Setting the Pace on Day One

I think day one at a new job is the most important. It is going to set the pace for the rest of the job. I’m always conscious of first impressions and nothing is more important than a job’s first impression. There are only a few ways a first day can go though:

  • Hit the ground running: You get in, login, are handed a task and you get to it. You meet the people you need to get things done, you get the information you need quickly, and you start solving hard problems. This is a challenge and it pushes you out of your comfort zone but you love it because you know there won’t be a dull day at work. You’ll be working with smart, capable and interesting people. Yay for work!
  • Busy, busy work: You sit down, get on the computer and you’re given tons of information to read. Background, client information, goals, visions, timelines. You need to understand it all by yesterday. But, you’re not really doing anything. You’re becoming acclimated but it’s not the most effective way–it’s a cheap way.
  • Orientation: Go to a day in the office, have policies and procedures read to you, walk around and find the bathroom (as if you couldn’t find it when the issue presented itself), learn how to change your voicemail (as if people are going to call you in the next few weeks).
  • Paperwork: Sign this, put your SSN here, sign here, initial here, read the NDA and date it. You’ll need to do this all morning. This afternoon you have a sexual harassment seminar and then you can catch a flight to go to orientation. You’ll see some work when your boss gets back in town.

I’ve experienced a mixture of all these and I know there are plenty more. I’ve walked into a small business (4 people) and had to find out why the router isn’t working anymore, contact the ISP and put together a proposal as to which provider we should switch to (JIC).

I’ve walked into a cubicle farm and been handed boring, menial tasks because nobody was there to supervise me yet and help me get to work on a project. I’ve gone to three consecutive weeks of training worth absolutely nothing.

I think companies should start to see the value of the first scenario. It’s like a First Class Interview because your new hire will either sink or swim. Why waste 16-40 hours of salaried time getting them acclimated, trained and filling out papers that might not be relevant in a few weeks? What if they fail in a month and you had already wasted a few days paying them. (Yes, I’m suggesting that interviewing is imperfect and some folks will slip through the cracks, but that’s another discussion.)

Have you ever had a spectacular first day? One that set the pace for the rest of your time with the company?