Heart pounding, throat thickening, absolutely can’t swallow. There’s nothing quite like new job jitters to bring on a serious case of anxiety. Just when you should be relaxing and recharging for the next adventure in your professional life, you’re wasting energy agonising over which shoes to wear and whether or not to call your new boss by his first name. It all seemed so straightforward when you were doing the conga at your leaving party, but now you’re a mess.
But the good news is your concerns are perfectly natural. “Starting a new job is incredibly stressful,” explains Nicola Tanner, career coach at Authenticity Coaching and Consultancy (authenticity.ae). “Change is always scary and taking on a new role involves a lot of that. New environment, new set of duties, new people – the list is endless, so it’s natural to feel apprehensive.” According to Tanner, when it comes to new job nerves, nobody is immune. “From office juniors to CEOs, everyone gets jumpy about the prospect of starting a new job. In fact, I think the higher you climb, the more nerve-racking it can be because there is more pressure and more responsibility. As they say, it’s lonely at the top.” Reef Fakhoury, area marketing and communications manager for the Hyatt Hotels Group in Dubai says, “On my first day at my current job I was extremely selfconscious.”
Despite being at the top of her game, Reef was crippled with nerves. “I kept thinking about silly things, like who I would sit with at lunch. I was imagining one of those ‘this seat is taken’ moments. It felt like the first day of school.” Add to this the old adage, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression.’ According to Michael Watkins, author of The First 90 Days (Dh129, Kinokuniya), you have exactly three months to harden your position in the company. “The first 90 days is crucial,” says Michael. “The way you behave in this period will set the tone for your entire career at the company.” No pressure then. “That’s why it’s so important to make the right impression in those first months.” It’s enough to turn even the most chilled-out chick into a nail-gnawing bundle of nerves. Fortunately we’ve picked the brains of career experts on everything from water cooler etiquette to how to handle the office pest, so your transition from new girl to seasoned professional will be a smooth, less scary one.
Golden rules for day one
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a petrified first jobber or the Big Kahuna with a heavy-duty track record, there’s still a code of conduct for your first day, as these experts reveal…
THE BIG CHEESE
Do “Show that there is a new sheriff in town,” says Robert Hargrove, author of Your First 100 Days in a New Executive Job (Dh65, amazon. com). “I once worked with a CEO who banned the use of the VIP elevator on his first day and said everyone would travel in the same lifts. It was a great move because he sealed his leadership by making a decision and also scored major points with the employees.”
“Try not to be self-important. A reputation as a pompous ass is hard to shake.”
Do “In your first week spend at least an hour with each team member,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion (Personal Focus Press, Dh50, amazon.com). “Ask them what’s on their plate, what things they love and what things frustrate them.”
Don't “Avoid making empty promises. Just be clear that you understand. Then evaluate and recommend changes if it seems to make sense.”
Do “Be attentive without overdoing it and follow instructions flawlessly,” says Michael. “If you demonstrate a proactive attitude, for example connecting with your teammates and asking for help when you need it, it will stand you in good stead.”
Don't “Never be late on your first day. It will be noted.”
But what if...
…I HATE MY BOSS
Google ‘My boss is killing me’ and it turns up more than 30 million results. So the good news is you’re not alone. The bad news is that you’ll probably need to overcome this issue at least once in your life, so it’s best not to quit over it. “I recommend sticking it out for three months to see if the problem resolves itself,” says Katy. “Short stints in someone’s work history suggests they either have a problem dealing with conflict or are difficult to manage.” However, if after three months the problem persists and open dialogue with your boss isn’t an option, arrange a confidential meeting with your HR manager and ask for advice.
…I HAVE NO WORK/LIFE BALANCE
Exercise classes are a distant memory, you haven’t had your eyebrows threaded for months and you still haven’t had the chance to play with your children at the park. Sound familiar? According to a recent study by herbal stress remedy brand Kalms, 67 per cent of people in the UK suffer from stress, predominantly brought on by a lack of work/life balance. “Ask upfront what hours will be expected, what flexibility options are available and whether there will be times that you need to be available after hours,” says Katy. “If you negotiate a flexible schedule, be sure to get it in writing – and if you feel you’re being pressured to work additional hours, ask for a meeting with your line manager and discuss the situation openly.”
…THE ROLE ISN’T WHAT I EXPECTED
You’ve been busy fantasising about the big corner office (yes, the one with the nice chair) but on day one you’re shown to a cubicle, given the codes to the photocopier and the phone number to your boss’s dry cleaners. But what can you do? “I’m afraid it’s that old ‘three month’ rule again,” says Katy. “Any job is going to have some aspects you don’t enjoy but it’s important to be flexible.” That said, if your duties are truly out of line with your skill set, Katy recommends asking for a copy of your job description. “If you’re doing something that isn’t part of your role, find out if it’s temporary or long term. If it looks like it’s going to be long term, put together an action plan to resolve the situation and present it to your boss.”
Before you start, ask
Yes, we know you’re dying to ask if you can claim those Jimmy Choo courts on expense. Just an idea, but maybe save that one for a few months down the line. Instead try…
1. What’s included in my package?
“Companies vary widely in terms of what’s included in packages,” says Katy. “Health insurance and gratuity are both things to consider. Most companies offer health insurance, but there can be variability in the percentage the company contributes versus the employee.” It’s also worth asking about how your salary is awarded. If it is broken down into different sections, such as basic, travel and housing, your basic salary might be low, which will impact your gratuity when you leave.
2. What is the dress code?
“Dress codes are an important, symbolic part of the culture of the company,” says Michael. “You want to signal that you are prepared to fit in and become part of the place.” There’s a time and a place for your dog-tooth mini, but it might not be in the boardroom, so choose your attire wisely.
3. What are the unwritten rules of behaviour at this company?
“You’d be surprised how many unwritten rules there are about companies and knowing them will stand you in good stead from day one,” explains Robert. “It might be something as simple as ‘don’t disagree with the boss’ or ‘challenge the boss, he/she likes it’, but being in the loop will help you integrate.”