The IT Contractor’s Guide for the First Day with a New Team
Many of us have found it rewarding to work on projects that are time or goal specific. We join a team that has a set of defined goals, take responsibility of our tasks, and get to integrate our piece of the puzzle into a collective product. Delivering a finished product is very gratifying.
Once our assignments are completed, 9 out of 10 times we are already lined up for our next project, and this is where we may see a bit of a challenge. In most cases, the project is with another group or client, which means that you will join an entirely new team. If you do not set yourself up for success, it can be challenging to get to know the people working with you to build trust and mutual respect.
We have put together a list of tasks that will get you in tip-top shape for your new assignment.
Before your first day
Learn about the company, employees, its products and the competitors
Go online and read as much as you can about the company, reviewing their corporate site, news articles and professional reviews. If they offer free access to their product or data, sign up and review their developer’s notes, APIs or any publicly available code on GitHub. Diving into the company before you start will help you further understand their culture, process and public facing persona.
You may have already checked for connections on LinkedIn during your interview process, so login again and introduce yourself to folks who you might be collaborating with in the near future. Not only will you to find out more about them, they will have a chance to review your profile and find out a bit about you before you meet.
Take a good look at their competition. Just like you researched your next assignment, find out as much as you can from public sources. Everyone loves to discuss the competition, so you will be well armed with some solid talking points.
Make sure you know what equipment you will need to be successful
Find out from your recruiter or the hiring manager what equipment you will be using. If you are used to working on a Mac and they are a PC shop (or vice versa) go to your local electronics shop and play around with the latest model. A quick tip: if you “dislike” one platform over the other, don’t scream it out on the first day. There is a business reason why they chose one platform over the other. Find out why and you may see the advantages of their choice of operating system.
Prepare your portable office
You will probably have access to office supplies at your new assignment, but just in case, pack a few essentials that will help you during the first couple of days. Since you will meet with several people the first day, bring a notebook and a few pens. I always pack a blue, black and red pen, a highlighter and a couple of pencils. Sticky notes are like duct tape; you can use them for notes, organization and labeling files. Pack a phone charger and snack. You and your phone do not want to run out of power on your first day.
Do a drive-by
Figuring out how you will get to your new office before the first day is a good idea. You do not want to just rely on Google maps to tell you how long your commute will be or the potential road hazards. If you are able to, drive to the office on a weekday during the time you plan to travel every day. Once you get there, check out the parking situation. Drive back home via an alternative route. The key is to be able to drive to your new office and know where to park without the assistance of a phone or your car’s GPS. Batteries can run out, and you do not want to be late for your first day.
If you are taking public transportation, do the same thing. Hop on the train or bus on a busy day and see how long the commute will be. Make sure you have a printed copy of the route schedule and any apps that can help you. If available, buy a monthly pass before your first day. It will save you a few dollars a month, plus you will not have to wait in line for your first commute.
The first day of work
It might be a business casual, or jeans and t-shirt type of business, but on the first day dress nicer than usual. Don’t go overboard. For example, if it is business casual workplace, guys should wear a nice pair of kakis and a button-down oxford. Make sure that they are pressed and crisp. For women, a nice blouse paired with a skirt or fashionable slacks. If t-shirts are the standard, hold it for the next day. Men: wash your best jeans (or get a new pair), and style it up with a button-down shirt or polo. Tuck the shirt in and wear a belt. For women, find a nice top that works well with denim and one or two accessories to complement.
Since you have packed a “portable office”, make sure you bring it in a briefcase or a messenger bag. Skip the grocery store bag for your lunch, and eat out the first day.
Arrive 15 minutes earlier
You already know the way to the office and where to park, but just in case, get there early. If you are nervous, or the commute was terrible, you will have time to decompress and gather your thoughts. If nobody is there yet, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of water and relax.
If your team members are also early risers, you will have a few minutes to spend with them before things get started. This time can be great opportunity to form some quick bonds with your new office mates.
Remember, being on time is meeting expectations. Be early, show your commitment and exceed their initial expectations.
Smile and be confident as you meet the staff
It is your first day, and you should be smiling. A new opportunity brings a great new challenge, and you are ready for it. Your expression can set the tone for the day, and today is very important. When you smile, you show that you are open, open to conversation, and appreciative to be part of the team.
You will meet a lot of new faces today. One of your co-workers or your supervisor may take you around the office and introduce you to everyone. When you meet a new person, project the right confidence. Smile, look at them in the eye and give them a good handshake. Make sure you say their name as you meet them and share a short description about your new function. Invite them to spend a few minutes with you over the next few days so you can get to know them a little bit more.
Spend time getting to know the team
For the next few months, you will spend 8 to 10 hours a day with some of your team members. That is longer than we spend time with our loved ones or sleeping, so get to know your team professionally. Take the lead and invite them to have a cup of coffee or lunch. Discuss work and appropriate light subjects, like sports, entertainment or vacations. Skip politics, religion, relationships and personal details for obvious reasons. As you get to know your colleagues better, you will be able to communicate more efficiently with them and you have the opportunity to build trust. Remember that you may find some colleagues a bit more challenging than others, and you may even dislike them. You will be successful at your new position if you are able to have good discussions so you can collaborate better.
Ask a lot of questions
Don’t be shy about it, and no questions are too dumb. Really. Every organization does things their way – from office space to tech stack. Ask why so you can understand the reasons behind the methodology. Describe scenarios and ask relevant questions. The person you are asking questions was once in your shoes, so they will understand and try to help out as much as possible. If they react negatively to your questions, let them know that you are not questioning them, you just want to understand how things work so you can work better in your new position.
Say Thank You
During your first day, many will be taking time to help you set up, meet the right folks in the office and get on the right path to success. Let them know you appreciate their time and effort with a thank you and a smile. Take the time to write them a quick thank you note. Skip the email, and write a note to them to express your gratitude. A hand-written note is much more powerful than any designer font on an email.
It is your first day and you are very excited. You should be. With every new opportunity, you have the chance to start a new project, get to know new people and develop your professional experience. They chose you for your skills, your ability to work with others, and they see great potential in what you can accomplish. Go and make it a great first day!