Before You Start
So, you’ve interviewed, negotiated and accepted the job. It’s time to kick back and relax, right? Well, yes — and no. Certainly, after a successful interview and negotiation, youâ€™ve earned the right to bask in the glory of an accepted job offer. But as the time approaches for you to begin in your new position, there are a few things you’l need to do to make a smooth transition.
First, are you relocating to a new area? If so, you’ll need to find a place to live, eat, shop, and everything else that relates to life in a new community. Hopefully you had a chance during your interview to explore the area, but now is the time to get familiar with the organization, campus, and/or local community. You’ll want to take some time to find your way around — practice the drive (walk, bus route) to work and get familiar with getting to work (traffic, how long it takes, where to park). You’ll also want to be sure to complete any pre-employment paperwork you received and submit it in a timely fashion. Often a lot of work is completed in advance to help smooth the transition into your new position. Finally, as the first day approaches, phone or email your new supervisor, express your enthusiasm about reporting to work, and ask if there’s anything you should do to prepare for your first day.
The First Day
Most of your first day will be spent on getting to work, getting to know people at work, and getting ready for work — not actually working. You’ll have to set up parking permits, computer access accounts, name badges, employee IDs, e-mail accounts, and everything else. You’ll also probably need to take a look at your office/desk/cubicle to see what you have (someone’s leftover 2003 wall calendar, an old coffee cup and a hundred paperclips) and what you don’t have, but need (a new calendar, a personal photograph, a new coffee cup, a stapler and other random office supplies).
Remember that it’s okay to ask questions — it’s actually completely expected. Someone should show you where the restrooms and the water fountain are located, and hopefully the closest coffee place. Your supervisor should also discuss the daily schedule (when to report in, when to leave), if there are strict guidelines for this, if and when to take breaks, schedule lunch, etc. Sometimes, workplaces with flexible schedules have loose guidelines regarding when to come in, when to leave, and when to take lunch. The problem comes when this institutional or departmental culture is not communicated to the new employee — so, as a result of the oversight, you end up with new employees not taking lunch for the first few days because they can’t figure out when everyone else is going. As the new employee, it is completely appropriate for you to ask these questions of your new supervisor if this information is not communicated.
You’ll also be meeting a lot of new people on your first day and learning a lot of new names. In between meetings, if you can jot down names, responsibilities and a brief note about the person (John Smith, Cataloger, catalogs everything I order), you’l have a much better chance of remembering details down the road.
The First Week
The first week is a time for you to get to know your work environment, the larger (parent) institution, and your colleagues a little better. You won’t be getting much actual work done this week. More likely you will be spending your time meeting with all the people you did not have time to meet on your very busy first day — people in human resources and IT, your supervisor(s), and your colleagues — as well as finalizing all the important details of moving into and getting settled in a new work space.
Use this week to get to know the people you are going to be working with and to begin relationships with people that will help you as you advance in your new role. Try to meet with people on an individual basis, and ask them similar questions about their jobs, their goals, and their expectations of working with you. You will learn a lot about the workflow in the library, and you will make friends in the process. Also, use your new colleagues as sources of local information for neighborhood eateries and shops, and events on and off campus. Set up lunch dates as ways to get to know them better. You might be tempted to ask your new colleagues about office gossip and their own satisfaction in their roles and with the larger institution, but try to stay away from any negative talk, which could damper your enthusiasm and energy.
While you’re meeting new people in your library, find out who else, outside of your library and even outside of your institution, might be good for you to get to know. These individuals may include people in the IT department, librarians or library staff in related libraries or consortia, and groups or committees that you might want to join. Find out from your supervisor and your colleagues who you should contact and start a list of names.
The first week is your chance to ask lots of questions and get to know the people you will be working with and for. It is also a time for you to impress others with your enthusiasm and eagerness to be a part of the team. Making a good first impression will benefit you in the future.
The First Month
The first month is when you really get to know the ins and outs of your role in the library and what is required of you. As you dive into your job responsibilities and get into the rhythm of the work environment, remember that you are still new and still in a trial or probationary period. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your supervisor and ask for assistance from your colleagues, if needed. If you are in an existing position, collect and go through materials left behind by the previous person: files, papers, projects, notes. If you are in a newly-created position, you’ll need to work closely with your supervisor to develop goals that will fulfill the needs of the library, and work this new position seamlessly into the team. Organize all your materials and your office space. Save everything at this point, because you don’t know what you might need in the future.
The first month is also a good time for you to start to become involved in committees, associations, and groups, both those that interest you and ones that will assist you in your job. You should also join online communities and subscribe to library-related blogs and e-mail lists where you can learn new things and keep up-to-date on new resources and new technology.
You will certainly feel energized as you start your new job, and you might even feel like charging forward and getting things done quickly. Before you do, make sure you’re not stepping on any toes, that you’re not changing the workflow, and that you’re not excluding others in the process. Many new librarians are hired as “change agents” with the expectation that they will motivate other staff members and bring in new ideas. This can be a very positive thing for a stale work environment, but it needs to be done gradually with clear goals, communication, support from management, and buy-in from the staff.
Whether you are stepping into someone else’s shoes, or starting out in a newly created position, learn what is expected of you — and set your own job-specific and career related goals for your first month, for your first year, and beyond.
by Sarah C. King
Your First Year on the Job: Five Tips to Help New Librarians
by Cassandra E. Osterloh
by Alice Yucht
[This response was written jointly by the Library Career People. We would like to invite our readers to share their own advice by using the comments. Thank you!]