You’ve landed a new role at a company you're excited about -- congrats! The stress of the job search is over, but don’t sit back and relax just yet. If you can make a good impression early on, you'll set yourself up for praise and promotions down the line and all the privileges that come with being known as reliable. Here are a few key tips for making a great first impression:
1. Show up on time. Usually, a supervisor or current employee will set a specific start time for your first day. Obviously, you shouldn’t be late, but it’s not a good idea to come in early either. Training and accommodating a new employee takes a big chunk out of a supervisor’s day, so you want to give her the time to respond to emails or whatever she does in the morning before you interrupt her workflow. After day one, show up on time -- and if you’re an assistant, try to get there 15 minutes early for a few months. It will demonstrate dedication and earn you a promotion much more quickly.
2. Dress up. Treat your first day like you’re going in for a job interview. You clearly made a good impression with the outfit you wore to your interview, so if you dress similarly, you’ll maintain that image in your supervisor’s mind. After the first couple of days, you can dress more casually (if it’s in line with the company dress code).
3. Take notes. Always carry around a notebook with you and write everything down. Supervisors do not like to repeat themselves, and you’ll be able to avoid this problem entirely if you’ve taken good notes. Plus, you’ll come across as prepared, organized, and driven -- if your new boss notices you scribbling down every word she says, she’ll think that you really care about your new position and want to do great work.
4. Meet other employees. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible on your first day -- it will help you make friends in the office and will ensure that people know who to approach when looking for information from your department. Your boss or another team member will likely introduce you to some other key employees, but go beyond that and talk to everyone you come across in the elevator, kitchen, or other informal settings. Sometimes your biggest allies are the people you meet on your first day.
These guidelines are all about setting up an image of a person that’s organized, responsible, polished, motivated, and friendly. If you follow the rules, you’re sure to have a great first day. And if you want to further solidify that impression, bring in donuts or cookies for your fellow employees at the end of your first week.
It sucks to make a mistake at work. And it’s also inevitable. For one, there’s a learning curve you’ll have to contend with at every new job, and with the many personalities and situations you’ll be juggling each day, something is bound to slip through the cracks at some point. You may feel totally horrible about yourself on one of those days and go home and eat a whole pizza, but there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage.
First, you need to own your mistake. Don’t get defensive or try to play the blame game. Acknowledge that something is wrong and show that you’re going to put your energy toward fixing the problem. Then, when the dust has settled, go back to your boss and apologize, explaining that everything is okay now, but that you recognize your mistake and won’t let it happen again.
Sometimes you will notice a mistake before your boss has. If you can fix it before he ever finds out about it, great, no harm done. But if it’s something that’s going to affect him, alert him to the problem yourself and have a solution ready to go. This will show that you’re being proactive and will help minimize anger.
The solution-oriented approach is always the best way to handle mistakes. This tactic also works when the mistake is not your fault. If you can come up with solutions to someone else’s mistake instead of blaming him and letting him deal with it, you’ll help that person save face, something he will remember and appreciate for a long time.
Always be the problem-solver in a bad situation. Don’t freak out, place blame, or give up and do nothing. By remaining calm and poised yet determined to fix a mistake, you’ll impress your colleagues and establish yourself as a reliable, trustworthy person.
What's the best approach for sending a cold email when applying for a Hollywood job or requesting informational interview?
If you’re trying to make a contact at a new company and don’t have any connections that can refer you, you can always send a cold email to an employee you've identified through LinkedIn, a college alumni database, or even a news article. But you have to draft the email with care to ensure your note will be well-received. Cold emails can help you, but only if they're done correctly. So what's the best approach?
One thing's for sure: You should never ask someone you don't know to pass along your resume for potential jobs (the only case when this is appropriate is if you're reaching out directly to a hiring manager about a position you know is available). Instead of using cold emails to beg for employment, use them to set up informational interviews. People like to pay it forward (and also like to talk about themselves), so if they have time, they’ll probably be happy to sit down with you, or at the very least, set a call. Understand that a complete stranger is never going to put his reputation on the line for someone he's never met, but if you spend just 30 minutes with that person, you'll have developed a relationship that you can mine for opportunities later (if you play your cards right and keep in touch). Just make sure to let the other person dictate the terms of the meeting, so you don’t inconvenience him. Once you’ve met and established a good rapport, you can then ask for referrals when the time is appropriate (i.e. when a position is open).
A lot of people believe that the one true path to success is finding a mentor who, like Dumbledore or Obi-Wan, can guide you through the long, winding, and confusing journey of your career. If only you had a mentor, you’d have someone who would call up your dream company and say, “Hire her! She’s my mentee, and she deserves it!” and you’d live happily ever after with all your dreams coming true. But while there is something to be said about having someone in your corner to give you advice, having a mentor isn’t the secret to career success.
At the beginning of your career, your goal should be to get an entry-level job. Maybe you have a really great internship supervisor who can guide you through the process, but most likely, you’re on your own. Your strategy shouldn’t be centered on finding that one mentor, but rather, on making as many connections as you can to secure a great entry-level position.
Once you’re working, you may find a natural mentor in your boss or someone else in your department/company. There’s no need to make this official -- we’re often asked the question, “How do I ask my boss to be my mentor?” and our rule of thumb is that if they want to be your mentor, it’ll be obvious from the way they allow you to grow in the company or encourage you to apply for outside jobs that meet your long-term career goals. (It should go without saying that this will only happen if you excel at your job).
If you can’t find a natural mentor at your current job, don’t fret -- you’re actually in the majority. But don’t try to inorganically rope someone in. Instead, have informational interviews with people at companies you want to work for or in roles you aspire to fill. Learn from them. Follow up with them to maintain the relationship. Again, don’t ask directly for mentorship -- you’ll know it when it’s happening. And if it’s not, that’s okay, too. Mentoring someone can be a huge time and brain-power commitment, so just because your great contact at your dream company doesn’t fall into that role doesn’t mean they’re not going to help you otherwise. Your contacts will likely be open to passing your resume along for jobs, even if they aren’t up for frequent emails asking for advice.
In fact, it's not smart to put all of your eggs in one mentor’s basket. Everyone’s career path is different, so your would-be mentor’s advice can only go so far. The more people you learn from, the more likely you are to see alternative paths to your dream. Plus, one phone call advocating for you for a position is never as good as three -- you may be better off building multiple relationships than one really intense one.
As your career grows, you will eventually find your most trusted allies. Maybe it’s one mentor, maybe it’s a peer who came up with you, maybe it’s both or multiples thereof. Remember that Harry had Dumbledore, Hermione, Ron, Sirius, Lupin, and the whole Order, and he still had to face Voldemort alone in the end.