It's something most of us have faced or will face. A new job in a new town. Usually, there are jitters. There may be self-doubt. There may be thoughts of "Have I done the right thing?"
First step, relax. You'll very likely make it through your first week and beyond.
Here's a 10-step introductory plan to help get you started on a positive note:
1. Take a history lesson: spend some time in the vault where your company's newspapers are stored. Flip through archived copies. Go back 100 years, if they exist. Go back 50 years. Go back 10 years. Even if you have only 15 minutes, get to know 'your' product. Get to know what the reporting was like years ago, and what it's like today. Get to know what kinds of stories were covered back then, and what's covered today. You'll gain an appreciation for the publication you write for, or at least its history.
2. Go for a drive: Just hop in your car and drive. The first week in your new town can seem like solitary confinement if you spend all your time either at the office or at your apartment. Get out there and explore. Travel back roads. Besides, it's great to come back to the office and talk about where you've been and what you've seen in your new town. It feels even better when a co-worker (usually a veteran) remarks, "Hmmm, I've never seen that before. Where is that?"
3. Beware the grumblers: You may encounter someone during your first week or two who has nothing positive to say about anything, including the newspaper, the community, the assignments, the bosses, or getting a turkey at Christmas. Remember, such people exist at most workplaces, even good workplaces. Don't get caught in a grumbler's web of negativity. Take your time to get to know people. Eventually, you'll be able to decide for yourself whether your workplace is good or not.
4. Tell people you're new in town: During friendly chit chat with a cashier at a store checkout, casually add to the conversation by saying you're new in town. We're not suggesting this as some groovy new pickup line. We're suggested it as a "Hi, I'm new town, what can you tell me that I should know about Johnsonville?" You'll likely get some frank, street-level tips.
5. Next stop, tourism office: Visit your town's tourism office and pick up as many tourist-related brochures as you can find. Even if one doesn't interest you, pick it up. Congratulations! You now have enough bedtime reading material to last for week No. 1.
6. Don't think of your new town as a whistlestop in your career: Sure, it may indeed be a short-term employment gig, at least until you can find something bigger or better paying. But a perilous move is adopting the mentality that your portfolio comes before your new town, your newspaper's interests, or your newspaper's readers. That hit-and-run approach often offends longtime staffers who have spent considerable time helping to develop ties in the community by being reader-responsive. Always remember, the relationships you form today could influence where you go tomorrow. Our business is small, word travels fast in newspaper circles.
7. You're here to learn: Remember, you don't know everything. Be open to new approaches. Be open to suggestions. Be open to critiques. Don't beat yourself up because you get constructive feedback. Remember, remember, remember: You're 'learning by doing' for the benefit of readers . . . and to get better yourself. And your fellow journalists sitting around you are probably more than willing to share their personal stories about how they got the story.
8. Accept every job with enthusiasm (yes, every job): Your reaction is being closely watched, especially during Week No. 1. Create the right impression.
9. Feedback: If editors aren't giving you feedback, ask an editor, "What did you think of my story?" Or, "When you get some time today, can you look over my story in today's edition and give me some suggestions for how I might have handled it differently?" These kinds of questions show that you want guidance and want to improve. And they show a non-attentive editor that, yes, you do exist and you're new and you'd like feedback.
10. Pitch story ideas: Even when you're new in town it's OK to suggest story ideas. Sure, you may get a response like, "Great idea, but we did that recently." Regardless, it's never a bad to show you've got initiative. It's better to show some initiative in your first week than be a 100% assignment receiver. Plus, it feels good to know you're making a contribution, idea-wise, even if you are the new person in town.