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Before you take that first job… ask these questions!

You’re ready for your first stint as a young professional and are raring to go. But wait! Before you say “I do” and negotiate start dates, you have a few more questions to ask: How will your new employer onboard you?

On boarding provides a metaphorical welcome mat from the hiring organization, to you. A good on boarding program tells you the employer is invested in bringing you on board, and keeping you around. They know it helps engage and retain top talent. Good for you, good for them.

Before you leap, ask a few questions about what your welcome mat will be looking like.

1. What’s the on boarding process for university hires in this organization?

University hires are unique as they typically have little on-the-job familiarity. Even if you’ve had an internship with this company, you should expect a thorough onboard experience. This usually involves face-to-face training, as well as the introduction of resources and support for you. If there is no on boarding process, you may want to inquire as to the reason, and determine if this is the right employer for you.

2. What topics will be covered in the on board program?

Look for information about the organization: an overview of culture, values, mission, market leadership, organizational structure – and where you fit in to the overall picture. A good program will cover what performance is valued, and how it’s measured.

You’ll also want to know about what policies and procedures to comply with. Ideally there will be introductory courses about specific skills that fit the role (e.g. written communication, presenting data) and specific technology or tools you’ll be using in your job.

3. What introduction will I have to the leadership of the organization?

This should include access to and dialogue with senior managers, up to and including CEO, depending on the complexity of the employer. At the very least you should connect with a senior manager who’s accountable for your function and who can provide line of sight from your role to the mission of the larger organization.

4. What will I learn about the more detailed aspects of this position?

Conversations with managers or employees who previously held your position are helpful here. A mentor who knows a lot about your job can also provide insight. Ask if you’ll be able to shadow someone already in that role, and get an introduction to the others you’ll be working with so you can begin building your startup plan.

5. What is the mentoring program like and how will I connect with my mentor?

Research shows a formal mentoring program is one of the most powerful predictors in determining young adult success. The best mentoring programs foster a high degree of compatibility between your mentor and you. Ideally you select each other.

If there is no formal mentoring program, you need to manage this on your own. Ask what it will take to get a list of potential mentors if no formal structure is offered.

6. How do I connect with other young professionals?

Look for communities – live or virtual – that connect young professionals to share ideas, best practices and experiences. Many companies have young employee networks that combine social and professional development activities for recent grads.

7. What are the expectations for my job in the 30, 60, and 90 days?

The early months on a job are critical to getting you off to a strong start. Your manager should be deeply engaged with you, identify key priorities, clarify performance expectations, and provide a clear communication path.  She should also share how your performance will be measured, and when.

Get a plan for what’s expected in the first three months and expect to schedule frequent, interactive sessions with your manager to build your confidence and get you some quick wins on the job.

8. What longer-term support will I have as I become acclimated to the job?

A good on boarding program will come back and check in with you after the initial event. Look for follow-up contact and additional learning opportunities. At the very least look for a compendium of resources you can call upon as a new employee.

Starting your first job can feel like drinking from a fire hose. A good on boarding program will go a long way in helping you manage the velocity of entry. It’s an essential for a strong start!

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