Starting a New Job

Getting Used to Your New Role

Where do you begin?

© iStockphoto/Yuri_Arcurs

Every time you get a new job, you go through it…

The elation and excitement come first. It's the "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I got it!" feeling. You go out and celebrate with family and friends, and you're excited about all the new possibilities before you.

After that, however, the panic begins. This is the "Oh my gosh, what if I can't do the job?" feeling. You start to get nervous about your new responsibilities, the new corporate culture, and the new people with whom you'll be working.

While starting a new job can be a stressful experience, this important transition doesn't have to be full of tension and anxiety. With the right strategies and with a positive outlook, stepping into your new role can be exciting and enjoyable.

In this article, we'll cover strategies for making your transition easier, and we'll offer some tips for building solid relationships with your new colleagues.

Give Yourself 90 Days

Many people become stressed over a new job because they put far too much pressure on themselves to perform from day one. No one – least of all, your new boss – expects you to jump in and start solving major problems right away.

So, don't expect it of yourself either. Jumping in with both feet to start "proving your worth" could cause you to make mistakes that you could easily avoid once you know more about the company and your new role.

People generally find that it takes around 90 days to become fully effective in a new role.

Focus on a Few Quick Wins

During this time, try to focus on small, early wins. It's important to secure early wins because these help build momentum and establish your credibility. But make sure you know how your new company defines a win.

For instance, in one culture, a "win" may be as simple as getting your team to talk about underlying issues, whilst in another culture, a "win" may be an accomplishment with verifiable results. It's also important to choose a win that will be important to your boss.

Try to make your early wins work "double time." For example, if one of your long-term goals is to change the behavior of your team, then search for an early win that will also help lay the foundation for this behavioral change. And remember that how you accomplish your early win could also lay the foundation for future goals as well.

But don't try to do too much too soon. It's tempting to want to deal with 10 different issues when you get started, but this will only ensure that you do none of them well. Focus on one or two early changes that you think are most urgent, and work on them consistently.

If you're unsure of what to start working on, our article Pareto Analysis   will help you choose.

Build the New Skills You Need

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you start a new job, and you might worry that you won't be able to perform in the way that you're expected to.

But remember this: The people who hired you knew what they were doing. And they probably didn't want to hire someone who was already able to do every part of the job to the highest standard. Why? Because such a person would probably not stay long; he or she would likely look for new challenges from day one.

To help you start building competence in your new role, create a learning plan that addresses any skill gaps that may exist. As a first step, complete a personal SWOT Analysis  , and use it to address your strengths and weaknesses with respect to your new job.

As your next step, list the skills you'll need for this position, and identify any that you need to develop or improve. Then plan how you'll eliminate weaknesses and learn the new skills that you need.

Learning each new skill should be a goal during your first few months. (If you'd like more information on setting great goals, our article Personal Goal Setting   can help.)

Navigate the New Culture

Every team or business unit has a different culture. Even in the same company, the chances are that the culture of any new team that you're joining will be different from the one you just left. In addition to learning how to operate successfully in this new culture, you'll probably also have to deal with office politics  . This is an issue in many organizations, and you, as the new team member, can easily make mistakes if you're not careful.

One of the biggest mistakes a new hire can make is to come into a new organization full of unrealistic goals, and with a huge list of changes. Yes, you were probably hired to replace someone else and make a positive change. And it's natural to want to impress your boss and co-workers by showing them your vision of how things should be.

But trying to change things too early can threaten and alienate the very people you're trying to make your allies. Remember, you're a stranger to them, so don't try to deal with big issues right from the start. Spend time getting to know your company's new culture, as well as the subcultures that are likely to exist in each team or environment.

Learn Who's Who

When you start in a new department or organization, learning who everybody is – and what they do – can be critical to your success on the job. This is true for the team with which you'll be working directly, and also for other key players who might hold more power than their positions seem to indicate.

Start with your own team. Determine who does what, and make sure you're clear on exactly what they do.

After you've settled into your new role a bit, you can start learning who does what well. This information will help you in the future when you're assigning tasks and projects.

However, just writing down a list for everyone on your team could lead to information overload. Instead, create a master list of skill sets like problem solving, creative thinking, decision making, and interpersonal skills. Then rate each person in each category as you learn more about them. This will enable you to get a clearer picture of your team's strengths and weaknesses.

During your first few weeks, it's also important to start identifying your potential allies. Good allies can make a dramatic difference in your career, and our article Finding Your Allies   can help you find the right ones.

Tips for Starting Your New Job

  • Make sure you understand from your first day why you were hired and what your goals are for the first 6–12 months. This can help with your direction in the weeks to come.
  • It's not weak to ask for help. If you don't know how or where to find the information you need, you'll waste your time if you search for it yourself. Ask your boss or colleagues for help when you need it.
  • Many people feel overwhelmed when they start with a new company. Everything is dramatically different, which can leave you feeling stressed and chaotic. Try to identify stability zones   to help you find peace and stability in your new environment.
  • Avoid making comparisons between your new company and your old company. Your new team doesn't want to hear "At my old job, we used to…" Focus on what you need to do now, not what or how you did something in the past.
  • If someone on your new team does not respond well to you, don't take it personally – at least in the beginning. Remember, you might be in a role that someone else used to have, and that person might have been a friend of this team member. It will take time to establish trust. If someone on your team is being especially rude or difficult, our article Dealing with Difficult People   can teach you how to resolve things diplomatically.
  • Our Congratulations on Your New Role, Now What? workbook will help you plan in detail what you're going to do in the three months of a new job.

Key Points

Starting a new role can cause a lot of stress. And you'll make it harder on yourself if you try to do too much too soon. Spend plenty of time getting to know your new culture. Your boss doesn't expect you to create full value for the company during your first few months, so take it slowly. And try to focus on a few small victories that will help you establish credibility.

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Comments (3)
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Hi rtab,
    I think the focus is very similar. When you start a new role with a new company a sense of what is needed to make an impact, a good knowledge base tossed with a dash of humility is a great recipe. Know the company you are going to work for - do lots of research and understand the pressures they are facing. Who are their competitors? What pressures are they facing? Porter's Five Forces and SWOT Analysis are great places to start. Figure out who's who in the organization. Powerful and influential people are not always right at the top. Map out stakeholders quickly. Do lots more listening than talking when you first start. And always remember your audience. Don't try to impress with superficial things like your degrees, your vocabulary, the high profile clients you've worked with, the people you know... impress them with your knowledge of their business and the problem they need you to help them solve.

  • rtab wrote Over a month ago

    How would the approach differ if you are contracting? I jumping into the brave new world of IT contracting and trying to prepare for it.

  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    The first few weeks and months on a job can really set the stage for your long term success and satisfaction with your work. If you get a good start that positive momentum can carry you through some of the tougher times. And when you make a good first impression you have a chance to build your confidence and realize how much of an impact you can make. Use the strategies discussed to get yourself moving in the right direction from day one forward.


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