You got the job! Now you have to keep it. Follow these three steps for starting a new job on the right foot.
You rocked every part of your job search. You sculpted your resume. You sent notes to mentors to politely plead for references. You navigated the personality test, and demonstrated skill and confidence during your interview.
Then the call came. You got the job!
Yell. Scream. Do the I got the job dance. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you shall be scrambling to prevent your new position from dying a quick death.
Let’s face this head-on: job security is a nice, shiny myth. No job, not even one driven by nepotism or familial royal ties, is 100 percent secure. Shifts in international, national, state, or company politics, policies, economics, and management can lead to job termination and company downsizing. Reassuring, right?
But here’s another bit of bad news: jobs are never more insecure than they are in the first few weeks of employment. (Click here to tweet this workplace truth.)
Your job security depends on your immediate performance
Here’s the deal: companies, even ones that take care of their employees, cannot afford to retain “bad” hires. According to a 2012 infographic compiled by Ohio University, 41 percent of businesses surveyed reported that hiring the wrong person cost the company more than $25,000. Companies — especially smaller ones — can’t afford to retain employees that don’t have the skills, the knowledge, and the mindset to contribute to the company’s overall success.
Don’t panic. Just breathe. In and out. Again. Again.
Not all is lost. Managers will do everything they can to help you succeed. Why? Before you even step through the door for your first day of work, the company has already spent around $3,500 to fill the position. And every day of training you receive in the next three weeks of your new position will increase the amount of money the company will lose if you’re let go.
Security might be tenuous in the first few weeks of starting a new job, but it can be directly influenced by your actions.
You can save your job, starting on day one
Here’s the best advice I can give you: don’t be complacent. I spent the first six months at my job half-expecting to be fired at any time.
As a result, I spent 110 percent of my time on task. I watched how I acted around the office. I never, ever, ever did anything that might lead to a reprimand.
In the seventh month, I finally came up for a breath. Looked around. Saw one of my co-workers on Twitter. And another. And another. At that point, I realized I had been working way too hard. But my work ethic and paranoia had safely carried me through those rocky first weeks. But I realize that not everyone has the willingness to give 110 percent for six months — especially since my extra 10 percent involved bringing work home to make me look more productive.
And sometimes paranoia just isn’t enough. It’s not enough to be aware that you need to be worried; you need to know what could potentially lead to disaster — and how to avoid it.
Here are three steps that will decrease your chances of getting fired at your new gig.
Step one: Aim for A+ attendance
The first few weeks on a new job, it’s vital to demonstrate that you are trustworthy enough to work your shifts. What does that mean? No playing hooky. No slipping in ten, twenty, thirty, or forty minutes late. Be there on time every day. Don’t give in to the desire to laze in bed rather than perform your professional duties.
I’m not telling you not to take days off. You just need to monitor your short-term attendance. If you miss six out of twelve days in the first two weeks, your management team might begin to wonder how much they can really trust you.
And if you do need to take a sick day, always call in. If they demand you come into work despite your illness, go into work, throw up all over the manager’s desk, and then drive yourself home for some much needed rest.
Step two: Be willing to learn
Most jobs require that individuals observe, learn, and then perform new skills and tasks. You will be given a few weeks to get up to speed, but eventually the inability to perform all of the job requirements in a quick and competent manner could lead to termination.
Not picking things up as quickly as you hoped? Take another breath. Edward H. Rockey, a professor at Pepperdine University’s MBA program, suggested in a blog post that companies should tolerate mistakes because the “earliest steps on the path to discovery usually involve stumbling here and there.”
Does this mean failure will never lead to a loss of a job? No. It means that while learning skills is vital, a mind open to learning is also valuable. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not the fastest learner. Often, managers will give individuals who are slower to learn a little more time, if they possess the right attitude about learning.
Step three: Stay on task
Staying on task is vital for the first few months of your tenure at a new company. During those first few months, you’re not yet working at high efficiency. That lack of efficiency means that every distracted moment damages the progress you should be making in your role.
Should you never be off-task at work? It’s not all or nothing. According to “The Science of Taking Breaks at Work,” breaks can make you “happier, more focused and more productive.” A break at the right time can be the difference between being hopelessly stuck and being able to refresh, refocus, and ultimately succeed.
Just remember: only take an unscheduled break after large chunks of productivity or once you realize your inability to focus. If you take an additional unscheduled break, try to ensure that the period following that break is productive. Breaks should be followed by rejuvenation, not continued distraction.
Finding a job is only the first step. True success comes when you become a seasoned employee who contributes to the overall success of the company. There are a variety of actions and attitudes that could lead to job termination. It’s your job to make the case for keeping you on staff.
What are your tips for standing out in your first few weeks at a new job?
Samantha Stauf is a marketing professional who writes business and career articles in her free time. She can be found on Twitter at @SamStauf.