So you passed the interview
Most people think that the recruitment process finishes when you walk out of the interview. It doesn’t.
In modern employment there are a whole host of laws that protect those who are in long term employment. Firing someone Apprentice style might look like a lot of fun, but nearly all managers realise that modern employment laws are there to protect people from being unjustly removed from their mode of earning a living. In fact, most small companies are actually scared of the process as all that separates them from an employment tribunal is a fired up personal injury commercial during a Jeremy Kyle ad break.
But don’t think that you are safe
What most people don’t realise is that it is incredibly easy for a company to fire anyone within the initial 2 years of them starting a new role. Not just the youngster straight out of full time education, but everyone.
It makes sense when you think about it. An interview is not a full proof way of evaluating a candidate with any guarantee. It may be the case that the new employee turns out to be a rebel without a cause. They may talk incessantly, have really bad personal hygiene or just not be very good at their job. Hell they may not even turn up that often. Given the wide variety of crazy people who do actually exist in the general population it is not unfair to assume that some will inevitably slip through the net.
Even the most experienced and talented of interviewer will struggle to spot the dangerous sociopath. This is probably a good thing as they may then be offered a role in senior management*.
You may have just been given the worst desk in the room with the oldest PC and are now looking through the pile of indoctrination material that you got in your induction but don’t think for a second that you have completely passed the test. It is not out of the realms of possibility that your new manager may have to admit that he made a mistake and that you are then escorted out of the building.
There is one simple thing you have to do in every new job that you will ever start. Be proactive.
Most people in work are trying to do too much, with too little time. Inevitably there are a whole host of time consuming, monotonous jobs that need doing and never end up getting done. It might be typing lots of numbers in to a spreadsheet, putting all that stuff in the basement or just returning the filing system to some semblance of working order. It’s the type of stuff that companies don’t really want their highly qualified employees doing and the stuff that highly qualified employees don’t really want to do anyway.
There is all this stuff that needs to be done and all you need to do is say the magic words.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
Now it’s important to understand that you are there to help. Don’t complain that you have not been given anything to do. That makes managers think that you are the type of person who needs to always be told what to do. What they want is someone who shows initiative, someone that is willing to help, the type of person who really is an asset to the team.
Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do whatever task you have been given and feel free to ask for some help. There is a fine line between getting some guidance and pestering the hell out of your new work colleagues but no-one can expect you to do something without some form of basic explanation. You will be fine as long as you give it your best shot.
Whatever task you are required to complete then do it to the best of your ability. It is important to show your competence as well as your enthusiasm and don’t feel that it is some kind of race. Get it done as well as you can and as quickly as you can and you can’t go far wrong.
At no stage sigh, huff, shrug your shoulders or show any outward signs that this task is not something you are fully engaged with. This menial labour that they have got you doing may be beneath you but you must never let on.
When will it end
The bad news is that you will probably have to keep this up for a few weeks. Everyone will be secretly checking you out during that period just to make sure you are not a fruit loop but you should notice that it starts to die down in a week or two. It is generally a good sign when the natives start having conversations in your presence and including you in the office gossip.
Make sure you turn up on time every day and never be the first out the door at home time. Try to have a chat with your new colleagues but don’t be too noisy or interrupt people. Be polite and pleasant and always be willing to take your turn getting the coffee. Trust me, the people who you now work with probably need it more than you do.
Beyond that it’s really just a case of waiting it out and staying on your best behaviour. If you are lucky then a new employee will be hired soon and when that finally occurs you can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s their turn next for the same treatment.
All of this might sound like a lot of hard work and it is. Welcome to the world of full time employment.
There is a big payoff to all of this however. Most workplaces settle in to a stable monotony over a period of time and having a new young enthusiastic team mate can actually be a breath of fresh air. Those tired old faces might actually brighten up when they realise that you will do some of their work and it may even stir them in to actually teaching you some stuff you never knew.
Either way most of them will just be happy that there is another productive person on their team or in their section and, believe it or not, that is something they will genuinely appreciate. Most jobs involve some kind of teamwork and having someone who can at least pull their own weight means that they don’t have to pull yours. Everyone puts the phrase team player on their CV for a reason.
With your feet under the table you can now relax. Not so much that you get fired but enough that you can afford a rare late appearance in the morning or some zoned out internet browsing beyond your scheduled lunch break. By then you have probably figured out what job they actually want you to do and the types of tasks that you can actually do for them. Keep doing that and do it well and you can pack away the pretence of innocent wide eyed newcomer.
- Offer to help
- Engage in polite and friendly conversation with your new colleagues
- Understand the Office Etiquette
- Ask questions about things you don’t understand
- Stay clear of office politics and gossip
- Go and get the coffee
- Complain that you have nothing to do
- Try to be the new stand up comedian on the office comedy circuit
- Decide that it’s time to fully explore your wild fashion sense
- Ask an endless tirade of meaningless questions or sit in ignorant silence
- Decide you are going to have an office romance with the boss
- Moan that you went for the coffee last time
Getting past the interview is just the start of the battle when it comes to a new job. To make that role a permanent fixture you have to be proactive and find something productive to do. Not everyone gets a clearly defined job specification when they start and the best thing you can do is at all times make an effort to help out.
Be polite, be respectful, be careful. Once you have done your time and have got your feet under the table then you can relax a bit. It’s never a done deal but once that initial period of suspicion is over and you turn out not to be a raging psychopath then your work colleagues will accept you in to the fold and you can get away with some mistakes.
As always it’s about contributing. Make an effort and avoid the really obvious errors and you should have no issues.
*Please don’t actually think this is a good idea in an interview. It’s not.