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The Elevator: Navigating Your First Day at Your New Job

By Tom Studdert, Ed.D.

By now, many of you know my story. For 20 years, I worked on a college campus, usually in a Student Union Building or Student Services Building (although I did spend several years in Old Main at Arizona State University – but that is a story for another time). My office was usually on the first floor and I was near students daily. They worked in my office. They roamed the halls in the building. I could see them in the food court and could casually look outside my window to see the hub bub of the campus.

When I transitioned to a corporate setting, I was both nervous and excited. However, the pivotal (pun intended) moment that really signaled my life was going to be different was that first day. And it started in a ride up the elevator to the 9th floor in a 10 story building. I had never had to take the elevator to my office before. This was new and I remember in that moment wondering if it was going to be a good fit and if I made the right decision.

As you know, I made it to the 9th floor. I walked into an office that required key card access and was a large open floor plan full of people on the phone talking to our sales prospects and our customers. I could do a lap around the floor in less than 3 minutes. It was very different. 

If you have decided to make the pivot out of higher education and into a new setting, here are a few things I recommend to get ready for that first day:

Shift Your Mindset

You probably were looking for a change, which is why you chose to pivot. Embrace that change and be ready for the new. When you arrive at the office building for your new job, be excited about the possibilities that are ahead. You might ride an elevator to the top of a corporate building like I did or you might be working in a small one-story office building. You might be in an office or seating in an open floor plan. The changes may be stark, but they will provide you with a new experience to grow your skills. Perhaps see the physical change as symbolic to the change you have sought. So, let that mindset change. 

Use Your Experience

Take what you learned in your campus-based role and use it to your advantage. Now, I am not saying do an icebreaker with your new colleagues on day one, but higher education (and particularly those of us who work in Student Affairs) know how to engage with others. Introduce yourself to everyone around you. Invite the colleague at the desk next to you out to lunch. Join the company’s kickball team. Hop on optional zoom happy hours or schedule a 1:1 over zoom with remote colleagues to create your own space for water cooler talk. Whatever it is, engage with the people that you are around now and embrace them as your new colleagues.

Understand the Structure

In your new company, you aren’t likely going to be spread out across an entire college campus (although in some instances, especially at larger corporations, there might be an element of that). You are likely going to be near other teams – like product management, engineering, sales, marketing, human resources. Learn the structure of the company and how it all fits together. Ask for an organizational chart. Learn the different departments. Ask how they interact together. But most importantly, find out how you should be interacting or collaborating with them.

Get On Your New Supervisor’s Calendar

Some companies are better at onboarding new employees than others. If your company did not set up a 1:1 with your new supervisor, take the lead and ask for one/schedule one. Get to know him/her and find out what is on their priority list. Make sure you know how you can support their goals in your new position right away. Consider asking a series of “getting to know you” type questions so you can start off your relationship right.

Learn the KPIs (or OKRs or MBOs)

Make sure you know the KPIs (key performance indicators) that you (or your team) will be evaluated on. It is critical that you are able to show how you contribute to those (often quantified numerically). You have done this before. You created learning outcomes and set objectives for those with your higher education teams. Now, you just need to know what those are immediately so you can get to work on those and show how you can contribute to the overall objectives set for the company.

And Finally – Take a Deep Breath

When I was responsible for new hire orientation at the company I am at now, I would tell new hires that the first 2 weeks are like drinking from a fire hose. There will be a lot to learn (and perhaps even un-learn) in your new role. Be ok with the fact you won’t know everything on day 1 and you might feel a little bit like a fish out of water. Be prepared to take some work home. Read everything you can. Listen to podcasts about the new world you are in. It will start to click. I promise.

And if you need some help navigating those first days, let us know. We even offer a consulting package to help you navigate those first 90 days.

You got this!

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