feedback on your performance after a couple months on the job. Ask specific questions about your role. Even if your boss tells you you're doing great — which she very well may — look for opportunities to do even better. Ask about any weak areas, discuss how you might improve and develop solutions together.
Getting acclimated to a new job takes time and effort, but it will be worth it when you're thriving in your not-so-new role. You'll get there in no time. Good luck!
*Pro tip: don't forget the documentation required to verify your employment eligibility (your I-9). Coming prepared on the first day will go a long way with how you're perceived by your HR rep.