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First day toolkit.

start-new-jobI have worked with a lot of people on their first day on the job.   I have had a few first-days over the years myself.   The first day can be nerve-wracking, confusing and a bit overwhelming.   There are a lot of names, rules and general information pieces to remember.   Recall not just your first day on the job, but your first day on your FIRST job.

Parents are a good source of expertise regarding the first day.   Here are some things to teach your kids about their first day so they don’t turn into the type of worker that has a lot of “first days” and never seems to get how it all works.

Basic housekeeping information:     Talk to your kids about gathering the information they need ahead of time.   They may not think to ask about where to park (if they drive), if they need to bring a lunch, or which particular person they should check in with.   The whole process is foreign and it is important to gather some of the basic, logistical pieces of information that will make them less confused.   Here are a few more things worth discussing:

  • Does the company have a cell phone policy?   Talk to them about putting their phone away at work.
  • What is the dress code?   Tell them start out conservative until they learn the real environment.
  • Get there early.   Many people don’t factor in traffic, accidents or other delays.
  • Get some rest.   New jobs are exciting.   And it is not the time to stay up late or skip breakfast the next day.   Just like you talk to your kids about the proper approach to school testing, do the same for their first job.

A little anthropology:   Anthropology is the study of humanity.   This includes culture.   Each workplace has its own culture and behaviors of the humans that work there.   This can be one of the trickiest parts of fitting in at a new job.   Conversations with your kids about how to slowly join a new culture are valuable and sadly, often missed.   Many people, even seasoned workers, don’t understand how to ease into a new culture without quickly upsetting or even offending those that are already there.   Here are some ideas of how to do this:

  • Observe the workers first.   Listen more than you talk.   Take your time before you offer opinions or comments.
  • Look for unspoken rules or traditions.   These subtleties can make a team cohesive, but they won’t be written in print.   They are little things like using only company logo’d coffee mugs or not making a mess of the newspaper in the kitchen.   Being a bull in a china shop on your first day will not win over the longer term employees.
  • Avoid cliques, gossip and office politics.   Seasoned employees might like to quickly recruit new employees to their agendas.   Educate on how to be watchful of such ploys and recommend staying clear and avoiding commitments right out of the shoot.
  • Don’t EVER bad mouth the company or a previous employer…or anyone.   The world is small in this regard and you never know who might know someone else or who you might offend.   Keep opinions to yourself.

Safety: Many jobs are not in an office and job sites can have safety concerns.   This is one area where is it ok to speak up, ask questions and voice safety concerns. Many first time workers don’t understand safety protocols.   The good news is that most employers are very safety conscious.   However, it doesn’t hurt to talk about on-the-job safety.   Make sure your kids understand that if they do get hurt, they have the right to report it and cannot be adversely affected for reporting an injury.

Discussions that cover these topics at home will give your kids a huge advantage when they move into the working world.   Questions will come up and parents are wonderful resources.   Start the conversations.


Inside the lines.

Inside the lines.

Inside the lines.


Recently I saw an article on adults using coloring books as a means to de-stress.   I loved to color and am excited of its resurgence for grown-ups.   This got me to thinking about the popular sound bites about coloring outside the lines and the value of thinking independently and creatively.   Sure, there is value and I hope to soon write a blog on the rule-breakers and how the workplace needs them.   But for now, I’m thinking about the enormous value of those that do “work inside the box” and consistently do jobs that are really the foundation of a workplace.

I am recalling an organizational behavior class I had where we learned of “followership”.  There are some great blog posts from the professor I had found here.  Followership is not a secondary state (contrary to leadership) and is critical for success.   In fact, individuals can flip flop between being a leader and a follower.   Isn’t the same true for inside and outside the lines?

Some kids follow rules extremely well.   They quietly fall into line and often are overlooked because they do so with zero disruption.   In the workplace, there are positions that are mission critical, and employees consistently and quietly work within their parameters and again, are often overlooked.   Truly, these positions can be the footings of the structure and allow a path for the rule breakers to challenge the status quo and move the company in new directions. History has repeatedly shown this example with architects and brick layers.   The brick layers stay in the critical lines to ensure a solid structure and architects are revered for thinking beyond the normal.   Both are necessary and both are valuable.

For those that do color within the lines, keep these items in mind:

  • Don’t make creativity the only recognition point at work, or at home.   Celebrate consistency and correctness.  If I have a payroll person or tax accountant that consistently submits completely accurate reports, find a way to give credit to the work.   If I have a child that consistently does homework without being asked, celebrate!
  • Offer an avenue to present ideas.   Not everyone enjoys spending time on new ideas and certainly not everyone enjoys sharing them.   Ways for people to communicate that are non-threatening or even anonymous can be helpful.
  • When individuals that are very different team up in a supportive environment, great things can happen.   Often the creative types have no appreciation for the baseline, routine functions of the organizations.   Learning opportunities will abound.
  • It can be therapeutic to work inside the lines.   Even those that are expected to drive new ideas and play devil’s advocate, can find reprieve in working inside the lines.   There is a reason that adult coloring books are popular.   Checking-out for a while can lend a brain a different way to process.   The converse works the same for those that work diligently on rote work and get breaks to delve into a creative task.

Researching this topic, I see countless articles on how to squeeze creativity out of employees and think outside of the box. I challenge the mindset to accept those that don’t find comfort there.   What if we can tolerate and then capitalize on both types?  In fact, coloring inside the lines can produce some beautiful results.

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