Back to School Time…It’s the Other New Year!

By Kristen Harris

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Back-to-school time isn’t just for the kids–in this season a lot of adults return to or ramp up their work schedule. Whether you’re starting a new job this fall, taking on additional work, or just resetting after the summer, it pays to be prepared.

Here are our best tips on how to set yourself up for success!

Before Your First Day (because Day One prep starts before Day One)

  1. Get up-to-speed on the company. Hopefully, you already learned about the company and department through the interview process. Before your first day, review any welcome materials HR or your manager might provide; often there are important details in there, including items you might need to know or do prior to starting. Also, take some time to research the company and any products or services you know you’ll be working on. And go ahead and connect on LinkedIn with your manager and any team members you’ve already met–it’s never too early to start building those relationships!

  2. Prepare for your workspace. If you’ll be going to the office, is there anything special you’ll need to bring with you? A family photo, favorite pen, or your lucky red stapler? Start gathering a few things that you absolutely need for Day One. (Don’t go overboard…it’s much better to trickle in a few things at a time rather than showing up with three moving boxes the first day.) If you’ll be working remotely some or all of the time, figure out where your workspace will be and get everything set up. Is the lighting good? Do you have comfortable seating and ergonomics? Will you have minimal distractions? Are there any unexpected noises (like your robot vacuum starting up right as you dial into the daily Team Meeting…is that just me? Reset that schedule!) Get your space stocked with pens, a notebook, paper clips, and whatever else you’ll need so everything is within reach.

  3. Set up your equipment. If you’ll be working in the office, this should all be set up for you before your first day. But IT departments are stretched thin too; if it’s not quite ready to go on your first day confirm where you can work temporarily and when you should expect your equipment to be ready. If you are starting work or onboarding remotely, the company will likely ship equipment to you or have you make arrangements to pick it up. Once you have everything, set it up and run a few tests to make sure it’s all working correctly. Don’t wait until you’re dialing into the first meeting on your first day to find out you can’t connect to the internet or don’t have the meeting platform login. Make sure everything works beforehand and reach out to your HR contact or manager if you need assistance with anything.

  4. Figure out your commute. Going to the office? Be sure you know where you’re going, how long it will take (in rush hour), and where you’ll park if you’re driving. Working remotely? Your commute might be minimal, but do plan out how much time you’ll need to get ready so you’re in your workspace at the expected time

The First Day (it’s showtime!)

  1. Be on time. We can’t emphasize this enough…you only get one chance to make a first impression. Plan to arrive a few minutes early in case you run into a snag with parking or something else unexpected. If you’re working remotely, be at your desk when expected and dial into your first meeting a minute before the start time.

  2. Be a sponge. Listen and absorb everything you can the first few days (and forever 😉 You’ll be learning a lot of new information about the company and the work you’ll be doing, but also about the team structure, individual personalities, interaction dynamics, communication styles, and company culture and norms. Soak it all in and jot down anything you might want to ask your manager or a peer about later.

  3. Manage your calendar. Stay on top of meetings and deadlines, and let someone know if you have a conflict or are running into an issue. Don’t let yourself get behind in these first few weeks; that can be a difficult hole to dig back out of.

  4. Follow your training schedule. Your manager should have a plan for your first couple of weeks, whether it’s scheduled training, onboarding sessions, or diving in on a project. Often it’s a combination, so stay on top of your schedule and check in if you have questions. Keep in mind that everyone has different learning styles; it can be helpful to share with your manager whether you learn best by reading, hearing, watching, or doing.

As you settle in:

  1. Request help with technology. If you need assistance setting up equipment, if anything isn’t working as expected, or if you can’t access a platform, let someone know. They can’t help you if they don’t know you are having a problem!

  2. Ask for a technology review. Even if you’ve used that tool before, every company works differently and they may be using features or have a different setup than what you’ve used before. Be sure you understand how your new team is using each tool.

  3. Ask for what you need to be successful. If you need a tool, training, more information, or a piece of equipment, don’t be silent. Let your manager know the issue you are running into and what you think would help; if they can’t provide exactly what you have in mind, they’ll likely have other suggestions. This is especially important when you’re working remotely–no one knows you need help unless you tell them!

  4. Meet with your manager. If they don’t initially schedule it, request time to meet with your manager outside of group or project meetings. In the beginning, this might be a weekly check-in, then shift to a bi-weekly or monthly touch base. However it’s set up, be sure you have opportunities to get feedback and direction from your manager to ensure you are on the same page and meeting their expectations.

  5. Meet your other team members. Whether it’s in a group or one-on-one setting, it’s important to get to know the people you’re working with. This might happen organically if you’re all working together in an office, but if you’re working remotely you’ll need to purposefully set up times and interactions to get to meet everyone. Remote workers never just bump into each other at the water cooler.

  6. Find an “onboarding buddy”. Your company might pair you up with another team member, but if not, find a trusted peer to be your onboarding buddy. Some questions are easier or better to ask a peer than your manager. Your buddy can give you insider information, insight on personalities, explain team dynamics, and so much more that will help you navigate the company.

  7. Request feedback. We recommend following a 30-60-90 Day check-in cycle for anyone in a new role, whether it’s a new hire or a promotion. If the company doesn’t have this in place, you can still mark your 30-60-90 day workiversary dates on your calendar and check in with your manager on how you both feel it’s going and what else you need to be successful.

Back-to-school time can be a great opportunity for a fresh start. Even if you are not starting a new job, you can use these tips to reboot your current role and assess what you need to be even more successful. Good luck out there! And, if it’s time to find a new position let us know; we’re here to help.