First Job, First Month Survival Guide Part 4 – Some Practicalities

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In part 4, Mark covers off some of the practicalities you may need to cover off with the HR department within your first month at the job. These include a range of things so it is worth getting ahead before starting the job so you know what to expect when you start.

Some practicalities

It’s also worth covering some practicalities that should be sorted out in your first few days on the job, and if not you might want to speak to your Human Resources (HR) or Personnel Department to ensure these are organised:

Employment contract and terms and conditions

You will need to be issued with and sign a written contract of employment specifying the key terms of your employment such as your job title, who you report to, your rate of pay, hours, place of work, and holiday entitlement.

It should also specify the details of any initial probation period so you are clear on the length and review date. You should also make sure you understand as far as possible what your probationary period will be judged on (and if there any formal targets, for example) so you can focus on what you need in order to ensure success at that stage.

Employee handbook

The employment contract is usually quite a short agreement and it will often include a reference to an employee handbook which is a much larger set of documents, which may be annotated and updated over time. The handbook is where details of the organisation’s policies, rules, codes of conduct, and key employment processes such as appraisal systems, grievance procedures and disciplinary processes are set out.

While almost all organisations have one of these, they vary widely in how it is used and viewed. Broadly the larger and more formally organised the organisation, the more this will be used and referred to as a day to day management tool and so you need to be aware of it and its key provisions.

At the other end of the scale smaller and less formally managed organisations may have compiled one once (or had their solicitors write one when they last updated their employment contracts) but it’s sitting

gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere as no one ever looks at it, much less updates it. In which case the advice is probably leave well alone.

Job specification

As you’ve been hired to do a job, it’s useful if it’s spelled out what that job is as a first step in giving you a fighting chance of understanding it and doing it.

However, please never, ever, think that your job description is the be all and end all of what you are there to do. Think of it as the minimum core of what you must do, and then start looking at what else you can do on top of it.

Never even think, let alone say, That’s not in my job description. No one likes a jobsworth.


Most organisations of any size should have some form of induction process as a way of bringing new staff on board. The degree of formality will vary enormously and can range from a simple tour and introductory checklists, through to formal training and issuing of copies of mission statements and charters of How we work with each other.

At the very least you should expect briefings on some basics such as Health and Safety policies and procedures and usually IT and security; as well as a process for issuing you with things like a security pass, any IT or PPE (personal protection equipment) you need and so on.

Some organisations have either formal or informal guides where someone is your key point of contact for an initial period with responsibility for showing you round and how things work.

Occupational health

In some workplaces, particularly those where there are any identified health risks you may need to have health tests. One of my businesses operates metal presses so ear defenders are compulsory on the shop floor and all staff have to have their hearing tested when they join and then again on a regular cycle.

Skills training

There may be specific skills you need in order to be able to work (when I joined an accountancy firm after university the first two weeks were straight onto a residential course on double entry bookkeeping before I even saw the office), or there may be work specific processes and procedures that you need to learn (Here’s our Standard Operating Procedure for quality checking our widgets).

In either case, you will need to establish what training you are expected to have and how this is being organised.

Any choices you need to make

Your organisation may offer employees a range of benefits as part of their remuneration packages. The range of benefits on offer usually increases as you get more senior, but you may still need to make choices about whether to join a pension scheme, for example, so you need to be clear about this as such benefits will normally be trade-offs against salary.

Organisation chart

It’s very useful to get a copy of an organisation chart (or organigram) if you can. This is a diagram showing how the organisation is structured and who reports to whom. It will help you see how the part you are working in fits into the whole.

Expenses policy and process

If you are going into a job which involves travel (such as sales) inevitably you are going to incur expenses for which you will want to be reimbursed. Organisations’ policies will vary, and this is an area which can be very strictly policed, so make sure you understand what is and is not claimable, keep receipts to back up any claims, and know how to fill in and get your claims properly authorised.

Employers have to rely heavily on the honesty and discretion of their employees in respect of expenses, since by definition this type of expenditure often cannot be pre-approved. Employers are therefore very sensitive to any suspicions that their expenses system is being abused. So, filing any claim for dodgy or padded expenses is a very quick way to severely damage your reputation for honesty and get yourself into real trouble. Just don’t do it.

IT equipment, access, training and support

If you are taking a job which involves use of IT equipment then make sure you know who’s responsible for sourcing this and setting you up, that you have all the passwords you need, training is arranged in any new or specialist software you are going to need to use, and crucially, who do you call for support when it stops working. Write that number down now somewhere you can find it easily.

IT policies

On a related note ensure you are familiar with your organisation’s policies on use of IT at work, both the organisation’s and your personal devices. This isn’t just about whether you can use your computer to surf the web at lunchtime but it will be about IT security. Being responsible for introducing a virus into your organisation’s IT system because you’ve not complied with rules governing security, and plugged in that old memory stick of yours, or clicked on a dodgy website, could be a severely limiting career move.

These threats are real. Whilst finishing this book one of my businesses suffered a ransomware attack, which encrypted all our files, meaning we lost a whole week’s transactions and had to do a full restore from our back-up.

Time recording

Many organisations will want you to record your time as this forms part of their process of assessing costs on projects or billing services to clients. So, if you don’t want accounts breathing down your, and worse at this stage, your boss’s neck, about missing timesheets, ensure you understand what you need to do when about recording and reporting your time.

Read Part 5 Here

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