Office Optics: Make a Great First Impression at a New Job

A theme of my week seems to be office optics. You know, how things look, how you are perceived by others.

Has anyone ever stopped by your desk to say: “Where is [your neighbor]?” and you don’t know, haven’t seen them in an hour or so, and there’s nothing on their calendar? Bad optics. What about the working parent who CC’s the whole team – and not just the boss – to say “My daycare just called, baby has a fever, I have to go get them. I’ll be taking the rest of the day off”? Good optics! Be transparent. It goes a long way.

Whether you like it or not, appearances do matter. People do judge books by covers. And you know how you only get one chance to make a good first impression? This is particularly important at any new job. So when you’re transitioning from academia, especially a faculty or grad student role, into a staff role, here’s a handy table of mindsets that must change to help you have better optics.

Time ManagementWhat time management? I start at 11 am and stay up til 3 am to write and grade papers.Be on time, consistently, every day.
Get your work done, at work, during work hours.
ResearchEndless! Your goal is to become an expert.Your goal is to gather the info you need to do a task. Set boundaries. Stop when you’ve got enough info to tackle the task in front of you.

Save a deeper dive for work “down” time or your free time.
CommunicationEmail to individuals

Long chats in shared TA / RA office space & labs.
Email among the team. Don’t leave people out.

Face to face is important.

Not everyone in the office wants to shoot the breeze.
FunctionTo be a listener, to absorb, to learn.To be a team member. A contributor. To take ownership of & be accountable for action items.
HoursSet your own. Be at your desk.
Be on time for meetings.
Show on your calendar where you are going to be and when.
ProductivityMeasured by you submitting your papers on time. So the bulk of your time is yours to use – for gaming, surfing the web, whatever you wish.People notice when you’re shopping, or scrolling away on social media.

Have tasks at the ready for “down” time – benchmarking, research, learning a new skill.
PreparationYou can get away with winging it – you’re a pro at skimming & acting like you did the readings. You can lecture off the cuff.Do your homework before a project kicks off. Who is involved? What do you anticipate the work will entail? Come prepared to chime in.

There’s some additional great tips here in “5 Tips to Help you Get Noticed at Work” by Ryan Wiggins.

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