5 Notch-Kicking Tips for Being a New Employee

Most of us already know the basic ways to have a great first day at a new job: Arrive early and leave late, overdress rather than underdress, meet people, ask questions, smile. But to set yourself apart in a competitive field — and set yourself up for success with your new company — kick it up a notch in your first week on the job.

1. Accept Company Policies

If your new company has some weird policies, just roll with them. If your boss wants you to post a picture on your office door of your favorite zoo animal, do it. If purchase cards need to be coded in a certain way, then code them that way. If the phone system is outdated and clunky, just make do.

You won’t know the true purpose behind something if you’ve only been on staff for six hours, and there’s probably a good reason for the way they do things. If morale had been a problem the year before, maybe quirky zoo animals helped people loosen up. If the company had past trouble with fraud, it now might be extra-meticulous with expense reports. If a new phone system would cost $60,000 company-wide, but they hired you instead, be glad they made the right choice.

2. Ask Questions, but Keep Opinions to Yourself

“Ask a lot of questions.” It’s great advice, but it falls short. Ask all the questions you want … and then keep your mouth shut. As you piece together the backstory of your new workplace, you’ll form opinions about Mike and make assumptions about the sales team. But voicing these thoughts could make things awkward — especially if you didn’t know that Mike is the CEO’s brother or the sales team is recovering from a major setback. Realize your opinions are really only for you, and be careful with gossip and idle chatter.

3. Get Your Finances in Order

You know you’ll spend some time on the computer (or in HR) filling out paperwork during your first week, so plan ahead for how you want to set up things like withholdings, 401(k) plans, life insurance policies, health insurance options and other paperwork-related decision points. If you want to have your salary direct-deposited into one checking and two savings accounts, bring all those account and routing numbers. Thinking ahead saves you from having to submit changes with HR later; if you wait until you’re knee-deep in projects, it’s less likely you’ll make the changes you want.

4. Set Goals

Stress and happiness at work can be regulated by managing expectations. Ask your boss for clear responsibilities and examples of projects you could own right away. Ask her to lunch and listen to what her vision for your role is.

Then, create goals. Plot ways to measure success in a given period of time, and map out how you intend to reach them. Once you have four or five goals, discuss them with your boss. Let her speak into them and refine them. She’ll be impressed with your gumption, and you’ll feel better knowing exactly what’s expected of you.

5. Take Advantage of Benefits

Don’t just hang around the watercooler. If your new company has catered lunches or an on-site gym, start enjoying them! There’s no better way to meet people than to mingle, and you’ll feel invested quicker if you engage with multiple aspects of your new company.

By focusing on a few key practices — and putting in the time to implement them well — you’ll bring a positivity that will set the tone for the future with your new company.