4 Tips to Start Strong at Your New Job

Corporate business people having casual meeting
By Marcelle Yeager

Congratulations! You've accepted an offer, and you're starting a new job that you're excited about. You've overcome many of hurdles, but is it time to relax yet? Not quite.

It doesn't matter if this new job is a lateral or upward move in your career. Wherever you are, you want to make a good impression and start off on the right foot. There may be opportunities that arise down the road, and you want to be considered and well positioned for them.1. Learn as much as you can about your boss. If possible, use one of your first meetings with him (or schedule one if you have to) to discuss his preferences. Ask about how he likes to assign work (in person or via email, for example) and in what form he would like to review your products (soft or hard copy, for example). This will help you start to get a good handle on his communication style. Does he generally prefer email, in-person or phone communication? A lot of this will also depend on your work situation and whether you work in the same location.

As you begin to understand your boss's expectations and needs, it will be easier for you to meet and exceed his requirements. Your job is to make his job easier and to make him look good, so if you're delivering quality products on time, you'll be off to a solid start. Once you start learning about what motivates him (for example, his goals or biggest concerns from where he sits), you can focus on those areas to make sure you're prioritizing correctly and giving relevant work the attention he feels it deserves.

2. Balance relationships and results. Naturally, you want to get to know your teammates and colleagues well, since you'll be spending a lot of your time with them and working together. However, you should make sure you're not letting the excitement of a new job and socializing get in the way of your performance.

The first six months are critical to establishing yourself as a reliable team player who delivers results. Get on your teammates' good side by offering to help them with work when you have the time, thus lessening their burden. They'll probably be more willing to help you down the line and happy to get to know you better, too. Everyone likes getting an offer for help, even if it's not accepted. It's the gesture that counts.

3. Leave baggage at the door. It's hard to come into a new situation where no one knows you and hit the ground running. Don't make it any harder for yourself by carrying old baggage with you. If you're constantly referring back to your last job and "the way we did things" in conversations with new colleagues, it will get old fast.

Try to focus on the present and future by listening to the advice colleagues have to offer. You may learn a whole lot about your other colleagues, your boss and the company culture. All of this will help you make a smooth transition and set you up nicely for future career advancement.

4. Gradually make recommendations. Many times when you enter a new job, you immediately begin recognizing issues, because you come from a different background and are still an outsider. However, you will likely rub your boss and others the wrong way if you start making suggestions immediately. People get very defensive about what they know intimately, so you need to be part of the team for some time before jumping in with fresh ideas.

You can begin by making a small suggestion to your boss or during a brainstorming meeting to see how your idea is received. That will give you a good sense of whether the time is right, or if the culture dictates that you are around for longer before giving them a nudge.

Everyone wants to hit the ground running when starting a new job. That doesn't mean you have to come in with all the answers and stay until midnight each day for the first few months. You should deliberately seek out company knowledge and your boss's expectations in order to understand how things work and how you can add value.

Listen, learn and do your job well, and you'll soon feel like a member of the team.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet, which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.
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