You got the job!!! Yay! Congratulations! Celebrate! Then, once again you find yourself in yet another exciting transition to put your energy into. The transition into a new job in the U.S. is often fast and furious as it is in other countries. Everything is NEW and exciting and the learning curve is often quite steep. The transition period into a new job those first few months, is often also your probation period. Companies will be observing how you perform on the job and will look for evidence that this role is truly a good match for both you and the employer.
Your First Day and First Week:
*Ask questions – ask a lot of questions. Since American culture highly values taking initiative and asking questions, it is expected that you will do so as you are learning about a new workplace, and your new role. Asking questions shows engagement, interest, and a desire to learn to be a part of the team/community.
*Introduce yourself …to everyone! Take the time to learn names, and don’t worry about asking people a second and third time. Take it upon yourself to learn who you are working with or even, who is a couple departments over from you. Build connections early on. You never know who you will be working with, and/or need support from in the future. Every person you see in the company could be your ally if you take the time to be interested, curious, and friendly.
*Ask for information. Typically you are given an orientation to the company/organization with a full tour, and introductions to co-workers. You may receive information in the form of a company manual with policies, the company’s mission, vision and values, and an organizational chart. However, very often you will not receive all this material and information depending on how organized your manager, department or company is, and the size of the company/organization – it is okay to ask for it.
*Be an active observer. Observe, take notes, and know how you learn best so that you can easily and effectively take in and integrate all that you are learning without feeling overwhelmed. Take notice of all the unwritten rules and norms of a workplace culture – how people dress, act, and what the expectations are around work style, work hours, and behaviors.
*Create space to learn and process information. Carving out some extra time outside of work to read, review and familiarize yourself with information about the company and your role, will be well worth the time upfront. Within the American society and workplace, the pace of taking in new information is lightning fast, and unfortunately companies do not always have an effective process of “on-boarding or training” new staff.
Your First Month and Beyond:
*Be proactive: Find ways to show what your skills and strengths concretely, when possible. Be proactive by sharing, without waiting to be asked, what you are working on, and have completed. Rather than make an assumption that you “should” know the answer, it is always better in the beginning to ask. Perhaps you find that your supervisor or manager is even too busy to spend time with you on a regular basis and check in to see how things are going for you. While we don’t expect hand holding, we do all like to have feedback on how we are performing, especially in the beginning. So ask, “How am I doing?”, “I am open to suggestions, feedback and constructive criticism”, and when you receive it do not take it personally. You want to learn what is expected of you early on.
*Be patient with yourself. Often the first 3-6 months of a new role at a new company, can present a steep learning curve. It can feel incredibly overwhelming at times, naturally, and everyone experiences this at some point. No one expects you to be a master at your role within just a couple months. Be kind to yourself during the process of getting comfortable in your new position.
*Create boundaries. If you start setting a precedent that you stay 10 hours every day, then it is going to be more challenging to pull back and create balance later on. Know what is expected and what is acceptable and necessary, while still honoring your life/work balance. Taking care of you, and striving to attain work/life balance is respected in America, and can be communicated diplomatically and professionally, after understanding the company norms.
*Spend time with your co-workers. It can be easy to wait for invitations to lunch with co-workers and, wait to feel and be accepted by the community. Take initiative to get to know your work community. It’s not always easy to be the “new kid on the block”. However, even if it feels outside of your comfort zone, it is to your benefit to ask co-workers if they may be interested in having lunch and/or finding a few minutes to ask questions (nothing too personal initially) and get to know one another.
Thank you to our contributing expert :
Rebekah Kane (firstname.lastname@example.org), spends her time between Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. She is a coach, educator, and intercultural trainer, with experience training, advising, and coaching professional adults along their career and life changing journeys. She empowers and supports women in career and life transitions, cultural adjustment and in pursuit of their personal and professional development goals and dreams.
Photograph by Gitajanli Rawat