With each new contract, I’ve learnt a lot about fresh starts, making strong impressions and ways to stay steady on my feet in a sea of unknowns. And now I’m going to impart what I’ve learned on you…
This post comes to you from Emily Eades, a freelancer who has been the new girl at work countless times over.
January, for me, has never been a time for grand epiphanies. While others set wild and wonderful intentions, I hunker down; mentally limbering up for the year ahead, waiting for a sign. This year, that message from the universe is yet to fall. But I can sense something stirring – a subtle shift within my cells. A whispering sound. No heady life pivots for me, I’m pretty sure it’s spelling. Rather, a lingering note – slow down, is all it says.
Ordinarily you see, I’m a thrill-seeker. From citrus to spice, I’ve always found beauty in moments, sights and flavours that are big, bold and bountiful of noise. Likewise, change has always been equally appealing. Stepping into the new offers a swoop of adrenaline that makes my heart beat faster and my skin tingle. It makes me feel alive; like anything is possible. Which could go some way to explain why 4 years ago I gave up job security and began freelancing.
Since becoming self-employed I’ve had 17 first days in a new office – joining companies for as little as 5 days and as long as six months. With each new contract, I’ve learnt a lot about fresh starts, making strong impressions and ways to stay steady on my feet in a sea of unknowns.
But late last year I stepped unexpectedly into a full-time role that fills me. I plan to focus on it steadily this year. Rather than drift out on the wind, I’m trying my hand at settling. And while I slow life down, it seems right to pass the ‘fresh start’ baton on. So, here are my top 7 tips for sailing steadily into a new job, from one ‘new girl’ veteran to anyone embracing the new.
Prepare, prepare, prepare.
Nerves are natural, but reducing the amount of unknowns ahead of us can alleviate major fears. I minimise the risk of starting a new job, by thoroughly preparing. Everything from my route in – being late sends a lazy impression (and sends me into unnecessary panic), to finding out about the work history of my new employer, researching current projects on the company website and taking a deep delve into their social media scene. Turning up with nuggets of knowledge means never going in blind and therefore reducing the possibility of stumbling at the first step.
Be kind, make coffee.
It’s so simple — it almost seems almost foolish to include, but kindness should never be overrated. Smile, pay a (genuine) compliment, offer to do the coffee (or tea) run. Talent and skill may be your arsenal, but warmth and generosity will be the difference between being recommended for further work or not.
Listen and take note(s).
I like to feel out the rhythm of a team before adding my own beat to the mix. In this way my approach to meetings, in the early days of a new role, is always – head down, listen, absorb, listen, digest, listen. And listen again. How else to learn enough to make any sort of valuable contribution? Oh, and I take notes. So many notes. In a notebook, that I’ll return to, and work through and edit and plan from. A good set of notes is worth its weight in gold. Plus, any excuse for fancy new stationary gets my vote.
Once you’re done with sufficient listening? Ask questions. A wise editor once told me, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question”. And I’ve held this sentiment dear. Asking questions shows interest, and is the only way to needle out exactly what’s required. A bad brief elicits bad work, after all. I always follow up a briefing session with an email of questions to clarify the goal in writing.
Lower expectations, raise your game.
I’ve worked at tech companies who forgot to provide a computer; been called in urgently to assist on projects, only to find no work for me to do; and joined endless teams where email access, wifi signal or log-in details are almost impossible to come by. Having no equipment, brief or work no longer phases me. It’s a tiresome, but nonetheless common rite of passage as a new company starter. I try to shrug these situations off rather than wallow in frustration, then replace sitting around wallowing with proactivity. I work on my phone / go to a nearby café / borrow a login / rearrange the filing cabinets / make coffee. The key to marking yourself out as someone valuable is to look for gaps and then fill them.
As people, we flock to the familiar in a bid to feel secure. Which is why little hives of likeminded types often collect together at work. Watching others feel at ease with their work buddies can sting at times, especially if you’re sat alone wondering if anyone will ever talk to you, the new girl. My advice? Take the initiative (and a deep breath) and bumble straight in – Netflix series, places to eat lunch and where they bought their coat provide safe places to start.
Startlingly for someone who starts at new businesses regularly, introspection is my natural habitat. I’m naturally shy and certainly not comfortable commanding a room. But I’ve learnt that confidence isn’t about performing amazing presentations, but simply finding the strength to put thought into action. For me, that means mining the courage to speak up when I have a strong idea and offering to do the coffee run even when the words are nervously sticking in my throat. Confidence isn’t always loud. Find your version, and make peace with it.
Oh, and good luck, you’re going to be amazing.