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The first few days can be pretty tough.

By Frank Talarico Jr.
May 28, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you make a great first impression at work?” is written by Frank Talarico Jr., president and CEO of Goodwill of Orange County.

The first days at a new office are really no different than those paramount opening minutes of a blind date. If they don’t go well, you could find yourself looking for a new employer pretty quickly. Or, if you play it right, you could soon be nestling in comfortably at your new company.

Be visible

Particularly in your first few days, make sure to be seen. Don’t bunker down in your cubicle. Speak up. Smile. Say “hello” to everyone. Don’t feel cautious during a meeting, whether it’s formal or informal. Sure, you’re the new kid. But never forget that you were hired—likely over hundreds of other candidates—because you’re the most qualified. So own that role. The trick will be to project confidence without sounding like a smart aleck.

The key to this is collaboration. It’s okay to volunteer on big projects with other teams at work. Just play nice, especially at first. This will not only improve your visibility, but it will naturally help you build relationships with your colleagues outside of your own team.

Make sure to also make yourself known to those in roles above you. A casual check-in with your boss periodically lets them know that you’re still taking this new opportunity seriously.

Get a read on the situation

Spend your early days at a company getting to know the environment. Going back to the blind date analogy, you need to figure out if the person you’re with is a carnivore or a vegan. You have to understand the people you’ll be dealing with to figure out how to best interact within the organization.

This can start as early as during the interview process. Ask a few basic questions about how teams engage internally and externally, whether the culture is competitive or collaborative, and whether there are multiple goals or an overarching goal that all teams are trying to achieve. Your interviewer is likely to be impressed by your attention to detail with these questions, and you’ll get to learn more about your prospective company right off the bat.

You can also learn by intimately getting to know your new coworkers. On one of my first days as a young, newly employed professional, I made it my mission to find the “smartest kid in the room.” I like to joke that I sat down next to him and copied off of his paper! But in all seriousness, I paid close attention to his priorities and interactions, and asked a lot of questions.

Later on, when I found myself with an opportunity to take on a big initiative, I knew how to handle it. I realized that at that point, I was now perceived as the smartest kid the room. My strengths were acknowledged and rewarded, my leadership skills were cemented, and I was able to not only “fit in” to the corporate culture, but to help direct it.

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