How to Adapt to a New Workplace

Adapting to the Pace of a New Workplace

If this is your first "real" job after college, you should be aware of the differences between work and school. In college, you pretty much set your own pace. Your day is less structured, and you have more control over your time. Not so at work. In most cases, your hours will be set, and your job duties will determine your pace. Don't expect as many breaks. In school, you worked mostly on your own. On the job, you need to make sure your efforts are in synch with the organization. You've been used to getting specific assignments from professors, but at work your duties might not be so well-defined. You'll have to show more initiative.

As soon as you start work, observe the daily pace of the workplace. In some companies, employees are hard at it first thing and stop work on time. In other workplaces, the day starts slowly, but most people stay past quitting time. As a new employee, it's a good idea to arrive at work early and leave when most of your colleagues do. Be punctual for meetings and appointments, even if others aren't. Find out whether you will routinely be expected to work overtime.

Many aspects of a company's culture contribute to the rhythm of work. For example, how do employees usually communicate? Is everything face-to-face, or are e-mails or instant messaging the main method? How often do meetings take place, and how long do they last? Do workers take regular lunch breaks or grab a bite at their desks? Are there busy times of the day or year? Are projects completed in a frenzy of last-minute work?

You should be observing and adapting to all these factors. Don't try to change the culture. Maybe you would prefer to work at a steady pace, but if there are rush periods, you'll have to step up the pace. Don't assume the rhythm of your new workplace will be like your previous job.

Most jobs are affected by technology these days. On the next page, you'll read about how to handle the technology in a new workplace.