9 ways to survive that scary first week in a new job

Nervousness mixed with overwhelm, sprinkled with excitement: it's your first week in a new job…

This post will give you 9 actions so that you not only survive, but thrive.

On my first day as Head of Tax Policy for Customs and Excise, I was introduced to my new team. Not the Tax Policy Team. The Drugs Policy team.

It turned out I’d been given an EXTRA job as Head of Drugs Policy, on top of the one I’d applied for.

This was somewhat of a surprise…

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise - I went on to specialise in law enforcement in the National Crime Agency for the next five years, as Head of Strategy for Proceeds of Crime, and then for International.

But it certainly made for an interesting first week…

What saved me was Active Learning.

And it's what will save you too.

So what is Active Learning?

One definition is where someone is “actively or experientially involved in the learning process” (Bonwell & Eison 1991).

Through this, you are able to achieve deeper levels of understanding.

Which is very helpful when you are starting a new job!

Think back: how would you score yourself out of ten in these areas for your first week when you started your last job:

With these 9 actions, you will do even better next time:

1. Ask questions

Research indicates that new employees perform better the more questions they ask, and the more support they seek.

Asking questions mean you are Actively Learning, thereby speeding up and deepening your understanding.

And it also helps with building rapport.

2. Introduce yourself

Don’t wait to be introduced - take the intiative.

It might be scary, but it is the fastest way to build relationships.

Practice beforehand, so that it flows easily: “Hi, my name is Kirsten and I’ve just started in team X doing Y. What do you do?” (Note the question...)

3. Remember names

Meeting lots of new people can be overwhelming, even for the extroverts among us.

But Active Learning helps here too.

Rather than just “receiving” the name and hoping it sticks, think of a famous person with that same first name and say it aloud in your head: “Hi, I’m Phil”; “Hi Phil!” [Collins].

You will be activating a different bit of the brain, and that will help with the name’s recall when you see Phil in the future.

4. Get the logistics sorted ASAP

Not knowing where to make tea can add to your feeling of being lost during that first week.

Don’t struggle on alone - if a tour isn’t offered on your first day, ask a friendly face for a one! Not just the tea point and the toilets, but the best local lunch places.

It’s an opportunity to build a relationship, and experientially master the logistics quickly - one less thing to worry about…

5. Clarify your objectives

Ideally in the first week, you need a one-to-one meeting with your boss.

You probably have an idea of what they’re looking for from your interview, but this needs to be explicit. Don’t wait to be told:

- ask for the meeting;

- prepare your own idea of your job goals for it;

- and be ready to ask