Max Albert

Low hanging fruit + coffee. Software Developer for Ford. University of Michigan alumni.

Swatting First Week Jitters Like A Boss

Tips On How To Succeed During the First Week Of a New Job--Take notes, build relationships, don’t get down on yourself

The first week on the job can feel like a constant battle to prove yourself, find meaningful work, and to become culturally acclimated.
I am incredibly anxious in new environments. This feeling compounds my struggle to fit in. Worse yet, there’s no silver bullet to get rid of stress. It’s incredibly normal. Nervousness has been with me in every new job I’ve taken.
However just having a tangible plan — focusing on key goals — increases confidence and guides me to success.
Here are my top tips for the first week on the job.

1. Take Notes

Taking notes is always a great idea. However, during the first week, I believe it’s especially critical to take notes.
The first week on the job is certainly going to be a case of “information overload.” There’s too much to learn. 
The good news is that no one expects you to remember everything. Many new-hires are going to make mistakes and need to have critical information repeated to them.
But if you’re reading this blog, that means you’re not aiming to be “average” you’re aiming to be exceptional.
Taking notes allows you to remember more. It enables proactive learning and to not ask “repeat” questions to co-workers.
When I take notes at work, here’s what I do:
Make notes of key terms and definitions (If you don’t know the definition of a term, then google the definition later).Make notes of co-workers that you meet. What’s their area of expertise? What are they currently working on?Make notes of questions that you have, and then write-down the answer to those questions when convenient.
This note style allows you to filter though the key information during the work day. It can keep you on task and focused.
Furthermore, these notes enables you to ask better questions.

2. Ask Questions

“The Benjamin Franklin” effect is a psychological concept that states that if you want to make friends, the best way isn’t to provide favors, but instead to ask for favors. 
Asking for help makes people feel important and actualized. Never feel bad about asking for help (especially on the first week when you’re expected to need help)!
Asking for help makes your co-workers feel good. However, there are certain rules that separate average questions from great questions:
Make sure you’re asking the right person. This ties back into the notes that you’re taking. Make sure that you ask the Javascript programmer the Javascript questions. Ask the Salesforce guru the Salesforce questions. Spread out the questions. Don’t just ask one employee about everything. Develop a healthy rapport with everyone in the office.Try googling the answer first and making educated guesses. Only ask when you’ve exhausted all other options, and then communicate what you tried to do — to the person answering your question. Providing that context can accelerate learning and shows effort.Never never never never never ever ask the same question to the same employee twice. This is the golden rule. Asking the same question twice showcases apathy, lack of experience, and poor learning ability.
People love to help when they know you’re a good investment for growth. Make sure that their attention is worthwhile to be spent on you by growing fast. 

3. Prioritize Personal Relationships First and Technical Skills Second

Honing technical ability is constant struggle that will persist throughout your entire career.
You will not be able to become an expert programmer, expert saleswomen, expert marketing intern, etc. on the first week. 
What you can do in the first week, is develop excellent relationships with your co-workers. This will accelerate learning, and will give you more runway for mistakes.
In the workplace there’s almost always a “cheat code” to your issue — a hidden path that gets from point a to point b ten times as fast as the next best alternative option. When first starting out, that cheat code almost always involves people.
Having the ability to call for help, when needed, is invaluable. 

4. Jump Into The Deep End

The work place is the opposite of Don Quixote’s experience — If you look like a knight, act like a knight, and speak like a knight, eventually you will become a knight!
Take up tasks that were originally allocated for veteran developers. Speak your mind in the board room meeting with high execs. Make strategy decisions for the team when asked for input by the product manager.
Jumping into the deep-end means learning fast and galvanizing increased responsibility. Of course you’ll make more mistakes this way, but making mistakes is part of growth.
The important part is to take risks, and grow while still remaining happy.

5. Be Happy

Starting a new job is tough. Extremely tough.
It’s completely normal to feel like you’re not progressing as fast as you should. Being the bottom of the totem pole is a crappy feeling.
That said, stay positive and realize that learning takes not only effort, but time.
Shower your peers and mentors with complements. When people ask you “how’s it going?” Respond with, “It’s going great! I just need to learn this one new skill today and it’ll be even greater!”
This attitude inspires others to teach you and help you on your journey to being an effective employee. 
What are your tips for being awesome on the first week? I’m curious and would love to hear from you :D

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