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Do These Things For a Smooth Transition to Your New Job

Updated on February 6, 2017

Starting a new job is stressful

Starting a new job is up there as one of life’s most stressful events. Although often times a positive change, the stress of new responsibilities in a new environment can be intimidating, especially if you are starting a new career in a new field. You may feel pressured that you aren’t going to do a good job, or that you’re not up for the challenge. Feeling nervous before starting a new job is completely normal and even expected. To minimize stress and to set yourself up for success when starting a new job, there are some actions you can take both before and after starting that can give you a confidence boost and allow you to hit the ground running.

You’ve accepted a new job, now what?

Unless just transitioning from college or from unemployment, there is a good chance that if you’ve accepted a new job, you need to give a period of notice to your current job. This period, typically two weeks, is a good time to tie up loose ends at your current job. This way, you will have closure and not have additional distractions looming over you when you start the new job. Some things to consider and take care of at this time are:

Insurance – Will you be electing COBRA for health insurance? (COBRA is part of a law that allows you to continue on an employer’s health insurance policy after employment is ended, usually at a the full premium). Some jobs won’t ask you this until after you’re gone. Find out how insurance will work at your new job, and whether there is a waiting period. If you will be electing COBRA take care of that paperwork before you leave so that you don’t have to bother with it later.

IRA or retirement fund – If you have a retirement fund at your current job, what will happen to it when you are no longer employed? Most likely, any employer contribution will cease. Can you keep contributing to it? Can you withdraw it with or without tax penalties? How can you roll the money over to a new retirement fund? You will want to find this out before you leave so you don’t have to call and ask questions later.

Vacation time – Will you be paid any unused vacation time? Are you able to use vacation in your last two weeks? Check this policy before giving your notice if possible. If your company doesn’t pay out vacation, and doesn’t let you use it during your last two weeks, take it now! You can use that vacation time now to do some research and preparation for your new job, as we’ll discuss below; or, take that time to relax and recharge as long as you have the chance.

Clean out your desk – You’re going to have to take your things with you. To reduce stress it is better to do this gradually during your last week, NOT all at once during your last hour on your last day when you have a million other things to tie up. Don’t forget anything either—it can be uncomfortable and a nuisance to come back to your old job after you’re done to pick up a plant or a pair of shoes you forgot.

Update your contact information with HR – You will probably be mailed your last pay stubs and your W2 for that year. Make sure they know where to send those so you don’t have to bother them when the time comes, and vice versa.

Leave on a good note – Leave instructions for your replacement. Make a list of external business contacts that you routinely work with and e-mail them introducing them to their new contact at your company. Go out to lunch one last time with coworkers. Stay engaged all the way through. Burning bridges is never a good thing. Leaving a job on a good note can help ensure that you’ll be eligible for rehire should you ever want to return there. It can help maintain helpful business ties with those coworkers if you will be staying in the same industry. Also, leaving your job on a positive note will allow you to enter your new role with a sense of confidence, not of shame or fear of failing again.

What to do the week before you start your new job

You’ve taken care of all those things, now what? There is a lot you can do in the week or so leading up to the start of your new job that can allow you to be one step ahead on your first day. If you do nothing during this time, you may feel like a deer in headlights when you start at the new place. Even if you are in an industry you are already familiar with or will be working with people you know, doing a little research and preparation before starting can go a long way.

Research the company, again – If you got hired, you probably did a little background research before the interview about the company you were applying to. The people interviewing you probably also told you a little about how things work. Try to go beyond that superficial understanding of the company and gather as much knowledge about it you can before starting, specifically about the department or group you’ll be working in. Some of the steepest learning curves when starting a new job are not gaining familiarity with the industry or the job description, but understanding the structure of the company itself, who’s who, and new processes. Go on the company website, read reviews on Glassdoor.com from employees, or talk to an inside source to get a better idea of how the company works. If there are bios of managers or employees on the website, review those. Those also usually provide pictures, so you can also be one step ahead in learning everyone’s names and faces.

Review your job description – Obviously, you know what title you’ll have at your new job. The details of your job description, however, can be lengthy, and not all of it may have been covered in the interview process. If you have a copy of it (or can pull it from the original job post you applied for), read it line by line, highlighting and circling important points. Find out exactly what you’ll be expected to be doing during the course of your job.

Have a brainstorming session – Based on the job description and your notes, sit down for at least 10 minutes with the job description at hand, and jot down all the ideas or thoughts you have on how to accomplish or improve those duties. For example, if one line of the job description says ‘Responsible for delivering an excellent client experience,” write down ideas you have about how you can accomplish that. Go beyond assuming that that means just being friendly, and think of what you can proactively do in your new role to create processes to deliver a good client experience. Employers love when you show initiative. If you show up to your new job having already thought about how to make one of these duties more efficient, or you have a new idea altogether, that is more valuable than someone who comes with no insight and just does the minimum asked of them. By doing this activity you will reflect on how you’ll be doing your job and how you can go above and beyond.

Make a game plan – Based on your brainstorm session, make a checklist of what you want to tackle first when you start. Of course, this may change—once you first sit down with your manager they may have other priorities for you to work on, etc. But if you have a plan, you have something to fall back on and some direction in case things aren’t so organized when you arrive, and you have an idea of what to work on.

What to do the day before you start your new job

Review your game plan – Get a notebook that you’ll be using for your new job, and jot down an abbreviated version of your game plan on the first page. This way you’ll have a clear view of what you’ll be setting out to do in the next coming weeks. You’ll be adjusting your plan once you start.

Set up a to-do list and note-taking system – There is usually A LOT going on in your first week of work. In addition to basic job duties, you’re likely going to be learning new computer systems, phone numbers, processes, conduct codes, and other miscellaneous information. The actual actionable tasks you have to accomplish can get mixed up in all this influx if info. Set up a system BEFORE you start of how you’re going to be keeping track of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks and how you can keep yourself accountable for all of them. Create your own system, or find others such as the Bullet Journal system.

Plan your wardrobe for the week – Nothing ruins your positive momentum in the morning like struggling to find what to wear and getting caught up going through your closet. Especially if you’re going to be adhering to a different dress code than before, plan your outfits, and make sure they are appropriate but also something you’ll be comfortable in. Having your clothes laid out for you takes one less stressor away in the morning rush.

Pack your bag – Get everything together that you’ll be bringing to your new job the night before. Again, one less thing to worry about in the morning.

Get a good night’s sleep – Sleep is so important if we want to be at our best. Lack of sleep causes us to process things more slowly, to be less creative, and to be much less productive. It may be hard to sleep the night before your first day at the new job, but try to do something relaxing and set a strict bed time for this night.


Then hit the ground running on your first day

Arrive on time! Make sure you allow for plenty of time if you’ll be commuting. Get your coffee if you need your coffee.

Your first day at work is no time to be an introvert. Smile, introduce yourself, and be yourself. Soon you’ll get to know your coworkers well and these interactions won’t feel forced. If invited for coffee or for lunch, don’t decline, even if the thought of going to lunch with a bunch of people you don’t know makes you nervous. Give them the impression that you are interested in getting to know them and in working with them.

Touch base with your new boss. They probably have some sort of training plan for you the first day and week, so it’s highly likely you’ll be spending some time with them on your first day. Take this time to clarify expectations and priorities.

Maintaining success

A successful first day doesn’t mean much if you throw your plan out the window and assume bad habits on day two. Keep using your checklist system. Keep your eyes on your game plan you developed before starting. Continue strengthening relationships at work and building trust. Read about your industry to stay updated on current events. Give your best effort, do what is asked of you, and more. In no time, you will feel comfortable at your new job and will be excited to keep accomplishing new things and setting new goals.

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