6 Things to Know When Starting a New Job

by Marie on May 2, 2012 · 7 comments

The job market is picking up, four long years after the Great Recession’s start. You’ve been waiting in the wings for new opportunities and your job search and interview efforts have finally landed you a new golden job. You’ve given good notice, said your goodbyes, wrapped up your current assignments and handed them off and now you are ready to step into your next opportunity.

If you’ve never changed jobs before, you may be in for some surprises as you move to your new job. Here are 6 things I found out the hard way as I moved from job to job as a computer programer/project manager.

Everything can be different.

In your old job, you came to expect certain rules and types of interactions with your peers and bosses. You knew how to get to work, where to park, when you could break and go to lunch and how much time should be spent chatting with co-workers vs. time at your desk. You knew how to use the phone system, the printer and what was allowed or disallowed on the internet. You had figured out all of the companies tools, hardware and software and had your computer set up just the way you want it.

Guess what? All of that is gone. Expect the unexpected. My son recently started a new programming job. To his surprise, he found they used Apple computers (he has always had PCs at work). When I started a job at TWA, they had no where for me to sit! I moved from desk to desk – using spots when people went on vacation – for about a month. My sister-in-law went back to an office that had switched from permanent individual desks to a roaming cube situation. She moves desks every day.

Count on spending some of your own time to get your tools set up the way you need them – or to even find out what tools there are and how to access them.

Stress levels increase.

Starting a new job definitely affects your own stress levels, so try to keep other areas of your life constant and as stress free as possible. If you are having to re-locate, try to have someone else handle the house-hunting and moving details – or see if you can get the move taken care of before you start the job – or delay it by renting or staying in a hotel for awhile.

Remind yourself that you can’t learn everything about the job on the first day or in the first week. Yes, you should try to hit the ground running, but cut yourself some slack emotionally if you have a few bumps in the road.

Expectations weren’t well stated.

Recruiter’s and hiring managers often have difficulty in summarizing and stating what the real job expectations are. There are so many things – on both a conscious and unconscious level – that go into managing a team of people, that it is truly difficult to lay everything out at once for a new hire.

Sometimes, you are interviewed and hired by someone other than the person who becomes your immediate supervisor. What you were promised at interview/job offer time may not have trickled down to your immediate supervisor – or may have been interpreted differently by him or her than it was by you and the person extending the job offer.

Sometimes you haven’t really gotten the company representatives to understand what you are expecting from the job. When you start that first day, you get smacked in the face with the differences and may have to think quickly to come up with a way to diplomatically address them while preserving the things which made you come to the company.

You are the one that has to adjust.

Lets face it, you are used to a certain culture and way of doing things. Your new company will definitely have a different culture and way of doing things. Don’t expect everyone to immediately adjust to your style.

Perhaps you feel strongly that it is important to joke around with people in the office to establish rapport, but the new office culture appears very serious. Start the job by adjusting yourself to their culture and gradually introduce the levity you feel may be needed. Bend to their ways first. You will affect the company culture, over time, just by being there and being yourself.

Don’t assume that you can checkout your facebook page at work, just because your last employer didn’t mind.

Don’t assume that you can watch streaming video or listen to music while you work, just because your last employer didn’t mind.

Don’t be offended by interactions you encounter during the first few weeks at work. Just work to change them over time. I used to be employed by a financial services company and worked in a client facing area. At one point I started a new position with a new team in the company (which by the way is somewhat similar to starting a new job). The team had developed a strong rapport, which was good, but some of the things they saw as humorous would be interpreted by clients as very unprofessional. I kept my mouth shut for a couple of months and worked informally to tone down some of the interactions without losing the team’s rapport.

You should lean towards professionalism.

Showing up for work your first day in flip flops and a t-shirt, only to find that your new group wears dress pants and shirts can make for a very uncomfortable start. Since we already know that just starting a new job causes stress, why increase it by being dressed much more casually than everyone else.

The same idea applies to the way you interact with your new co-workers and managers. Tending towards the professional will allow you to feel less stressed in your interactions. In my mind, there is nothing worse than trying to fit in by telling a bawdy joke, only to get ‘the stare’ from co-workers. There will be time to display your outstanding sense of humor later. Keep it toned down the first few weeks while you get the feel of your new digs.

You may have taken some benefits for granted, and they aren’t there.

Some things seem so fundamental to us that we don’t bother to explore them in a job interview or offer. Most of us in the US assume that a new job automatically comes with time off of some sort – typically a few sick days a year and a couple of weeks vacation.

We also might take the presence of a retirement plan for granted, when in actuality, the company doesn’t offer one, or offers one that is dramatically different than our old one.

Other smaller benefits may also be missing from your new job.

One of the perks at one of my positions was a large display phone, which could show you who was calling and had many features and functions not present on the standard phone. Upon moving to a new department in the same company, I expected I would have the same kind of phone, but the new management wouldn’t provide it. It seems nit-picky but it did add to my stress levels. As it turns out, the new management also wanted to remove my bonus eligibility. I managed to negotiate this back in this particular case – otherwise I would have been very stressed!

Perhaps you traveled a lot in your prior job and expected the same perk on this one? Perhaps you had access to company or client paid lunches at your old job but not at this one?

Whatever the case, be prepared to find different benefits on your new job.

Oh, and don’t expect your old company to fall apart because you left!  The hole you left in the company structure is washed over like a wave over the beach – as soon as you leave!

What surprises have you found when starting a new job?


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JAMES May 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm

My main advice to someone starting a new job is: You used your experience with other companies to get you the job. Leave that experience at the door when you walk into your new job the first day. Far too often new hires will say, well we did it this way at XXXX company. The reality is, every company is run completely different, so learn the way of your new company and forget about the old company whether you agree with it or not.


2 Marissa @ Thirty Six Months May 6, 2012 at 3:25 am

I completely agree. Most employers don’t want to hear that, and it will the new work environment a bit stressful.


3 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

What a great suggestion. No one likes to hear that their way is not the only and best way – that’s for sure. A newbie on the job can bring a new perspective, but they have to be careful how they weave it in!


4 Dannielle @ Odd Cents May 3, 2012 at 6:28 am

Great tips. Many organisations have varied cultures and you have no choice but to re-adjust. It would be good to ask about what an organsation’s culture is during your Q&A part of the interview. If you get the job, you would have an “idea” of what to expect.


5 Marie at FamilyMoneyvalues May 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

I never thought about asking what the culture is like as part of the interview. Nice idea. I would caution that a lot of people won’t really be able to tell you much though – a lot of things that go into culture are very much on the sub-conscious level.


6 Tackling Our Debt May 3, 2012 at 5:33 pm

You’re right, the new employee has to learn to adjust and should expect a period of time where they may feel unsettled until they get to know people and get use to the way things work. I worked in a corporation where new hires sometimes didn’t get a computer assigned to them for the first 2 weeks that they were in the office and they would get upset and say things like this company is so unorganized, etc. They didn’t realize all the work that was involved behind the scenes in bringing new hires on board.


7 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 3, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Wow, its hard to get much done without a computer anymore. But yes, there is quite a bit to it, especially if the company has to order new hardware. There are also multiple approvals, security decisions, sometimes network connectivity and a host of other considerations.


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