When you’re first starting a new job, just getting into the swing of things can often feel like a huge accomplishment. In truth, though, your goal should always be to figure out how to succeed as quickly as possible.
Although every workplace has its own culture and its own markers for success, there are a few universal steps that can be taken to get ahead, regardless if it’s your first job, a new position, or you are making a career change and starting a whole new career path.
8 Tips to Succeed When Starting a New Job
1. Define What Success Means
Perhaps the most important step that you’ll take on your way to the top is defining exactly what it means to be successful.
At a bare minimum, you need to define what success means to you. You need to know what milestones you want to hit and when, as well as what it looks like when you’ve reached all of your major career goals.
It’s also a good idea to get an external idea of what success looks like for the job. What does your new workplace consider successful?
Is success based on longevity, promotions, or simply on raw numbers? Is it the amount of time that you put in? The number of sales you make? Your customer service rating?
You need to understand how those who are in charge think so that you can find a way to make your own long-term employment goals align with the qualities that your new company considers the most important. You should have some idea of what these qualities are from your job description, the research you did during your initial job search, and the sorts of interview questions you were asked during the hiring process.
The meeting place of these two sets of expectations is where your greatest levels of success can be gained.
2. Make a Good First Impression
One thing that you can never take back is the first impression that you make. No matter how hard you work to distinguish yourself, the way that you introduce yourself and interact with others during your first few months of work will continue to define you. It is vital that you get started on the right foot and ensure that you make a great first impression.
The best way to set yourself up for success is to hit the ground running right away on day one.
Show up a little bit early on your first day, with your paperwork and payroll forms filled out, wearing the appropriate professional attire, and be ready to work. Try not to let your new job jitters get the best of you.
Pay attention during your new employee orientation and ask questions.
Ensure that your new employer and coworkers know that you’re there to do your job, but not in a way that makes you a threat to their own success. You’re there to be an important team player and make the lives of all involved a little bit better.
3. Get to Know Your Co-Workers
There’s no rule that says that you have to be friends with your co-workers. In fact, it’s often a good idea to keep your professional and personal relationships separate – both for your career and for your own mental health.
With that said, you can’t be the kind of person who ignores everyone else in the office, either. You need to be friendly to get to know and connect with your coworkers so that it’s easier to do the job successfully.
When meeting new people at work, start by introducing yourself to your coworkers and tell them a little bit about yourself. A less-formal variation of your elevator pitch is a good example of what to say. Asking questions about your coworker’s experience and qualifications will also help you make a good impression.
Don’t be afraid to eat lunch with the people you work with, go to office functions, or make small talk, especially during your first week. While you won’t necessarily invite all of these people to your next birthday party, you should at least be the kind of person who is asked to sign office birthday cards and participate in important events. Making an effort can really go a long way.
The faster you can go from just being a new hire to being someone on the team, the better.
4. Talk to Your Boss
There’s also something to be said for being on good terms with your boss.
Again, this isn’t a situation where you’re trying to be best friends with your immediate supervisor. Not only is this unnecessary, but it can cause a significant amount of resentment from your coworkers.
Instead, this is a step that’s necessary for new hires who understand that their supervisors are the ones who will eventually recommend them for promotions or new opportunities. To get to that point, though, your boss needs to know who you are and what you bring to the team.
This is easily done in a new work environment where your boss has an open-door policy and is accessible. If your boss wants you to come by if you have any questions or concerns, make sure that you do so. Don’t consistently walk in with problems, though – the last thing you want is to be known as a bearer of bad news or a chronic complainer.
If your boss isn’t as accessible or doesn’t work at the same location as you do, for example, you will need to make the extra effort to impress them and stay on their radar. Ask your new boss how they would like you to communicate with them and keep them in the loop. Do they want you to send them a daily or weekly report? Do they want to be cc’d on every important email? Will there be regularly scheduled meetings to check-in?
No matter the situation, you need to take the time to make sure that your boss remembers who you are and what you do for the business if you want to succeed.
5. Take Advantage of Training
If the company offers any kind of training program, make sure that your name is on the sign-up sheet as soon as it goes out.
Businesses don’t only use training opportunities to help you gain new skills. They also use these trainings to figure out who actually cares enough to get better at their jobs – especially new employees.
If you can get more training in the areas of your job that can put you on the path to promotions, your bosses will be more apt to remember you when it comes time to make those recommendations.
Don’t be afraid to cross-train, either. If there are skills related to the business that you don’t possess, try to learn at least a little bit about them. Not only does this give you more room to move around in your company, but it marks you as the kind of person who cares about how the business works.
6. Participate in Meetings
Attending meetings isn’t always the most pleasant part of your job, but you can use these gatherings as a way to get ahead.
The goal is to learn how not to be passive in meetings and to leverage your position in a way that gets you face-time with those who make the real decisions in your department and, ultimately, in your company.
The tricky part of this is learning how to chime in at the right times. You want to be the person who can quickly and concisely bring up important or relevant points, but not the person who talks just to hear the sound of your own voice. You should never make others cringe when you raise your hand to speak. But you should also never sit completely silently during a meeting if you have the chance to make a comment that will allow you to show off your expertise or contribution in an appropriate way.
7. Be a Problem Solver
Proactive problem solvers are valuable in every business. These are not just the people who can be trusted to deal with issues, but the kind of people who tend to get promoted due to their actions.
Again, this step involves finding the right balance because you need to learn quite a bit about how your company reacts to undertaking tasks on your own initiative.
If the goal is related to your job, has no (or minimal) associated costs, and can be done by you, you should be able to accomplish the goal or solve the problem on your own.
If making a change requires authorization or management’s help, on the other hand, your role should be to present a clear solution to the problem, and your team’s leaders can make decisions about implementing the next steps.
Regardless of which role you find yourself in, you’ll gain a reputation for being a problem solver.
8. Ask For and Give Feedback
Finally, take advantage of any situation in which feedback can be offered.
When you have a performance review, be prepared by bringing a pen and paper to write down anything that your supervisor says, and by thinking of good questions to ask that shows your interest for this position. Your goal is to show that you really do care about how you can improve and that you’re dedicated to bringing more to the company.
At the same time, you need to learn how to give both positive and negative feedback professionally.
Positive feedback is easy, but negative feedback needs to be carefully navigated. If you can speak honestly about your company’s problems in a way that doesn’t place personal blame on anyone and can offer real suggestions for change, you might gain a reputation as a troubleshooter, which will help you succeed.
What to Avoid Doing When Starting a New Job
While there are steps that you can and should take to succeed when starting a new role, there are also a few things that you should absolutely avoid doing in any circumstances.
If your goal is to succeed and stand-out as a new employee, avoid doing the following:
- Showing up late or clocking out early – Plan to arrive a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late. You don’t want to be the last person to arrive in the morning or the first person to leave every day.
- Refusing to engage with other coworkers – Get to know a little about everyone you work with, even those in different departments.
- Criticizing the business without offering solutions – It’s okay to look at the business with a critical eye, but make sure you offer constructive criticism and aren’t just complaining.
- Insisting on following your own procedures instead of those of the office – You might develop your own procedures as you learn more about the job, but as a new employee, you should stick to the systems they have in place. Ask for feedback on any of the changes you would make, as there may be a necessary reason behind them.
- Failing to adhere to the company culture – Try to fit in with your new team as well as within your specific role.
- Saying “yes” to every project or assignment – Being eager and showing enthusiasm is great, but don’t take on too much, too soon. Focus on your main tasks and slowly start to take on more as you become more comfortable and confident.
- Avoiding work responsibilities or making more work for your colleagues – On the other hand, if you want to succeed, you can’t keep saying “no” to new responsibilities or relying on the other staff members that are training you either.
Starting a new job can be exciting, scary, and stressful. Use these tips to start your new job off in the right way and ensure it will be a success.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.