Congratulations on your new job!
After all the hard work resume formatting, interviewing and salary negotiating, it might be tempting to relax and go with the flow for a while. However, that is one of the worst things you could do for your career! As a career coach and a hiring manager, I can attest that 30 days on the job are an extension of the interview process. Now, when starting a new job, it is the best time to establish your professional brand, deliver on the key points that you have promised to the company and chart your career course.
If that sounds overwhelming, don’t get discouraged! By defining your approach and goals for the first week, month and 90 days when starting a new job, you can become productive quickly, learn the ropes, and be recognized as a valuable contributor. In my experience, here are some things that successful people do to start their new professional endeavors right.
During your first week on the job:
1. Get clarity on your team’s priorities.
Your first week starting a new job could be a whirlwind of getting system access rights, learning the layout of the office and jumping into the to-do list left by your predecessor. Sometimes, the opposite happens, and you find yourself sitting around reading system manuals while the team scrambles to find something to occupy your time. No matter which way it goes, ask for some time with your manager to have a big-picture conversation about priorities. What is the team working on right now? What are the biggest obstacles? What can you do to be helpful today?
2. Map out a customized organizational chart.
You may be presented with a beautiful organizational chart on your first day, or you might discover that the team does not have one. Either way, dedicate some time to mapping out the interpersonal reporting and support relationships as they are relevant to your team. No department operates in a vacuum, and by understanding the interdependencies between functional teams you will get a good sense for which people are important to meet, how information and decisions flow, and how your work affects the organization.
3. Spend one long day at the office to get a sense for the flow.
Are you a night owl, showing up at the office at 10 AM and working productively until the late hours? Or do you prefer to get in at 7 AM and leave earlier? In the long run, it is wise to structure your working days in a way that respects your natural productivity patterns. However, the first week in the office is not the best time to do that. Instead, set aside one or more days to be the first person in the office and the last person out. Simply being present for a full work day will give you insight into when people are available, when requests come in, and how the workload ebbs and flows. If your position requires coordination and collaboration, understanding the optimal time to catch key individuals can make a difference in your productivity and effectiveness.
4. Meet people.
In all honesty, you should never stop doing this in your position, but your first week is key! Introduce yourself, get other people’s business cards, and add them to your organizational chart as you learn their professional roles and responsibilities. You don’t have to limit your conversation to work! Feel free to ask about their families, hobbies and interests.
5. Have a status update conversation with your manager.
At the end of the first week, sit down with your manager to talk about the status of the projects assigned to you, and ask any lingering questions you may have. This is a great opportunity to get some early feedback on what you are doing right, what needs to be done better and how you can spend your time next week for the greatest benefit of the team.
During your first 30 days on the job:
1. Meet people.
It seems obvious, but it's important! Continue to reach out and meet your co-workers and other professionals everywhere you go. Offer to sit in on meetings, even if you are not in a position to contribute yet. My advice is to keep good notes on everyone you meet, because dozens of new names and faces do begin to blur.
2. Ask questions, listen and observe.
Your first month starting a new job is a fantastic opportunity to be a sponge. You are new to this position, so your co-workers and your manager expect to have to explain procedures, walk you through the way things are done and teach you a shortcut or two. If you notice things that don’t make sense, resist the urge to criticize and offer improvements. Instead, ask why things are done this way, and do your best to understand the reasoning and the logic behind the procedures. There will be a time to offer suggestions, but they will be better received once you are established and have the benefit of a deeper understanding.
3. Create a running status document by project.
It will make you look like a super-organized rock star, simplify quick status updates to your boss and help you make progress across your multiple priorities. Your company may be using a project management software–if so, learn it and use it. Otherwise, simple tools like a project deliverables tracker in Excel will do the job.
4. Take note of things that are frustrating for the team.
As you keep your eyes and ears open, take note of things that are challenging for the team. Perhaps it’s a step in a workflow, a particular procedure, or a difficult person. Take time to understand why they are that way before you suggest any changes.
5. Drink water, eat natural minimally processed foods and take time to recharge.
This advice may not seem immediately relevant to your work performance, but the reality is that every professional is a corporate athlete. Willpower, endurance and ability to learn are all impacted by your hydration, nutrition and rest. You would not expect an Olympic swimmer to subsist on a candy assortment from the vending machine! Treat your body as a performance engine, feed it well, and give it time to relax and recharge.
During your first 90 days:
1. Connect with a mentor.
After you have been with the company for a few weeks, you probably have a good sense for who has the knowledge and the temperament to help you succeed. Some companies set up formal mentorship relationships for new hires while others leave it up to each professional. I strongly recommend that you take a proactive role in finding the right people to advise and support you as you begin to take a more prominent role in the company. Keep in mind that while your boss may be an obvious choice for this role, professionals outside an immediate reporting relationship can have their own unique viewpoints to contribute.
2. Clarify expectations.
Continue to work with your manager to refine and clarify expectations. Sure, you may have had the conversation on your first day, but a month or two into your job you may begin to notice that your stated goals and targets do not align with your daily tasks, or that urgent fire drills are taking time away from steady progress to important goals. By staying in the conversation, you can eliminate evaluation-time surprises, make better decisions and align yourself with larger company goals.
3. Continue to absorb unspoken rules of the company.
Every company has its own unspoken rules. From labeling the food that goes into the communal fridge, to washing dishes and ordering supplies, watch and learn from your co-workers and ask questions.
4. Treat every task as a continuation of the interview process.
Remember that the first few months on the job are essentially an extended interview. Treat every task as such, even if it’s minor or tedious. Keep your mental focus on the right things, manage your emotional reactions and don’t let your professionalism slip. You are setting up your professional reputation.
5. Re-connect with your old network.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but do find the time to have coffee or drinks with your old co-workers. Keeping your professional network active isn’t just a task for those of us in active job search mode! Find the time to send an email to your old mentor, or to chat with a friend from the old office.
In summary, remember that the energy and effort you invest in putting your best foot forward will pay significant dividends as your position within the new company becomes more established. You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression, so when starting a new job, work hard, say thank you and build your professional network for getting things done. Your future self will thank you for a good reputation, a great first performance review and the promotion opportunities that will result.
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