Your first position is a formative experience both personally and professionally. Asking these four questions can help you make a stronger start when you begin your first year:
Where am I?
Paying attention to and picking up on cues and office norms can help you assess your new work environment, which makes for a smoother transition. Do people leave promptly at five or stay later? How do people interpret the dress code? Do they schedule general meetings, or are ad hoc conversations more typical? Do people tend to keep their doors open or closed? What communication happens via email vs. phone or chat?
With whom am I working?
Understanding your supervisor’s preferred methods of giving and receiving information is critical to working effectively. What information/updates should you send via email, and what should you save for weekly meetings? Do they prefer short or long emails? Do they prefer long lead times on projects, or are they pressure prompted and focused on deliverables close to deadlines? If you don’t already know through the interview process, try to find out the context of your position. Also, find out what happened to your predecessor. If you are filling a position that was left vacant by a staff member who left after many years of service, people may have clear expectations for your role. If you are coming into a newly created or recently restructured position, the expectations may be unclear.
How can I best add value?
It’s normal to experience “imposter syndrome” when starting a new position, but remember that they hired you for a reason! Understanding your strengths and how you can best contribute to the goals of your organization will help you stand out. Furthermore, being competent in a role is only part of what makes someone successful at work; soft skills and emotional intelligence add tremendous value. If your actions demonstrate care for your work and thoughtfulness with how you treat others, you’ll develop a strong reputation.
Where do I want to go?
As you settle into your new position, be mindful of how your role fits with your future goals. Having a sense of what you are working toward will make it easier to set personal goals and “reverse engineer” the skills and experiences that can help you get there. If there is a gap between the work experience you are gaining in your current position and qualifications required for opportunities down the road, consider your resources. In many positions, there are core responsibilities and additional auxiliary groups, committees, or professional development opportunities available to strong performers. These opportunities can be great ways to serve your organization while broadening your network and strengthening your resume.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.