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Welcome Aboard: Start A New Job The Right Way

By Nancy R. Mitchell, The Etiquette Advocate

Starting a new job is like walking into the middle of a movie. Everyone around you knows what's going on, but you don?t have a clue.

You wonder if things will ever make sense as you attempt to piece together the plot; identify characters, their motives and relationships; and study the settings for relevant information.

As a new hire, you may experience many of these same feelings while you sort through the who, what, when and why of a new work environment.  If you want this experience to feel less like you walked into "Titanic" and more like "The Love Boat," give yourself an etiquette adjustment to insure a successful transition and smooth sailing ahead.

1) Dress Code -- You dressed up and conservatively for your job interview, no matter the industry or position, but when you report to work you want to be on the same page with supervisors and co-workers.  Ask a human relations representative or your new supervisor for dress code guidance. As a rookie, never dress to the lowest level of what the code permits. Instead, as people are getting to know you, evaluating you, and forming their opinions about you, dress to the highest level of the standard that is recognized in your workplace. This gesture shows that you are professional, serious about your work, and that you respect your employer.

2) Smile -- Sounds so basic, but means so much.  You have five to ten seconds to make an impression, so pay close attention not only to the clothes on your back but to the look on your face.  Don't give others the opportunity to label you as unfriendly, haughty, pre-occupied, spaced out or any other misinterpretation because of what they read into your facial expression. You'll be amazed at the effect that a smile has on others. To others, a smile says "confidence" and identifies you as an approachable and likeable individual. And, P.S., wear it like a mask, if necessary, to hide that you are nervous or uncomfortable.

3) Introduce Yourself -- Remember that 85% of your success in business is based on your people skills, so extend your hand and say your first and last name to everyone who crosses your path. And, while doing so, stand up straight, make eye contact, and remember to smile. You may not remember the names all of the people you meet the first week on the job, but they will remember you as being friendly, outgoing and confident. 

4) Take Notes -- After meeting co-workers; receiving assignments or information; and hearing advice from co-workers, take notes.  It is impossible to remember everything that comes your way during the first week on a job, but if you make notes that you can refer to in quiet moments or review the names of those you have met during your first days, you'll make yourself feel more confident and comfortable.

5) Get the Lay of the Land -- Don't jump into things with both feet. Instead, proceed with caution as you survey your new territory for temperature and conditions. How formal/informal is the business environment? What is the chain of command? How strict is management on various issues? Remember, you are being watched and evaluated, so follow the rules. If your supervisor says lunch breaks are 45 minutes and your co-workers tell you that they take an hour and no one cares, be back at your desk in 45 minutes.

6) Meetings -- To insure that your meetings manners measure up: arrive on time; stand behind a chair until someone indicates where you should sit; introduce yourself to others as they arrive; don't arrive with a beverage and place it on a meeting table until you know that this is permitted and that others do so; don't place your cell phone or Blackberry on the table and don't answer a call or send text messages during a meeting; pay attention and be an active listener; clean up your place at the table before leaving; and offer to help others with removing meeting materials or equipment from the room.  If you must arrive late or leave early, inform the meeting host in advance.


7) Shared Work Areas -- Do your part to keep shared work areas clean and well stocked.  Don't leave a jam in the copier or use all the copy paper without replacing it; don?t borrow supplies from the area near the fax machine; don't leave dirty dishes in the pantry sink or your doggie bag in the refrigerator for a week. Think about how your behavior affects others.

8) Knock Before Entering -- When you enter a cubicle, office or conference room that is occupied, knock.  Ask the occupant if it is a convenient time to ask a question, share some information, or retrieve something from the room. It is extremely rude not to do so.

9) Connect With Others -- Make certain that your radar is working as you begin to interact with co-workers, supervisors and clients. Each person has a unique style and deals with people in his or her own way.  The quicker you can identify and adapt to the style of each person, the sooner you will build a positive and productive relationship with that person. Some people want only the facts and business-related data.  They don't want to be your best friend, and they don't want you to waste their time. Others want to hear about your weekend, family, or new apartment before starting a business discussion. Learn to read the signals that others send and adapt your approach accordingly.

10) Be a Team Player -- Your employer hired you because he or she thought you would fit in and be a good addition to the business family.  Demonstrate your willingness to be part of that family whenever you can. When extra hours are required on an important project, when a co-worker needs help, when a phone needs coverage or other special needs arise, do your part to help. Show that you are willing to do some heavy lifting, even if it isn't in your job description.

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