You spent months searching. You wrote so many cover letters that you had to create a new filing system on your desktop. And you printed so many CVs it makes you weep a little on the inside thinking of all that paper. It all paid off in the end, you landed your dream job – well done! Or like most of us, you landed the job that you desperately hope is in the direction of your dream job.
Once you’ve posted your celebratory Facebook status, gone out for that fancy dinner and updated your LinkedIn profile, for many, the next step is often a mix of nervousness, excitement and maybe even a little confusion. For the 99.9999% of us that don’t finish high school or graduate from University and immediately fall into our dream jobs, building your career is top of mind, and one of the first questions is ‘How do I make an impact in my new job?’
No matter what your new job is, whether it is a part time gig after school, a graduate program with a full-on orientation or a newly created role that no-one’s ever done before, there are loads of things you can do to kick off with a bang, start making an impact and get noticed by the right people, for the right things. Here is my guide to getting the best start in your new job.
1. Make sure you arrive on day one feeling refreshed and energised
For some, new jobs are super exciting. Everything is shiny and new, you get to meet a bunch of new people, there might even be a cake with your name on it. Everything seems super easy, because realistically, no-one’s giving you any real work yet. This might lead some to decide they can work right up until the night before the new job, or consider the first few days ‘chill out time.’ However, the first few days are when you’re making first impressions (which we all know count), all while being told a tonne of stuff all at once that you’re expected to remember. If you arrive burnt out, you won’t be on your A-game, you won’t remember key information, and worst of all, you won’t make a good first impression with people you are soon to be working very closely with.
2. Ask loads of questions
When you are new in a job, you have a grace period where everyone will go out of your way to help you, and that’s the perfect time to ask tonnes and tonnes of questions. Everything from where the stationary cupboard is, to social events to what your boss loves and hates. And of course all of the specific things you need to do in order to do your job well.
The other key side of it is more strategic. Being the new person is a golden opportunity – everyone expects you to ask lots of questions, so you can use that naivety to identify areas that aren’t so efficient and question why things are done the way they are. Take note of them so that once you’re settled in and know the ropes you can find creative ways to solve internal problems.
Perhaps you noticed it was really hard to find written handover documents from your predecessor – a perfect opportunity to propose a solution to your boss, even if it is something as simple as the new folder you created on the shared drive.
3. Listen carefully, and take all the notes
Whilst some companies have a really concrete onboarding process with events and team bonding activities right through to 1000 page manuals, others will barely have anything written down. Instead, someone will dump what should be a day’s worth of information on you in 30 minutes, and you will be expected to remember it.
You’ll always be told ‘Don’t worry, no question is a dumb question’. But in reality, there are dumb questions – they are the one’s where you’ve just been told something but you weren’t listening. The fastest way to tank any good impression you made is by seeming like you are careless, uninterested and not listening – easily achieved if someone has to keep repeating something over and over to you.
4. Notice the little things
The other thing that will happen in your first days of the job is some of the most important bits of information will be the little off the cuff comments that your colleague drops without realising how important they are – what your new client’s kids names are, that project that’s going to start next month, and most importantly, what to do when the coffee runs out.
The little snippets you pick up can reveal very useful insights into the company – hints at how the office politics work, what previous people in your role did really well and who the key people in the company are (it isn’t often the job title that’s the clue).
The easy way to stay on top of both of these situations is to stay sharp and focussed, even when you’re just chatting in the kitchen on your tea break. And for anything formal, write it all down. There’s no harm in writing extra stuff just in case, and you’ll be thankful when your client calls a week later and you can look back over your notes and see what her daughter is called.
5. Don’t be afraid to do the rounds introducing yourself
If you’re lucky, your new manager will take you round the company and introduce yourself to everyone. Unfortunately most of us aren’t so lucky – some workplaces are fast paced, have a bunch of people off site or even have multiple floors and locations. Take the initiative and go around introducing yourself, starting with your team, everyone you bump into, and working through other nearby areas. Be sure to ask what everyone does, and even better – try to set up meetings with anyone you think might interact with your role. That way, you can get a really good understanding of who everyone is, what they do, and what the opportunities are to work together and help eachother out.
Often, different departments in a business will end up being quite focussed and independant, if you can bridge the gap, even by finding out little snippets of helpful information (like what projects people are working on) you can make a big impact by letting them know two people are actually doing pretty contradictory tasks and proposing a simple solution.
You’ll also start to find out the things that aren’t written down, and won’t ever be. Every organisation is chock full of implicit knowledge that it takes a long time to work out – things like the fact your boss won’t mind if you arrive 5 minutes late, but interrupt her with a question before she’s finished her morning coffee and she’ll be really pissed. Or mistakes other people commonly make when they are new, and how they impact teams other than your own.
Protip: If you struggle to remember people’s names, print off the page on the website with everyone’s names and photos and keep it on your desk for the first week or two.