You Only Get One Chance to Make a Good First Impression

by: Christine Hamilton (VP, Consulting Services)

Having been the “new guy” in many different organizations over my career, I offer a few thoughts on how to get the most out of this precious but limited period of time.

As a new employee:

  • Be proactive.  Introduce yourself to as many co-workers as you can.  Find out what they do and where they fit in.   Building a broad internal network will help provide you with context and will pay off in the future.
  • Ask lots of questions.  You aren’t expected to know everything at this point so be curious and hyper-observant.  Listen.  Don’t assume.
  • Be yourself and be confident.  They brought you into the organization for a reason!  Don’t sit back when you see an opportunity to make a contribution.
  • Capture your observations and recommendations as you build your plan.  Use this as a communication aid when dealing with your new boss, peers and team.

Your newbie status will quickly wear off so use this time as the launch pad for your contribution to the organization.

As an employer:

  • Prepare an orientation checklist – no matter how small the organization or how senior the new employee.  This ensures that things you take for granted aren’t overlooked and avoids confusion for the new employee.
  • Engage your new employee in meetings, working sessions etc.  Provide opportunities for him/her to meet people across the organization, partners and clients.  Help your new employee interpret what they are experiencing.
  • Check-in regularly.  Solicit his/her feedback.  This is the perfect time to see your operations through a fresh set of eyes while providing a feel for the culture and history of the organization. Your new employee is able to offer insights now that, after a few months, will fade as he/she becomes more fully integrated.
  • Be especially aware of the impact of your words and actions.  In his blog post “That’s not the way we do things around here”, Seth Godin warns, “Please don’t underestimate how powerful this sentence is. When you say this to a colleague, a new hire, a student or a freelancer, you’ve established a powerful norm, one that they will be hesitant to challenge.”
  • Be clear about your expectations.  This will help the new employee develop their priorities and plans.

There is a “gift” in those early days of working in a new organization.  As a new employee, you set the stage and tone for your new direction and relationships while bringing a fresh perspective on everything from how the organization operates to the culture that permeates the halls.  It’s typically an exciting and stressful time, but don’t let your desire to fit in and prove yourself overshadow the opportunities for both you and the organization.  As they say, you only get one chance to make a good first impression – as a new employee and as an employer!

** With this blog post, we welcome Christine Hamilton to Stratford Managers as Vice-President, Consulting Services

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