First impressions really do count.
MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is the biggest mistake you see new hires make? is written by Kathy Delaney, global chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.
Whether someone is fresh out of school and starting their very first job, or an industry veteran is transitioning into a new position, the first few days in a new role can be intimidating and full of uncertainty. You don’t know who is on your team, you’re adjusting to the workflow, and you haven’t found any of the good lunch spots yet. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s important not to get overwhelmed by all of this change.
The biggest mistake I see new hires make is failing to be proactive from the start. Are you wondering who the person is next to you? Introduce yourself. Or maybe you’re not sure what you should be working on? Go to your boss and ask to be pointed in the right direction. But what if your boss is too busy to show you what to do? Take it as an opportunity to get to know your coworkers and offer to help them out. The best thing a new hire can do is use their creativity to carve their own path from day one.
It’s such a cliché, but first impressions really do count. Rather than sitting around, waiting to be told what to do, you should be demonstrating your passion and energy by thinking of ways to make a contribution. As a new hire, you have a fresh perspective on the work the company is doing. Your company will want to take advantage of your unbiased opinion while you still have it. So be generous with your ideas and insights.
On the flip side, managers and HR teams need to build an orientation process that makes the transition as smooth and comfortable as possible. This tends to go more smoothly in highly collaborative environments. People often find it easier to jump in and help out when those around them are used to a fluid, cooperative workflow. But that alone won’t make magic happen. Hiring managers need to make sure that their new hire is clear on who’s who in their department and where they can find support. Make it an environment where new hires are welcome to address the leadership with questions or concerns. And those working directly with the new hire should be familiar with their background, so they can start to identify where their skills might be best used from the start.
With the support of good leaders and collaborative teammates, proactive new hires can take the uncertainty we all experience when starting a new job, and quickly turn it into endless potential.