Starting your career How to negotiate your first week

You’ve made it through your first Monday – congratulations. But even with the hardest bit out of the way, you still have the rest of the week to conquer before you can consider your induction over. Read on to discover our top tips for sustaining your perfect first day into the rest of the week…

Tuesday 

It won’t be long before your first piece of real work will land on your desk. This is the one to throw yourself into – give it everything you have, and remember that it’s normal to feel out of your depth.  Make sure you ask all the right questions before you start: is there a deadline? What kind of resources should you use? What format should your final work product be in?  

One of the best questions to ask when starting out with new work is: ‘how long should I be spending on this task?’ The answer will give you an indication of what’s expected from you, and will also prevent you from spending excessive amounts of time on a single piece of work. It will also force your supervisor to think through their request in more detail and gives you an opportunity to share any competing priorities. It may even result in your deadline being revised to make it more achievable. If you don’t directly raise any foreseeable time-management issues, don’t assume someone else is considering them on your behalf - it’s worth developing clear communication channels from the start. 

Wednesday

You might be allocated a specific supervisor or mentor – if so, great, but remember not to take them for granted. All too often, official or formal mentoring programmes go under-utilised because the drive to progress the relationship falls away. It’s one reason why all young professionals should seek out and maintain their own, independent mentoring relationships. Being allocated a formal mentor is helpful – so long as you actively make it worthwhile – but you shouldn’t feel restricted.

In your first week, figure out if you have any official mentors – if you do, try and fix a time to introduce yourself in person. If you don’t, ask around. See who your co-workers would recommend as a great mentor. Then make a note of the name and seek to build a relationship with them – find mutual contacts, introduce yourself and propose a quick coffee. You’ll be surprised at how many senior professionals will be willing to meet and share tips and advice. Not only is it flattering from their perspective, but it’s great for their professional development too (by being a mentor, you often learn as much about yourself as you do about your mentee!).

Thursday

By now, you’ll probably have picked up on the overall office environment and will have a general sense of how people work. For example, do people prefer emails to meetings? What kind of office etiquette is expected for juniors? What about hours – do people prefer you to be present at your desk throughout the day, or are you expected to be reachable by phone, or responsive by email?

Make it your mission to pick up on subtle office cues before the end of the week. As you settle into a job, it becomes easier to develop your own way of working, but your first week is for blending in and becoming a seamless part of the existing team. The more you can pick up on the unspoken rules of the organisation, the more effective this process will be. 

Friday

It’s the end of the week, and you’ll have started to develop something of a routine. It’s a great time to think about how to best optimise your working day to maximize your professional self-development.  For example, can you find a time in the day to catch up on industry or commercial news? Can you be doing something productive on your commute? Is there a perfect time on a particular day to check in with your supervisor for some informal feedback?

The end of the week is also a perfect time to think about the ‘non-work’ aspects of your new job. Are there charitable projects you could get involved in, or sports teams you’d love to join? Are you interested in writing for the company blog or attending graduate recruitment events? Whatever it is you end up doing, remember that you’re constantly forming a personal brand. Make sure – especially during your first week – that it’s the one you want it to be.

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts about the first week at a graduate job, it would be great to hear from you - tweet us @brightnetwork.

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About the author:

After joining Bright Network back in 2010 and studying Law at the University of Cambridge, Eloise is a trainee at a top American Law firm. You can find her Bright Network Alumni profile just here.