Adjusting To A New
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The first few weeks of a new job are always difficult. You
want to impress your co-workers as a hard-working, honest,
intelligent team member. You want to show your boss that
you are competent and talented. And all the while, you can't
remember which cabinet holds the office supplies, you've
forgotten at least two officemates' names, and your computer
seems to be haunted.
Even seasoned professionals say starting a new job is rough
- it's even harder if you're a recent college graduate getting
acquainted with the real world. However, if you anticipate
the challenges ahead, your transition to working America
will be much smoother:
Take advantage of the mentoring program.
If your company offers you a mentor, don't hesitate to sign
up for this opportunity. Not only will a good mentor provide
you with unparalleled networking opportunities, but he or
she will also give you tips on how to excel in your job,
advise you on how to realize your long-term goals, and provide
a career trajectory that you might want to use as a model.
Don't be afraid to write things down.
Maybe it's not best to be poised with a notebook during
the first round of office interviews, scribbling away instead
of making eye-contact and shaking hands. However, when you
get back to your desk, don't hesitate to write down co-workers'
names and key data about them. While you're at it, write
down where the office supplies are, what day the cleaning
crew will empty your garbage can, where the recycling bin
is, and whether you need to contribute money to buy grinds
and filters for the "free" coffee.
Mind the dress code.
For some jobs, the dress codes are obvious. If you're working
as a technician at a hospital, you will probably wear a
scrub suit. If you're a police officer, you will likely
don a uniform. If you're an investment banker, you will
probably sport a suit. At many organizations, however, the
dress code is not so clear-cut; it can be hard to size up
what the company expects of your appearance. For example,
the dress code in newsrooms around the country is highly
variable - some newspapers are fine with blue jeans; others
demand a workforce dressed to be aesthetically interchangeable
with hedge fund employees. Also, by simply visiting your
new workplace, you may not leave with a wholly accurate
interpretation of the dress code.
The best course of action is to spend the first week or
two of work a little bit overdressed or matched with the
most formally dressed person you see in the office. Pay
close attention to the finer points of the dress code, and
assess the average level of dressiness. Do women wear tights
or hose? Do men wear playful or conservative ties? Does
anyone ever wear sneakers or casual loafers? Do employees
wear tailored, formal pants or standard-fare chinos? Once
you understand the dress code, you will be able to integrate
your own sense of individual style with the workplace aesthetic.
By waiting to bring your unique sensibility to your office
attire, you'll be sure not to inadvertently rub others the
wrong way or give the impression that you don't care or
don't take your new job seriously.
Be nice to administrative assistants
and clerical workers. The main reason to be nice to
the office staff is, of course, that they're people, meaning
that they deserve common courtesies. Another reason, however,
is that your relationship with the person who operates the
fax machine, answers the phone, files papers, types transcripts,
and operates the copy machine can greatly determine the
quality of your job. If you're rude to the receptionist,
why should he or she give you phone messages, deliver faxes,
or process your copy machine requests in a punctual manner?
If you spurn the administrative assistant, why should he
or she help you out when you misplace an important file
or realize you forgot to do something once you get home
from work? Your relationship with support staff can have
a decided impact not just on the pleasantness of your day,
but also on your job performance.
College isn't corporate America. The working world
can be jarring, especially if you graduated from an idyllic,
elite, liberal arts college. Many such schools - the ones
with lush quadrangles of emerald green grass, ivy-covered
collegiate gothic dormitories, and gender studies departments
- offer what many would consider something close to an ideal
society. The college community is relatively egalitarian
and respectful - even if every decision isn't perfectly
progressive, the mandate and vision for equity is palpable.
According to Phyllis R. Stein, a Boston-area career coach,
female and minority clients often express dismay over illegal
pay differentials, gendered entry-level jobs, and sexual
harassment. There are no simple solutions to these problems
and realities - everyone's approach to them will be unique.
But handling them will be much easier if the initial shock
and disillusionment doesn't catch you completely off guard.
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