How to Successfully Start a New Job

Getting a job is just the beginning

Successfully navigating an interview process to get a job is a challenging and arduous process, so it only makes sense to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief once you land an offer. However, the real challenge begins when you show up on the first day and you are expected to start delivering results. Afterall, we’re not rewarded for getting the job, but for what we do in the job.

A few months ago, I started a new job, and since it was the first time in a few years that I’ve actually started a new job I wanted to take a thoughtful and strategic approach. In a recent survey, 75% of hiring managers said they made a bad hire, and I was determined to not fall victim to that statistic.

Furthermore, as someone with goals and aspirations, I really was excited about succeeding and taking on a ton of responsibility for my new exciting job. But I recognized there’s a learning curve, and that Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day, so I created a plan to do my best to decrease the learning curve and accelerate my “time to market” in my ability to deliver results. I believe have been instrumental in helping me get up to speed, contribute quickly, and build credibility and my reputation within my team.

Go on a listening tour

As Alexander Hamilton said, “Talk less, smile more.” Politicians use listening tours as a means to shake hands and kiss babies, but in the context of a new job they are a great tool for meeting people and learning the ins and outs of the culture of your new organization.

Learn and Set Expectations

Understanding what’s expected of you is critical to success. Learning what the expectations are helps you prioritize your work, and helps you understand the quality and effort you need to exhibit in order to be a top performer. The earlier you do this, the better off you’ll be in ensuring you are meeting and exceeding expectations.

To do this, set aside time with your manager to ask about what the expectations are, and clearly articulate them to make sure you both are on the same page. In addition to explicitly asking about your roles, responsibilities and general expectations, consider asking questions like:

  • Who’s an example of a top performer and what does she do that stands out?
  • What are some best practices around working and collaborating with others?
  • Is it better for me to schedule a regular check in, or are you more comfortable coming on an as needed basis?

While it’s important to learn the expectations of someone in your role, it’s also important to acknowledge that you have a role in setting those expectations as well, so don’t be afraid to use your judgment in shaping those expectations based off of your own opinion and perspective.

During my first week, I made sure to talk to my manager and my team to get a better sense of what my role was going to be. I asked questions around what projects I should be working on, how to prioritize my time, and the best ways to ask for feedback.

Create Your Information Diet

As a regular consumer of content, I rely on digital and social channels for relevant information and to help with informal learning and “getting smart” on topics in a quick manner. Since I was starting a new job, I had to make sure my content sources were up to date. I went and updated my content and information intake diet to reflect the sources of information and topics that I wanted to get smart on for my new role.

That meant finding new sources and websites to read for industry information, finding new sources industry experts to follow on Twitter, and updating the terms I get reminders on via Google News. From there, I made sure to check these sources daily, and tried to read during the evenings and weekends to make sure I was informed. If you aren’t doing this, consider signing up for a Twitter account, downloading a content reader like Pocket, or setting Google alerts to key topics that are relevant to your job. If you want to go a step further, ask your colleagues what they are reading. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn.

Take on what you can take on

Research suggest it takes about 8 months to be fully productive in a new role. While you do have time to learn, a great way to get started is to start raising your hand for anything that you feel you can take on or contribute to.

For example, if your team needs someone to do a research report and that’s something you’re comfortable with, raise your hand to work on it. If you are a little uncertain, offer at least to be a reviewer, or to tag team it with someone else. Taking the initiative will allow you to contribute, get you more familiar with your job, and also win some brownie points with your co-workers and manager.

During my second week, I was in a meeting where we began talking about a project that needed some support, and it was on something that i had done in my previous job. While it wasn’t in my direct job description, I volunteered for it anyway, and made an impact right away on the project because of my previous experience. The project lead was very grateful for my support, and it also gave me confidence in my abilities to contribute.

Leverage your strengths (and weaknesses) to your advantage

Everyone has a set of strengths and weaknesses, and since you got a new job, clearly your new employer is betting on you using your strengths to make contributions. Take the time to articulate out your strengths, and to share them with your manager or your teammates, so you both can begin thinking on how you might contribute to projects or deliverables. And while everyone has strengths, all of us have weaknesses. Use this as a chance to identify training or learning opportunities, and to build up some competency in areas where you can improve upon.

Create a User Manual

Last year, I stumbled across Abby Falik’s user manual that she created for her direct reports. The purpose of it was to explain her values, preferences, quirks, and overall leadership style to others in a transparent way, so others could understand her better and ultimately work with her more effectively.

Since it can take time to adjust to a new environment and build relationships with colleagues, I decided to write my own user manual. While I’m not a CEO of an organization, since I was new, I thought it would be helpful for my teammates to know me in a more transparent way, and to start our relationship off as best as I could. In it, I shared my values, preferences, workstyles, and offered tips on how to work with me.

Additionally, I offered to help other write their own user manuals. My team embraced the idea, and while it’s early, we seem to be working together well. Additionally, they shared it broadly with the rest of the organization, and now user manuals are sprouting up on a number of different teams.

Build a question log

There is so much to learn when you start a new job that at times, everything can seem overwhelming. To combat the information overload, I created a document on my computer called a question log.

On the first day, I started a question log, and everytime I had a question that I didn’t know the answer to, I would write it down. Each week, I would meet with someone on my team, and for 10–15 minutes we would go over the questions that were in my question look. Not only was this helpful to me, as I got the answers to my questions, but on a few occasions the question helped identify an issue or an opportunity and it got raised to the broader team. Being new is tough because there’s so much you don’t know, but it’s also a great opportunity to question the status quo to uncover opportunities that others who have been there might have overlooked.

First impressions mean a lot, which is why it’s really important to start off a new job in a positive manner. While it’s unreasonable to expect to knock it out of the park right away, investing the time and being proactive about beginning your job will set yourself up for longer term success.