The New Hire Guide For Govies
You’ve Made It! You’ve landed the job of your dreams or taken an initial step toward your upward professional ascent in public service. The suit turned out to be a good choice, the resume was adequately polished and the interview went splendidly, leaving you walking out of the offices smiling and waving at the security guard who you’ll soon know by name.
Make those excited calls to friends and family, treat yourself to a nice dinner, and get ready for the real world. Attaining employment, as difficult as it may be in these times, isn’t identical to successful employment. And that’s where this guide jumps in, with the intention of helping out during that initial grace period between the offer and the acclimation.
There’s a great deal to consider for that first day, first week and even the first year, and it’s easy to lose track of some critical details.
The Basics While hunting for a job, it’s common to have a more forward-thinking mentality. You look far off into your future, making significant investments of time and effort now in the hope that they’ll eventually pay dividends. It’s the “eye on the prize” attitude -- one that can slip away once the prize is in your grasp. And while rocking the responsibilities of the new job is priority number one, it’s essential to keep future prizes -- or future perils -- in mind. When settling into the office, here are three thinking-down-the-road must-do’s: Pay down your debt. If you’ve got college loan debt, put a plan in place to pay it down as fast as possible. Compound interest, just as it can be your best friend, will wind up being your worst enemy if you fail to nail down a concrete payment plan...and stick to it! Get real about retirement (yes, right now). Think you’re too young to start thinking about retirement? Think again. In fact, if you start saving significant amounts now, you might even make your retirement date that much closer. I mean, who really wants to work 40-50 years? Don’t gloss over retirement and insurance issues. Examine carefully and take care of it, not only to minimize the risk of error and complication, but also to ensure that neither falls by the wayside over the course of the daily grind. Know your next move. The greatest chess players are thinking several steps ahead of their opponent. Give some thought to where you’d like to be in 10 or 25 years, then work backward with some concrete actions - the education or skills you’ll need and where you can get them and specific positions or places you’ll need to attain as stepping stones on the path to your ultimate grotto of greatness.
How to be a New Hire Rockstar 1. 2.
Dress for Your Success Get a Handle on Your Inbox, From the Beginning 3. Cut Out the Clutter and Keep Your Desk In Order 4. Keep Up Your Productivity Levels With Successful Time Management 5. Get to Know Your Colleagues and Let Them Get to Know You 6. Find a Mentor, They Can Help You Succeed 7. Keep Your Network Growing 8. Don’t Abuse Your Contacts 9. Face-to-Face Meetings Are Mandatory and Fulfilling 10. Find Your Work Friend 11. Give Thanks Where Thanks is Due 12. Don’t Let Acquaintances Become Old
Comments from the GovLoop Community:
The Clothes Don’t Make the Man or Woman, They Augment Although your dry cleaner may argue otherwise, it’s not always necessary to take the suit and tie, completely buttoned-up approach to workplace attire. There is no universal standard for what to wear to the office, but there are good rules of thumb to follow. Overcompensation in the clothing department, at least initially, will never do any harm. First impressions are crucial, and if that initial greeting and handshake comes along with some top-notch duds, they’ll go that much more smoothly. Of course, if one is working in an IT department, without the need to go out and impressively mingle with other organizations in person, then the same attire that someone working on Capitol Hill would bring along doesn’t apply. Make sure to take note of the style of dress taken by coworkers, and adjust your own style accordingly, if not a slight notch higher to stand out when need be. If slacks and a polo are the uniform, then there’s no need to rock the dress shirt and tie. Ultimately, the requirements of the job dictate the clothing, not the preconceptions one may have coming into the position.
Let me put a funny spin to this – in my highly technical world there is a reversal of the standard perceptions. Those in the suits and very nice attire are perceived to be managers who therefore do not have any depth to their understanding of the “real” issues and can’t answer the “important” questions. If you want a good answer, you call in the guy in the jeans and sneakers.” Lori Zipes
As a communicator, I believe that my appearance should never distract a person from the message I seek to deliver. Ideally, my appearance should augment the message. I want it to work for, not against, me. If people succumb to stereotypes when I wear corduroy at work, then I’ll forget the corduroy. If production workers chat more freely if I wear khakis, then hurray for khakis! At work, my first goal is not to express my individuality; it is to do my job to the best of my ability.” JoAnn Hague
Some people are more comfortable in a shirt and tie. If you’re a web developer and you feel great wearing a shirt and tie all day…please be my guest and wear it. If you’re a manager and feel comfortable and productive wearing jeans and a shirt…be my guest and wear it. All I care is that you’re being productive and you’re happy doing it. If you’re happy, I’m happy.” Scott Horvath 4
Engaging the Inbox As with all organizational techniques, email management works best when initiated from the get-go. Don’t let the ominous deluge of requests, assignments, amusing links and raw, intimidating information pile up in your inbox and render it an incomprehensible mess. Here’s an example of a simple approach from Scott How can you best tell what messages are going to be relevant? How about, if you’re using Microsoft Outlook, color coding those that come from the folks who most frequently send you messages? You can even use a nice, calm baby blue for that guy at the office who always sends YouTube nonsense, and an urgent, alarming red for messages from your boss. Everyone is bound to have a different approach to exactly how their folders should be constructed. Some methods include something as simple as a “Action,” “Hold” and “Archive” system, in which emails that demand attention go into action, those that can wait a few days go into hold and those which can stand being stored away for future reference linger in the archive.
“How to Get Focused” Flow Chart for Email: Scheper, author of “How to Get Focused.”
Resources: Dealing with Email How to Get Focused Yes, You Can Stay On Top of Email The Huge Mistake People Make With Email
Comment from the GovLoop Community:
Working With Your Workspace Call it whatever you will, your workspace, your Mecca or your bane of existence, but your desk regardless of whether it resides in an office or cubicle - is your home base. And it’s a blank slate upon your arrival. No pictures of loved ones, no cutesy toys, week-old coffee cups, haphazardly accumulated pens and scribbled reminders. But with every addition to your space comes an added chance for distraction, reduced surface area and that cluttered sensation that simply encourages further disorganization. A good attitude to take is, “Keep what you need, not what you might need.” Sure, there may come a time when you’ll need that hole puncher and industrial-sized stapler, but they can be just as easily utilized from the supply closet.
“I’m naturally a saver of information. The bulk of it is in the form of e-mail, which means my folder system in Outlook is critical. I group it first by client project and then by task related to that client. I might even send myself an email or two as a reminder to do certain things. Maybe you could create a signature status email to yourself and forward it daily after updating it on where the physical signatures stand currently. I use that tactic for big picture to do items and then just resend it to move it up in my inbox. I also keep a task notebook daily. I write down the date and then follow it with my task list for the day; checking off each item as they are completed. It serves as a great reminder to follow-up on certain things and helps tremendously with filling out our timesheets and submitting weekly summaries of what work has been completed.” Heather Coleman Posted in “How Do You “Get Things Done” in Physical Workspace? On GovLoop 6
A Time and a Place for Everything Now that your inbox and workspace have been organized, now comes the most critical element of the workplace. Time. Particularly in the age of endless digital distractions, finding a way to have time to fulfill all of your professional obligations can appear to be an insurmountable task. But in the same way that a messy inbox or an unkempt desk can be avoided, so can failure to finish your work! Take the wisdom of Cal Newport from Study Hacks to heart...
“You could fill any arbitrary number of hours with what feels to be productive work. Between e-mail, and crucial web surfing, and to-do lists that, in the age of David Allen, grow to lengths that rival the bible there is always something you could be doing. At some point, however, you have to put a stake in the ground and say: I know I have a never ending stream of work, but this is when I’m going to face it.”
Develop your schedule as it best applies to your own style. Perhaps you want to devote the first hour of your day catching up with that inbox, making sure that your calendar is up to date and that there isn’t anything major in the upcoming stretch of time that needs to be prioritized. Then work on major projects until your lunch break, and with your momentum in full stride, go for a 15minute second round of inbox and task maintenance, etc.
Workplace Dynamics As important as first impressions and organizational systems are, none of those things can ensure a proper follow through with your new job. We’ll assume here that you’re fabulous at the tasks and responsibilities of your position, but what about the minutiae floating around the number crunching and report writing? The folks working alongside you are not just co-workers, they’re vital resources for both professional and personal development. Be sure to take up those invitations for initial lunch and coffee outings. They’ll not only enable you to set a positive tone with your co-workers, but they’ll also give you a chance to better understand your new workplace culture. Don’t just assume that it’s all about them imparting wisdom upon you. Speak out about your ideas for improvements and new initiatives with a careful mind for etiquette while avoiding outright criticism of their work. Don’t be afraid to obtain their contact information and reach out to them as soon as possible. Not only have they already tread upon the ground you’ll soon be walking on but speaking with them will give you 1) a sense for the role that your particular position plays within the greater scheme of things, 2) what was previously being brought to the table and 3) give you a better sense of how to bridge the gap between you and your predecessor’s unique perspectives and styles. As important as it is to build relationships with co-workers, it’s always nice to have one individual to whom you can go to for guidance and honest, constructive criticism - the “wind beneath your wings” so to speak. A mentor, while not essential to professional growth by any means, can nonetheless prove to be a fantastic asset in numerous situations. The opportunity to learn didn’t end with school, nor does the opportunity to teach. 8
Mentoring Advice GovLoop member, James V. Pritchert, offers this comment: “I have run many successful senior level mentoring programs while I worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Finding the right mentor can mean everything to you in terms of development and advancement. You will probably need to chase one down. In my search for program participants, I heard the same thing over and over again, “I am too busy, no time.” Obviously, there is time and senior leaders need to acknowledge that. In one case, I approached an Undersecretary to give me some likely names. Armed with that list, I was able to tell the likely participants that they were specifically names by the Undersecretary and they signed on. I suggest that you try this approach since it is relatively painless and it will give you a rich source of potential mentors. Once you have narrowed your list of likely mentors, present them with a short list, possibly five things that you are seeking in a mentor and see if they can accommodate that. Agree on a mentoring program length, perhaps one year, and decide how much time your mentor will devote to you. At least four hours per month is a good start. It’s very important to fins a mentor who will challenge you and energize you. It’s not important that you like each other, but you must have mutual respect and honesty. In other words, find someone as different from you as possible. That may be in your current organization or in another one.” Resources: Discovering mentors How to find a mentor Examples of stellar mentors Possible questions to ask a mentor 9
Networking: Jobs Within Jobs We’ll run with the assumption that you won’t want to be in this job until the presentation of a gold watch. Of course you’ll want to get settled in and admire the accommodations, line your resume with a plethora of accomplishments, endear yourself to the office community and build up your skill set. But along with that comes the need to keep a note in the back of your mind: There’s always a greater position out there, there’s always something to aspire to. And to achieve that, the first step is, odds are, the same as the one you took toward your current position. Networking. Regarded as awkward, in the worst case it’s a forced attempt to gain a leg up, but when done right, it’s a fantastic way to build two-way connections.
1. BE HELPFUL: offer your network advice or suggest people that can help 2. BE PRESENT: participate and contribute 3. BE SOCIAL: engage with as many people as possible…not to be confused with just pushing out messages to a list 4. SHARE THE LOVE: make it about them…talk about your network 5. PAY IT FORWARD: build equity by contributing to your network before asking 10 for anything in return…and never take out more than you put it
Networking: How to Get Off on the Wrong Foot The ultimate goal of networking is to advance your career. But put that on the back burner. Many folks are regularly inundated with requests for their helping hand. So don’t put the cart in front of the horse by leading things off with a job request or an “I just sent in my resume and wanted you to take a look at it,” request. Never seek to simply exploit contacts. Here are a few more tips: Look back at their previous work; get a feel for their background. Ask questions, seek advice or better yet, offer your own help. It’s one thing to be remembered for persistence - and a thousand emails will see to that. It’s another to be remembered for being annoying. In many cases, the people whom you extract value from and who do the same for you can turn out to be the best informal references. HR folks look further than your paperwork and with the right mention at the right time can make all of the difference especially if it comes about without a request, but more importantly because they feel you deserve a shot.
The Mindset for Successful Networking – 1. Give More than you Get 2. Be Bold and Audacious 3. Build it before you Need It *Source: “Understanding / Utilizing Your Network”, Presentation by A. Krzmarzick
Networking: The Internet Isn’t Everything There’s something to be said for sitting down and having a coffee, exchanging ideas and at the end of the meet up, exchanging cards. Emails back and forth, LinkedIn messages here and there are nice, but nothing provides the opportunity for you to prove your mettle than a face-to-face meeting with the folks you’re looking to impressing the most. Not only is it a great way to get a better perspective on the person you’ve been chatting to for a while, but it’s one of the best ways to get an early sense of the group’s culture and whether you’d be a good fit. And even if it doesn’t progress perfectly, if you stumble over a point or your mind goes temporarily blank, at least you showed that you have the guts to put yourself out in such a way and you can chalk up the whole deal to experience. In the same vein, keep a look out for events and conferences relevant to your field; they are networking bonanzas, and are more common than you’d think. Most of all, they are great ways to build knowledge and meet up with similarly networking-minded individuals.
Resources: GovLoop Event Calendar Young Government Leaders Next Generation of Government Summit
Small Talk Leads to Big Things It can be awkward to start that first conversation with a co-worker. The careful, tactical tip-toeing around various topics to get a feel for what is acceptable for discussion and what is not can be arduous. The prairie dog-like peeking over cubicle walls to chime in on a conversation, followed by the surreal silence that follows once the topic has been dried up can feel mortifying. But, it’s better to engage in these activities, to risk the awkwardness and dare to tell a cheesy pun. The interpersonal connections built from these interactions are vital to enjoying any job. Those with close friends on the job were found to be 50 percent more satisfied with their work, a Gallup poll found. Does that mean that you have to approach every person with the intent of becoming a lifelong confidant? Of course not. But if you don’t approach anybody, then you won’t even begin to reap the benefits of workplace friendship. Resources: How to make small talk Managing Facebook friendships with professional connections How to communicate advantageously with a group of people Improving a bad job (friendship is key!)
Standing on the Shoulders of Friends There’s plenty to deal with now that you’ve signed the paperwork, sealed the deal and secured employment. But anyone who was a reference, anybody who may have put in a good word for you (inside or outside of the organization), those who looked over your resume and assisted the construction of your portfolio: give them proper respect! You never know when you may have to ask for their help again, so reward them in kind. Grab them a coffee, buy them a drink, mow their lawn or whatever it takes. The concept of paying it forward is cliché, but it really works. A good comment placed in the right ear can pay amazing dividends at the most surprising times.
Finding Old Friends Friends aren’t necessarily vacated contacts. All it takes is a single phone call or a Facebook message to rekindle an old acquaintance who could provide any amount of assistance, be it with a particular skill that you may have overstated your ability with during an interview, a nuance of the position you’re in or just someone to chat to while finding your way in a new town. All of the business cards you held onto, the emails you saved and the digital rolodex you’ve maintained (you have been maintaining those, right?) come into play perfectly in these instances. LinkedIn is a great receptacle for those easy to lose business cards. Stay in touch and find colleagues on GovLoop.
New Hire Checklist: Rearrange and decorate your office space Set Up your Email Signature (1st week at work) Update your LinkedIn profile, Facebook place of employment and other social networking sites to keep it current (1st week at work) Thank those who helped you get this job and/or supported you during the process (1st week at work) Keep in touch with new and old friends via email, social media, phone calls, happy hours, coffee meetups etc. Develop a routine that enhances productivity and priorities Go to lunch with at least one person in your office (within the 1st month) Develop a friendship with a co-worker Join a professional organization and continue to grow your network (prior to 3rd month) Seek out and find a mentor (prior to 3rd month)