17 December 2015

New job, new culture, new language

Starting a new job is more than just changing where you work.  You have to learn a whole new way of doing things, from how to log onto the computer to filling out a purchase order form.  There is a new work culture to adapt to and a new language of acronyms to try and sort out.  Even though they can seem like small things, at the beginning you are trying to do your best to impress and can feel a bit helpless when the phone rings and you realize you don't know how to answer it.  Many organizations provide orientation sessions for new hires, which is helpful, but doesn't usually cover the little things. 

My former boss gave me some good advice when he knew I would be taking a new job.  He cautioned that I was running a marathon, not a sprint and I should pace myself and not be too hard on myself if I didn't know everything right away.  That has been good advice.  When you start a new job, your new employer is not expecting you to know everything on your first day.  They know it will take time to get oriented and for you to feel at home in your new surroundings and with your new responsibilities, but there are some things you can do to speed things along.

Once you learn a new task, write it down 
This has been a real help to me in the initial first days on the job.  I was surprised after a week how much I had written in my job manual.  This helped me see that I was picking things up quickly, but if I forgot something, I could go back and check in my manual. 

I organized the manual with information about the organization and the area I worked in.  I wanted to know how I fit in and that helped me to see my role more clearly.  I then set out some of the responsibilities I knew I had such as scheduling meetings and organizing and taking minutes at meetings.  I also included instructions on how to use some of the equipment that I needed to use such as the telephone, photocopier and fax. 

Gone fishing
Next, I started searching through hardcopy files at my desk and electronic ones on the server.  It is amazing how much you can learn by what I call 'going fishing'. Once I found something that seemed relevant, I bookmarked it so I would be able to easily find it again.  In the folders I knew I would have a lot of work to do in, I organized them to suit my style of working.  And other times I just read as much as I could. 

Organizing folders
For the meetings I organize I like to have three folders:  Agenda, Handouts and Minutes.  I file everything by date (YYYY/MM/DD) and everything files chronologically so very easy to find and everything relates to the date of the meeting.  The agenda will be named 2015-11-19 Medical Advisory Committee Agenda.  Each of the handouts will have the same date with whatever the name of the item is, and the final minutes will be named 2015-11-19 Medical Advisory Committee Minutes.  This way when I want to find everything for a particular meeting, it is very easy to find.  It is very important that you feel comfortable with where everything is.  There is enough different around you, that you need to have something that looks familiar.

Ask questions
I also learned a lot by speaking to my co-workers and asking questions.  They all want me to be successful as usually when someone leaves, the others have to fill in the gap until someone new is hired.  So they are very happy to see me there and want to see me get up to speed as quickly as possible so don't be afraid to ask questions.

If you are a new employee, be patient with yourself.  It takes time to adjust to a new office, boss and co-workers.  If you have a new employee in your office, take time to show them the ropes and point them in the right direction.  At first I didn't even know where the restroom was.  And pretty soon you will be the person showing the next new person the ropes. 


Carolyn said...

Thank you for the very sensible advice about running a marathon. I've just moved to an internal promotion and will try and remind myself of this.

It's amazing how powerful it is to write down processes. When I left the old job, my old boss was so appreciative of the manual I left behind. Now it's time to keep going with new-job manual!

Patricia Robb said...

Agreed! I also left a manual for the new person who replaced me and my former boss was very appreciative and relieved. It saved me a lot of time too. I had enough to do before I left so just updating the manual and handing it over was a big timesaver. Of course it means the new person will have some reading to do, but given that most times you come into a new job there is nothing, this is a gift.