How To Survive Your First 3 Months At Work

Congratulations, you’re hired! But as excited as you are about the prospect of your brand new paying gig, a new job can be just as stressful as a new relationship. You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, you’re not quite sure yet how everyone else feels about you, and the desire to put your best foot forward has got you feeling like you’re constantly walking on eggshells. How can you be confident, but not proud? Or be friendly without being over-eager? Don’t worry, we’ve got the answers.

Three Days
What You Feel: OMG! It’s your first day of work and you’re all aflutter – you don’t know what to expect and you want to impress, but the new environment, faces and things to do fly by in a blur. You’re probably a mess, but you try to do as much as you can. The first day feels like a week and you’re dazed by the time you finally get to go home. The second and third day are slightly better, but only just – the new responsibilities are piling up and you’re starting to seriously wonder, “What did I get myself into?!”
How You Deal: Take a deep breath. On the first day, focus on the simple things and don’t set your goals too high. For example, try to be early, and don’t arrive with wet hair. And even if nerves are eating you up inside, smile! The first few days at work are likely to be packed with more orientation than actual work, so prepare yourself to absorb lots of new information. Make sure you get adequate rest each night and set up an energising morning routine, like eating a hearty breakfast to settle that nervous stomach, or doing some light meditation and stretching before you head out. It’s also normal to feel overwhelmed, or have doubts about yourself or the job you signed up for. Just remember that no one expects perfection right away, so don’t worry if you get things wrong. At this point, you’re being evaluated on your attitude, not your performance, so make sure that’s what shines. One more thing – there’s one key area of your new job that probably won’t be covered in your training session but is absolutely essential to how you’ll get on for the rest of your time there: the office culture. As stressful as the first three days are, don’t just put your head down like an ostrich. Observing workplace dynamics and taking note of key personnel in your new company will go a long way. Tip? Never overlook the administrative or support staff.

Three Weeks
What You Feel: At the three-week mark, you’re probably feeling like your new job has pretty much taken over your life – your friends have been asking you where you’ve been and you haven’t hit the gym in a while. Free time? What’s that? But on the upside, you’re actually starting to develop your own work routine. Hurray! You’re slowly getting into the groove of things. The other big plus is you’ve made some new friends, which is great, but by now, you’ve probably also made your first mistake
at work. Uh-oh… 
How You Deal: While you’re still new enough for mistakes not to count, this is the point where your superiors will start expecting you to be able to perform assigned tasks competently. The important thing is not to panic when things go wrong. Remember the confidence and enthusiasm you had when you applied for this job? Now’s a good time to hit refresh on those feelings. Keep in mind that this is actually the worst time of the entire transition period, so power through it. You can do it! This is also the point at which you need to start asserting yourself more within your new team. As the newcomer, you want your first impression to be that of a team player, so it’s best to learn the ropes as well as you can from others and not rock the boat. Now that you’re more established, it’s time for you to show how much value you can add by bringing your fresh ideas to the table. As for your body and personal life, it’s time to transition back into, you know, actually having a life. Throwing yourself into your new job is OK in the beginning, but if you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to have to learn how to get that work-life balance back.

Three Months
What You Feel:
By now, you’ve settled into your new routine, and you’re familiar enough with the flow of work to feel kind of at home. And now that the novelty has worn off your new job, chances are you’ll feel one of two ways – just like one of the homies, or, if things haven’t been going all that great, more like one of the jaded veterans.
How You Deal: Remember that the first 90 days of any relationship – be it work or romance – are the testing grounds that determine whether you and the other party are compatible for a long-term match. If you’re feeling settled-in, good! Take that as a sign that things are on track. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to try as hard anymore. In fact, you should never allow yourself to fall into complacency.If you’re feeling more doubtful than optimistic about your new job, this is a key time to evaluate your plans for the future. You’re still on probation, and it’s fine if things didn’t work out. But be careful while you’re weighing out the reasons for your unhappiness. The first three months are a key transition period. Every case is different and only you will know whether you have a valid reason to leave. But you should give yourself and your new job a proper chance before calling it quits because – unlike a former flame – you can’t just send a text and take it all back the next day. Talk to your supervisor if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and take it from there – one day at a time.

More tips…

  1. Do take being the newbie in stride
    Being new can sometimes be unavoidably uncomfortable. Be prepared to endure some potentially awkward questions about your marital status from some well-meaning older colleague, or maybe even be the butt of some silly jokes, courtesy of the resident funny guys. Of course, being bullied is not OK – we’re only talking about the spotlight that comes from being new. As much as you can, try to take it on the chin. Don’t overreact, and if you feel uncomfortable, just know that it’ll pass in due time.
  2. Do share (some) personal details about yourself
    Nobody wants to work with a robot! It might feel weird opening up to virtual strangers, but now’s not the time for shyness. Depending on your workplace, you might not exactly want to unfurl your freak flag to its fullest extent (questionable personal hygiene habits should not be shared), but sharing your weekend hobbies, TV addictions, and strange food quirks are great ways to show off your personality and bond with your new team.
  3. Don’t be a bootlicker
    We all share that same eagerness to impress the higher-ups, but the truth is, it’s also painfully obvious if you’re extra chatty and friendly when the bosses are around, but not with your colleagues. If you have this habit, unfortunately, it’s not going to win you favour in your new office. In this case, the best strategy you could employ is to just be yourself with everyone – that way no one can accuse you of playing favourites.
  4. Don’t cry
    We don’t want to seem unsympathetic, but no matter how difficult it might be, you definitely do not want to have an emotional outburst in front of new colleagues. If you have to, take it to the ladies’ room.

Image: Corbis/Click Photos
Text: Kit Chua, Alicia Nikkolette Lee

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