Onboarding: What To Expect on Your First Weeks at Work

Onboarding: What To Expect on Your First Weeks at Work
Feeling like a squirrel at a nut buffet during a tornado?

It’s completely OK to feel that way during your first days at a new job…even first weeks.

While many factors will impact whether your emotional scale tips to “a bit overwhelmed” or “mortified”, there are still some you can influence.

One of those is to inform yourself as much as you can about what that initial period will look like so that you are better prepared to handle whatever comes your way.

HR Meet & Greet

Usually, on your first day, you are welcomed by someone from the HR department. They should show you the ropes: give you the employee handbook, introduce you to everyone, or, for starters, the people with whom you’ll collaborate the most. They should get you seated at your desk, point out where you can get coffee and where you can hide and cry (a.k.a. the bathroom) - just kidding about the last one! Or not? Don't get scared, yes, it's a joke!

The employee handbook usually covers topics such as the company's organizational structure, different policies, legal obligations and rights, vision and mission statements, expectations the company has from its employees, and what you, as an employee, can expect. Although all those pieces of information can seem like information overload, they will actually assist you in environmental adaptation more easily - you know, what chameleons do in order to stay as cool as they are.

Besides the “serious” data, an HR specialist (or your mentor) should also introduce you to the company culture - participating in events such as pizza Fridays, monthly company meetings, team building events, etc. will help you feel more at home. Sometimes it happens that a team-building event is organized during a new employee’s first days at work: you won’t remember all the new faces, their names and roles, but it’ll be a bit easier when you see a vaguely familiar face on your first day.

Shake Hands With the IT Administrator

The IT administrator is there to get you started from the technical aspect. This administrator, or another person in charge of such tasks, will make sure you have a computer/laptop and other equipment necessary to do your job. They are the people you will ask about anything additional you may need, such as an extra monitor, headphones, tablet, etc.

They are usually also the people who set up your company e-mail, create accounts on all digital tools you may need, share passwords to joint/company accounts, and give you any instructions related to the usage and/or maintenance of the equipment. If you aren’t sure how something works, if your laptop freezes, or if you can’t connect to the internet, they are the people to call in that hour of need.
As they are also often in charge of the security in companies, you’ll probably hear a word or two about installing applications without checking with them first, using your work laptop on public Wi-Fi, or leaving your computer unattended. Although their warnings may seem too strict, we advise you to listen to them to avoid uncomfortable surprises at the very beginning of your tenure.

Warm Welcome From the Team Leader/Mentor

Besides knowing your way around the office and having “tools” to perform your tasks, something that will tickle your curiosity even more is the actual work you will be doing. Your team leader might introduce you to the tasks, or it could be your mentor, depending on your company’s organization.

Newbies are usually exposed to your tasks gradually throughout that first period, but on occasion, you may get your first serious tasks pretty soon. That depends on your seniority level, the company’s needs, and its culture. Another important thing you can expect to learn is the internal organization of your team. Are the differences between the tasks performed by a junior and a senior striking or nuanced? Are there any regular team or feedback meetings? In which way do you talk about problems or give suggestions for improvement?

Most companies assign mentors and/or buddies to new employees, just to make sure that they have a smoother onboarding period. A mentor is usually someone more experienced who helps less experienced colleagues, while a buddy doesn’t necessarily have to be someone from your team. The buddy helps you acclimate to the company's culture and in general, with the initial integration into the workplace.

We're all ears

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. It’s logical to assume that you won’t remember every piece of information the first time you hear it and that none of the people included in your onboarding experience will remember to mention everything there is to know. In addition to that, some information are best given gradually so naturally, you will have questions on the go.

It often happens that new employees focus more on their responsibilities than their “rights”. So after a few days, after they feel like they have an overall idea about their tasks, they start wondering about the policies that might have overheard on their first day. For example, you may become curious about the policy on working from home, or if there are some specific rules related to vacation days and sick days.

Also, you may ponder over the opportunities for professional development and additional education and the kind of health and wellness benefits the company offers. In any case, whatever the question, don’t think about whether you will seem silly in someone’s eyes - if you are in doubt about something, just ask.

Demystify the Unknown

No matter how confident you may be, that first period at a new position can be stressful as there are a lot of new things to take in. One of the best strategies to overcome the fear of the unknown is to learn as much as you can about that which causes you discomfort.

Take advantage of every data source that you can: absorb information about your obligations and rights, company culture, benefits, days off, etc. In short, ask every little detail that interests you and your first weeks at work will be much smoother.

And try to relax in the process - as much as you possibly can.