The complete guide to getting off on the right foot in a new job


Once the elation of securing a new job fades, the nail-biting nerves of starting it quickly set in. For one NBC news anchor, his first-day jitters got the better of him at the most unfortunate of moments. So how do you start a new job well? How many questions are too many? And is there really any point in going to the orientation session?

Quartz tells you everything you need to know about starting a new job on the right foot:

Ask lots of questions

Writing in the Western Journal of Communication, Erin Gallagher and Patricia Sias wanted to know what effect new hires have on the existing—or “veteran”—employees of an organization. The researchers from Washington State University and Edward R. Murrow College concluded that when new people join a company, veteran employees experience as much uncertainty as the newcomers do, albeit for different reasons. While new hires are anxious about making a good first impression, old hands worry how the newcomers will affect their work habits.

Gallagher and Sias found the veteran employees felt more relaxed when new hires asked plenty of questions. It made the existing employees feel more confident about their own abilities and less anxious about having to pick up the slack.

Don’t hoodwink your manager

In a study in the Academy of Management Journal (paywall) on workplace innovation, Eirong Yaun and Richard Woodman found that employees who do something innovative at work only because they want to get ahead tend to fall flat on their faces. Managers, according to the study, turn out to be very good at spotting the employees who try to innovate solely as a way to pursue their personal agendas.

Go to the orientation session

Howard Klein and Natasha Weaver from Ohio State University wanted to work out whether orientation sessions had any effect (paywall) on how well new employees adapted. They found that staff who attended organization-wide, voluntary orientation sessions were significantly better adjusted to their company’s working culture. They had a better grasp of its  values and history, which in turn made it easier for them to form commitments and goals, as well as working relationships.

Say yes to everyone

Generosity with your time could be the secret to skipping merrily up the career ladder. Susan Dominus recently wrote a lengthy profile of psychologist Adam Grant in the New York Times magazine. Drawing on his research and applying it to his own professional life, Grant believes that people who help their coworkers—by taking really big chunks out of their days to say yes to them—get the furthest. So in the early days of a new job, saying yes to all those seemingly piffling requests will pay off in the long run.

Learn from co-workers, not managers

Cornell professor John Bishop assessed what effect on-the-job training in the first three months of a new job had on productivity. Among the results, Bishop found productivity rose substantially in the first year on the job—more than would be expected if there had been no training.

Bishop also wanted to work out the effect of specific types of training. He found that informal teaching from co-workers yielded greater long-term productivity results, at a higher rate of return to the employer, than from managers.

Be a social chameleon 

The more aware you are of your public image, and the more you adapt it to your social surroundings, the further you’ll go. Writing in Administrative Science Quarterly, Ajay Mehra, Martin Kilduff and Daniel J. Brass wanted to understand how different personality types move within their social networks and how this affects their performance. The found that workers in a tech firm who were hyper-aware of themselves and how they come across to their peers did better in the workplace. They were at the center of their social networks and wielded more influence than co-workers who weren’t as adaptive.

Get your negotiations right

Starting out right starts at the negotiation table. Jared Curhan from MIT, along with Hillary Elfenbein and Gavin Kilduff from UC Berkley, asked to what degree job negotiations can predict employees’ subsequent attitudes to their work, as well as their likelihood to remain with the company in the long term. They were surprised to find that how employees perceived the negotiations mattered more than how much money they were able to wrangle. Employees who felt their voices had been heard and that they’d been treated fairly reported a high level of job satisfaction one year after they started their jobs. The economic result of the negotiation, by contrast, had almost no correlation with subsequent job satisfaction.

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