8 Key Things to Do in Your First Year on the Job

first year on the job

The job market is on fire. As we emerge from the pandemic, employees around the globe are feeling extreme, pent-up desire to try something new. And they’re wasting no time taking action.

What’s being called the “Talent Exodus” or “Great Reshuffle” has created a job market landscape with no historic equivalent. One in four Americans currently work for a different employer than they did before the pandemic started… just one year ago! As Business Insider describes it, we’re seeing an “economy-wide game of musical chairs.”

Let’s Not Forget About the First Year on the Job

Much has been written about the record-levels of flux in today’s economy. But what about the first year on the job? Along with record-levels or quitting and resignation, we now have record-levels of first-year employees. And for that 25% (and growing) population of the workforce, there are some big-time “must-do’s” in year one in the job.

In this post, we discuss 8 pro tips for starting strong in your first year on the job. Whether your near-term goals revolve around a year-end raise, promotion, bonus, or some other milestone, these tips are designed to set you up for maximum success at your new company – and they provide some ideas for how to stand out from your peers.

1. Introduce Yourself to Everyone Adjacent

First impressions are important, but taking that step to introduce yourself in the first place is even more so. When working with a new team, make it an early mission to meet and introduce yourself to all people in the organization who are “adjacent” to your role. The sooner you can shake the “new hire” reputation, the sooner you’ll have a strong rapport that makes it that much easier to collaborate effectively with your new teammates. Making it your responsibility to meet the requisite people is a great place to start. This includes supervisors, subordinates, colleagues, and even those who don’t touch you on the org chart but with whom you will be interacting.

2. Deep Dive on All Relevant Systems

Onboarding is almost always an overwhelming experience for a freshly-hired employee. New company, new equipment, new software, new coworkers, tons of new material to learn. It can be a lot. Yet often we are eager to make an early impact. Remember, understanding the company’s product stack and relevant systems should always come first. Failing to do so would be to try and run before you can walk.

3. Provide Contact Info to All Relevant Co-Workers

It’s entirely possible that your new company has a system for tracking co-workers’ contact info, but consider making this effort yourself. Providing your info to relevant team members suggests your door is always open – as both a co-worker and a friend. If you’ve successfully introduced yourself to those adjacent to you in the company, distributing your contact information will naturally follow. If your company doesn’t have established protocols on how to communicate, you might want to share your preferences on which channels are best for you. But DON’T do this if the company has an established system, as you will look like you expect others to make special accomodations for you.

4. Set Clear Goals with Your Supervisor

Most supervisors will take the lead on this one, at least to some extent. But if they don’t, it is on you to gently facilitate it. It’s your job as the new hire to make sure you clearly understand the goals and expectations at stake (SMART goals are a great framework for this). If you’re working towards certain metrics or quotas, how is success being defined? Is 70% good? Is 100% expected? Are certain bonuses, promotions, or perks tied to your goals? Getting these answers is critical, as future performance reviews and promotions will undoubtedly consider your performance against goals. So of course, you should understand them completely and buy-in to the expectations being set.

5. Be Mindful of Co-Worker Collaboration Styles

Much has been written on work “styles” and “personas.” Take, for example, the four work styles framework that differentiates between data-oriented, detail-oriented, emotionally oriented, and idea-oriented employees. While labeling every co-workers as one of these four styles is probably more mental effort than it’s worth, being aware of different work styles is key. Over time, you might realize that some co-workers specialize in creative ideation while others love crunching numbers. Everyone is different. Embracing this perspective will help you stay empathetic while also helping you navigate and communicate with the appropriate collaborators for various projects.

6. Learn About Company Benefits

Understanding the entire suite of company benefits should actually come before signing a job offer. Nonetheless, if you haven’t learned about all available benefits, you could be missing out on some real value… so, ask around! Even for those who went deep on understanding benefits before signing, chances are you’ll learn of some additional perks as you settle into the role. Getting the most out of any employment package means being proactive about learning what’s available, and then taking action to maximize value. Some common examples are discounts at events, gyms, coaching programs, or getting a bonus for exercising.

7. Take on a Project Without Being Asked Directly

Once you’re onboarded to the point of understanding your team’s goals, look for an opportunity to take initiative and own a project, without being asked by a supervisor. Taking that initiative communicates a lot of positive things about your work ethic and proactivity. It doesn’t even have to be a big project. As you learn about your team’s initiatives and systems, you’re bound to see small, yet useful, improvements. Once you’re ready, pick one, get buy-in and permission, and get to work.

8. After Your Negotiation, Don’t Just Assume

Once you’ve signed your offer, don’t just set it and forget it! While most companies do their part in making sure you get what you’re due, it’s wise to take on that responsibility yourself. This goes for bonuses, equity, PTO, or any other aspect of your deal. Ask plenty of questions and learn the ways in which the terms of your offer translate from “on paper” to “in practice.”

Remember: Negotiate Beyond Your First Year on the Job

Perhaps a fitting summary for closing is to remember that even though you may have just inked a new employment deal, the negotiating never stops there. That first year on the job can and should be viewed as a build up to your next negotiation – whether that be in a year or even a little further down the line. Keep track of your achievements and growth as this will undoubtedly make your life much easier when the time comes to revisit the negotiation table.