Everyone has experienced buyer’s remorse: A shirt that looked great in the fitting room just isn’t quite as flattering in your bedroom mirror. Or worse, a job that seemed like a perfect fit during the interview falls flat during your first few weeks.
Turns out, that feeling of new job remorse is pretty common: According to the Society for Human Resources Management, half of all hourly workers resign within the first four months of a new job, and half of senior hires crash within just 18 months.
Why such a high dropout rate? It often starts with a weak onboarding process. Although most companies have some sort of initial orientation program, only 7% of the overall training budget is devoted to it. According to Dr. John Sullivan, an expert in onboarding process effectiveness, “Onboarding programs rank high on the list of HR programs that get little respect or attention.”
But, it can make all the difference: When you onboard well, not only are you likely to stay longer, but you’ll be perceived as a better performer, you’ll be less stressed, and you’ll like your job (and the decision you made) a whole lot more.
The lesson? While effective onboarding is crucial, it may be up to you to carry the load and take control of your new job. Here’s how.
1. Learn the New Landscape
Don’t be surprised if you don’t learn the specifics of your new position in onboarding—it’s not typically geared toward helping you settle into your particular role or team. Instead, it’s often run by HR, for the sole purpose of getting you “oriented and compliant.” (Hello, benefits seminar!)
So, take it upon yourself to map out your new environment. You should do this on three levels: the organization (its mission, culture, and basic practices), your department (its purpose and how it fits into the big picture), and your individual position (your responsibilities, how your performance will be measured, and your role in the bigger organizational mission).
By looking beyond your initial onboarding classes, you’ll be able to create a more effective plan of attack—which will allow you to start working toward your goals sooner, rather than later.
2. Bond With (and Leverage) Your Manager
Managers aren’t usually a formal part of the onboarding process—a few will check in on you occasionally, some will keep their distance until you’re ready to train for your specific position, and others will opt for a sink-or-swim approach altogether. But to get started on the right foot, it’s important to involve them from the get-go. (After all, this is hopefully the start of a long-term relationship!)
So, if you find that your manager isn’t playing a big enough role during your first few weeks on the job, take the necessary steps to bring him or her into the loop. If you’re not already meeting regularly throughout your onboarding, schedule some time to collaborate on your training plan. Then, follow up with regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings to keep him or her up to date on your progress and make sure you’re still on track for success.
Most importantly, tell your manager what you need. Want an introduction to the head of another department? Need specific feedback as you learn new processes? Ask. That’s what managers are for!
3. Don’t Let the Chaos Manage You
When you start a new job, you enter a period of “conscious incompetency.” That is, no matter how flawlessly you could perform your last role, you now have to unlearn what you knew and relearn it in a completely new context.
And I’ll be honest: You probably won’t like that feeling of uncertainty and vulnerability. Making the transition from knowing how everything works to knowing how nothing works can be a shock to your system—and your ego.
So, take a deep breath and be prepared to be a bit overwhelmed. Then, remind yourself that this is all part of the learning process. Remember how you left your last job knowing how it all worked? Eventually, you’ll achieve that level of competence in this job, too.
That said, it does help to keep a notebook of all the new information coming at you so you don’t have to rely solely on your memory. Having everything in one place will help you power through the inevitable chaos.