What’s Your #1 Tip for New Hires?

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Katharine Greenlee 6 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #181998

    Steve Ressler

    It’s almost end of school year which means it’s time for graduation and a new flood of graduates entering the workforce.

    The transition from school to work can be tough…especially in government.

    What’s your #1 tip for a new hire in their first job?

    photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

  • #182032

    Katharine Greenlee

    Hi Kevin,

    It is so true that transitioning from school to work can be a tough task in government! That is why ICMA developed the “Breaking into Local Government” handbook. We recommend the book for anyone who is entering the profession or who is interested in a career in management, as its case studies and resources offer a look at the transition of nontraditional managers into professional administrator positions. You can check out the handbook here: http://icma.org/en/icma/knowledge_network/documents/kn/Document/305351/Breaking_into_Local_Government

    Hope this is helpful!



    Community Engagement Manager, ICMA

    [email protected]


  • #182030

    Adrian Pavia

    My friends and I always laugh at our younger selves for being so overconfident upon graduation. This is especially true for undergraduates. My recommendation for young people working in their first professional jobs is to be open and try to learn as much as you can. You have a lot to offer, but even more to learn, so try to find the right balance.

    It can be tough to go from being the master of your field in college to a relative novice in the office. But if you keep an open mind, take constructive criticism as it comes, and pay attention, you’ll quickly regain your ‘senior’ status.

  • #182028

    David B. Grinberg
    • Maintain a low profile, the complement of which is absorbing all new info like a sponge (policies, practices, procedures, etc.). Also (bonus tips):
    • Arrive before your boss does and leave the office after her/him (if in-office job),
    • Work your rear off and be a team player,
    • Focus on listening more than talking (at least until you get the lay of the land),
    • Be open and receptive to new and innovative ways of working,
    • Ask questions about a project rather than screw it up,
    • Always accept an invite if your new boss or co-workers invite you for coffee or lunch,
    • Get involved in charitable volunteer work sponsored by your organization,
    • Always reflect confidence and a positive “can-do” attitude, and
    • Always be polite and avoid being arrogant at all costs.
  • #182026

    David B. Grinberg

    Lastly, do NOT discuss your new job on social media — especially ranting about it.

  • #182024

    Mark Hammer

    I often see linkedIn posts from recent graduates, or those about to hatch with a Masters in something, asking about what sort of “job experience” they should look for. Their attitude is one that treats early jobs as if they are some sort of credential or course completed to add to the roster of things they can put on their resumé. As if each job can be added to the degree, which each position being a sort of course prerequisite for the next level job.

    But one should consider that, if you’re that young, you’re going to be working for along time yet. So what is it that you can pay attention to for the next few years of employment that will advantage you 10 and 20 years from now?

    My answer to that would be context and systems.

    Every organization, work unit, team, has its characteristics. Some operate in hospitable contexts/circumstances that allow it to function well, some are swimming against strong currents. They are all systems, whose components may be well-aligned…or not. Pay attention to how the pieces work together. Pay attention to the circumstances that allow them to work together, or that pose obstacles to success or productivity. Tuck all of that away. You won’t necessarily be consulted for major decisions now, but one day you will be in a position of greater responsibility and your judgment will need to be based on your sensitivity to the “system”, and interconnections between people, units, tasks, missions, capacity, as well as your awareness of what needs to be in place for that to work optimally. Or, perhaps, why the circumstances might dictate more modest expectations in this time and place.

    And I don’t care if you get a job slinging fries, painting houses, or, like the daughter of a friend of ours did – clerking for the chief justice of the Supreme Court. EVERY job allows you to be a student of organizational functioning; an anthropologist studying another work culture. You don’t have to be socially detached from your workmates, or behave like a visitor. But do keep an eye out for what you can learn about optimally, and suboptimally, functioning teams and organizations. The knowledge you gain as a grunt may someday come in handy when you have to make decisions that impact on grunts, and allow you to make the best decisions possible.

  • #182022

    Steve Ressler

    I like the low profile – be the person absorbing information at first.

  • #182020

    Terrence Hill

    Build your social and organizational networks, getting engaged as soon as possible and volunteer for assignments which give you exposure to organizational leadership, especially those assignments which no one else wants to be involved in.

  • #182016

    Lisa Roepe

    Be a sponge — learn everything you can from everyone who is willing to take the time to explain/teach/provide guidance — and be curious. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are not expected to know everything, but you are expected to take responsibility for understanding your task or assignment.

    Lisa Roepe (@lisarab)

  • #182014

    John Sim

    Wow, David, this is a fantastic list of excellent pointers.

  • #182012

    Samantha McFarland

    Absolutely. The best advice I got was to volunteer and get your name out there. It enhances your work day and your career by knowing people throughout the building and the organization. I am not normally an outgoing person, but everyone at work tends to think so.

    I would like to add that you should not pre-judge who is important and who isn’t. I have seen many new employees come in to the organization and “kiss up” to management while either ignoring or being downright rude to others. It is obvious to everyone and does not bode well for your future.

  • #182010

    John Sim

    Yup. And now that social media searches are routine parts of the recruiting and hiring process, that unwise post might not only get the new employee fired from his or her new job, it may also be a factor in being considered for the next job.

  • #182008

    Darrell Hamilton

    My advice is to find something for which you can become a success. Everyone coming into an office is looked at with a certain amount of suspicion. Find something — even if it is small — and get it to a successful conclusion. Don’t go for the big projects at first. You need the “track record” to weather the storms that the big projects ultimately bring.

  • #182006

    Rachael Weatherly

    My number one tip for young professionals, is don’t put on airs as if a certain task is below you or your pay grade. Everyone can make copies, book a conference room, or get down in the weeds, once and awhile. If you avoid such work, and treat them with derision, you will alienate the admin staff who you will eventually need in your corner.

  • #182004

    John van Santen

    Develop interpersonal skills – do not rely solely on technology to accomplish your tasks. You can get a lot more done if people know your face, what you do, where you work, who you work for. And don’t get frustrated when technological tools are utilized poorly by the people you work with. Not everyone tweets, wants to hang out on Google, or share their life via Facebook. And a lot of people have poor Outlook etiquette: don’t reply to emails, neglect accepting calendar appointments, send a email about a meeting instead of an appointment, or (if high up enough) have a scheduler who runs interference between you and the person you are trying to work with.

  • #182002

    Kitty Bookout

    A. Never assume a person is “thinking” a certain way. Remember most of all you have no idea what another person is thinking. The other side of the coin is that no one knows what you are thinking. Yes, sometimes you definitely can tell that someone is angry, confused, interested in the topic, etc. However, even those are weak assumptions. That leaves only communication.

    B. Please do not let pride keep you from asking questions. Your choices are: (1) proceed with what you assume is correct, and potentially present completely incorrect information; (2) spend a great deal of time trying to figure out the answer yourself; or (3) ask the question(s), take notes, appreciate the advice, get any clarification you need, and get the job done! I choose No. 3 every time. Because most people like to help others and like to show themselves as a subject matter expert, you will rarely ever be disrespected for asking a question. This was a very hard lesson for me to learn.

  • #182000

    Julie Chase

    There is no such thing as a dumb question. That is how we learn.

    Be understanding that our technology is not the latest and the greatest, neither are the system programs we have to work with. Understand policy/procedures/regulations are there for a reason, and there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t play Spotify tunes or Pandora on your DoD, DoN work computer, so bring a radio or your Iphone and listen from it. And “do not” plug into a usb port on your work computer. Thumb drives are not allowed here.

    Whatever training is offered, take it, take it, take it. It gives you a good idea of what is going on.

    Keep your politics, your religion and your sex life to yourself.

    You want to make enemies, start kissing up to the supervisor.

    If your co workers invite you to lunch or for coffee, go…enjoy.

    (sorry David, it’s a no no to go to lunch with boss….or have the boss over for dinner at your house….it’s called fraternization) DoD, DoN walks the line.

    Make yourself a list of POC’s to contact for everything from “my computer is not working”, my phone, payroll questions, HR questions, who is the POC for the bargaining unit (GS’s here do not have a union, only WG) or additional training, or my AC isn’t working or my window is broken, or the door won’t lock to my office. You will need to know who these people are and how to get in contact with them.

    Ask your supervisor about leave policy. Some like to know well in advance if you taking more than 3 days off. Some want to know a week or two ahead. Ask if they want the leave form emailed, or a paper copy.

    Don’t assume all 303 series are secretaries, we aren’t. I’m not, and I’m a 303.

    Ask if there is a cleaning staff. Sorry DC folks, we don’t have one, we take out our own trash, clean our own office, vacuum and mop the common areas. (yes, mop, as in wet mop) Our supervisor calls a field day once a month and shuts everything down so we all can clean. (even the suits and skirts in other offices clean their own areas) We still service customers if they come in and most know our routine.

    Are there scheduled breaks during the day? What time is lunch? Is that set in stone? What eating establishments are around that would give me time to eat and return to work? Is there a break room, where is it?

    Are there mandatory weekly meetings and how will I be notified..email, in person, from another co worker?

    Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

    Welcome aboard!

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