Tens of millions of people have left jobs to start new career opportunities over the last couple of years as part of the phenomenon labeled "the Great Resignation".
This trend has led to many bigger conversations such as when it actually started,how employers intend to slow people leaving their organizations, what impacts this may have on the overall economy, and what this could mean for the future of the modern workforce. While all of these topics are likely to be debated for many years to come, one simple fact of this trend is that lots of people are starting new jobs!
If you are reading this, you have likely started a new job in the last two years or you are close to someone who has. My goal is to share some insights that can help jump-start success in a new role for you or the friend you share these ideas with.
I have been a career coach for around five years and have worked in corporate learning and development for close to a decade. In my time supporting employees in their professional development, I have observed some fundamental actions that nearly all of them do when starting a new job that ensure they make a strong, positive impression right away.
Upon review of the list, you may think these should be fairly common sense and you probably wouldn't be too far off base with that assessment. However, I'm often reminded that champions at any craft have a mastery of the fundamentals. Don’t allow these concepts to be mere proverbs or platitudes; use them as a compass to point you to the "true north" you are seeking, which is being your best and doing your best at your new job, and take action on them.
I do want to acknowledge that there are a multitude of factors that fit into the equation of how successfully you adapt to a new job: how familiar you are with the type of work you'll be doing, how different the company culture is at your new workplace, how capable your new leadership is, what kind of onboarding plan your new company has laid out for you, how much the reality of the job lines up with what you assumed it would be during the interview process, and many more.
Each of these aspects add complexity to the task of achieving success at a new job. Be patient with the process when you can and understand in which areas you might have to challenge yourself to press harder.
With that said, here is my list of 8 pro-tips for successfully starting a new job:
1. Ask lots of questions
If you have a question about something, speak up and ask. There’s a good chance somebody else has the same question and they might be too afraid to ask. You’ll help yourself and you just might end up being their hero too.
I frequently say that "in the absence of clarity, people create their own." This means that if you don't know the answer and you don't get someone to provide an answer (clarity) for you, you are likely to do whatever it is that makes the most sense to you at the time (creating your own clarity). While this ability can be useful, it can often lead to mistakes early on in a new workplace or in a new career. If you aren't sure how to do something, or how that something gets done at your new job, be sure to ask!
2. Use your tools
During the course of your onboarding, especially in the first 30-90 days, make sure you learn where you should go to access key information on your own. A company intranet or centralized knowledge management system will often be a great go-to place for learning processes and procedures.
Similarly, you should take the time to read the employee handbook. I know employee handbooks are not written with the riveting narrative skills of a C.S. Lewis, James Patterson, or Nicholas Sparks (choose your flavor!), but they tend to contain some of the most critical information you need to understand. Take the time to read through it and ask questions where you might need to.
3. Learn your key metrics
As you get started into your role, your trainer and/or manager should explain what the main stats are that you’ll be measured on to determine how you’re performing. Ask them what the best performers do in each category and what they would look for to see you as successful. Remember that if you don't know what success should look like, it will be very difficult for you to be truly successful.
Additionally, if you are taking a role similar to one you did at a different employer, don't assume the metrics your last manager cared about are the same ones your new manager does! Understand the unique needs of the team in their unique context and adapt as needed. Try not to argue or disparage if the new key metrics are different than what you expected or are used to.
In the PBS cartoon The Magic School Bus there is a character named Phoebe who, at least once per episode, would loudly state her dissatisfaction with something her new teacher, Ms. Frizzle, was doing by making a statement that would begin with "at my old school . . . ." When it comes to learning your key metrics, don't be like Phoebe and gripe to your new manager about how things were done "at your old job." Remember, you are at the new job for a reason and you should embrace it so you can be as successful as possible.
4. Be dependable
Show up to work on time each day and pay close attention to the organizational culture around time management. It's always better to show up a little early than to be a little bit late. Strong schedule adherence and dependability are a great way to shine as an excellent employee. Similarly, keep an eye on break times and lunches and don't make a habit of leaving early. If your boss offers flexibility around when and how you work, which is becoming much more common in our current working environment, ask them how and when they like team members to check in with them for accountability purposes. Remember that trust is earned and sustained through consistent actions, so do your best to show your reliability to your new manager early and often.
5. Make connections
Whether your new job is a remote work position, as many are these days, or if you are working in a physical space with other co-workers, you should take the time to get to know people. Most companies today understand the importance of employee engagement and should have a variety of in-person and virtual opportunities for you to get to know other people. Take advantage of these opportunities to build a network of friends and acquaintances as soon as you can.
I realize this advice might seem overwhelming for some, especially if you are starting at a large organization or if you have natural tendencies toward introversion. If that is the case, try to make just one or two new connections per week outside of your regular team to continue expanding the relationships you have at work.
I'd like to add one other element to this point that I’ve found to be extremely valuable. Try what I call "connecting with people for no good reason." It's natural in the workplace to build our network out of necessity when we have to reach out to others to help us accomplish work goals. Those interactions will happen because they have to and often are more about us making a relational "withdrawal" from the other person.
When we connect with them "for no good reason," it means we aren't reaching out because we need something from them, but just to see how they are doing or even to offer them our assistance. In this way, we are able to make more of a deposit and build up that relationship. If you aren't in the habit of this, try it a few times and you're likely to see people respond differently when you reach out to them the next time.
6. Learn about the organization’s structure
As you get to know people in other departments, learn about what they do and how it may align with your interests and future ambitions. Ask for a copy of the org chart and get familiar with who the key individuals are that you'll interact with on a regular basis, and even those who may not cross your path that often. This is a small but useful step that can help you feel a little less lost in the early days of getting used to the new work environment.
Beyond getting familiar with the version of the org chart that lives on paper, use the network of new connections you establish (from tip 5) to help you get clarity on who key decision-makers are for tasks you'll be working on most frequently. I often use the phrase that "work gets done through people" so be sure to learn who the right people are to help your work keep moving ahead smoothly.
7. Always be learning
Even after you’ve been in your role for a little while, keep learning by using available resources like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, internal corporate training materials, or even YouTube to build additional skills that will make you valuable to the organization. You could also look for articles that list skills you can easily learn from the comfort of your own home and pick one or two that interest you most. If you are in a more specialized career field, keep current on relevant certificate programs or full-scale certifications that can demonstrate your work capabilities.
If you aren't sure what skills would be most meaningful for you, refer back to pro-tip #1 (ask lots of questions!) and ask your leadership team what skills the highest performers in your area tend to have and then seek out ways to build or refine those skills.
A close friend of mine, who also happens to be a career coach, often says "you are either green and growing or ripe and rotting." I, for one, would prefer to be in that green and growing category and I encourage you to embrace that mindset as well. Never stop learning so you can always continue growing as a person and increasing in the value that you are adding to your team and your company.
8. Remember that “every day is a job interview”
Whether you’re interested in growing in your career at your new organization long-term or expanding your career path to other organizations over time, show up each day and do your absolute best with what is in front of you. Success “tomorrow” will be built off of each success from “today.” Work each day to be an even better employee than your manager thought they were getting when they interviewed you.
I've shared these in no particular order; in fact, I recommend doing all of them if you can. If it helps, write the pro-tip statements on a sticky note and put them on your new desk and check in with yourself daily to make sure you've done at least 1-2 of them by the end of that work day. Whether you just recently started at a new job, are thinking of making a change soon, or are happy at your current job and are looking for how you can continue to make the most of it, I hope this list was helpful for you.
What other pro-tips would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments.
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