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Every working frog knows this

New job? It's not easy being green

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Ann Humphries

First in a two-part series. This week: Being new from the position of the new employee. Next week: What the employer should remember about the new worker.

(CNN) -- Dumb again.

You suffered the layoff. You slogged through the resumé-and-interview horrors. You waited three weeks just to find out they wanted to hire you. Then they wanted you the next day.

And this is that day.

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graphic Do you find being new on a job difficult?

Yeah. Awful. Hate it.
No strong feelings. Just something to be gotten through.
Not at all. I like being the bright new thing on deck.
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You're not even sure where the washrooms are, let alone how to find those tech services people who were supposed to have staged your terminal by the time you arrived.

CNN: If you're like a lot of us, starting a new gig can be humiliating, especially if you've reached a certain comfort in a former job and now find yourself flailing around in a new setting among strangers. So we asked ETICON's Ann Humphries how to handle the hassle.

Ann Humphries: First you have to remember that it's not unlike the first day of school. No matter how many jobs you may have had before, every time you start one, your expectations are shiny and happy -- but you're going to be tripped up.

So instead of working so hard to try to prevent something from going wrong, just expect it -- it's helpful to know. Control what you can, don't worry about the rest. Then you're not demanding the impossible of yourself.

•   One thing you can control is when you get there. Be on time. At least give yourself that advantage.

•   Introduce yourself. And, as we've said in earlier columns, this takes practice. Rehearse introducing yourself well until it no longer sounds rehearsed. Don't wing it. Rehearse it.

•   If you can, get a list of players. Who's who. Get comfortable about the people you'll encounter, what each person does.

Remember that the only thing that can change that feeling of being dumb because you're new is learning what you don't know. And the only way to do that is to listen and watch, watch and listen. Don't talk so much, listen. Watch.

•   Keep your head. When you're meeting people, some are going to be overly impressive. They can awe you, but might have their own agendas. There's the too-friendly person who's a leech. There's the much-too-nice person who turns out to be sly.

•   And then, there are the negative people who warn you off Myrtle -- "stay away from her, big trouble" -- and say things like, "You came to work here?"

•   Remember that you do bring things to the table. Don't feel you're as dense as you may feel while you're new. You just don't know the new place's system.

•   Are you being brought in to lead a team or revitalize a group? Then you want to be upbeat and enthusiastic. But try not to impose your fresh perspective on the others -- they need to refresh themselves.

•   And in that vein, you may need to consider weeding out some people who are burned out, used up, bitter -- look out for "we tried that and it was a disaster" and "that won't work here in a million years." Too much of that kind of resistance is a sign of negatives you don't need and may not be able to overcome.

•   Remember basic courtesies -- if you're new, your co-workers don't yet know you're a great person, so gaffes may not be easily forgiven. Watch your language. Look the part, don't dress provocatively. Notice how you ask for things -- say "please," don't make demands.

  NEW BLOOD
We smell it, we go for it, we're human: If you're just looking in on Corporate Class for the first time, drop us a line, let us know about workplace issues you'd like to see us address. We'll consider what's on your mind and we might be able to handle it in a column. We don't mind hearing from you old friends, either, of course -- many of our columns have been suggested by your notes to us. Keep up the good work: Just click here for our handy submission form.
 

•   Bearing in mind that there's no way you can avoid making a small misstep here and there, plan ahead to take such moments in stride. Then you'll be emotionally ready to roll with the stumbles. Don't be overly dramatic. Recover from mistakes quickly, lightly, admit them, move on.

•   Use your judgment -- some errors don't need to be broadcast. If a goof along the way isn't critical and you can fix it yourself, just do it. But in the case of a serious error, handle it correctly by informing someone.

•   Don't disparage your former employment or employer -- it's bad form. Be calm under pressure, don't overreact. Watch out for over-familiarity. At the same time, get around and meet people. You're not going to be everyone's chum, but there's nothing wrong with making it clear that you know how to walk up and introduce yourself, ask a little about the other person's job -- everyone loves talking about what he or she does.

•   Pace yourself. Allow yourself time to assimilate where you are and what's around you. Pay attention to the rules of the new shop. Don't rush to judgment about them, just observe them. Look out for loudness, especially when you're nervous.

Remember that the only thing that can change that feeling of being dumb because you're new is learning what you don't know. And the only way to do that is to listen and watch, watch and listen. Don't talk so much, listen. Watch.

Your first day on a new job lasts only one day. It'll end.

South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges has named Ann Humphries, founder and president of ETICON Inc., one of seven South Carolina Women of Achievement. Humphries, who's based in Columbia, is a Certified Professional Consultant to Management. Her clients have included several Fortune 500 companies. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Money, and on CNN, CBS and Lifetime TV. You can contact her at www.eticon.com.

[watercooler]



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