How to Make a Strong First Impression at a New Job
Hiring is up and competition for talented workers is greater than ever. That’s why so many prudent professionals are upgrading their lives by changing jobs and pursuing promotions this season.
But for those on-ramping into a new role, sticking your landing is key to long-term success.
Right now, workers have a limited time to make a strong first impression before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season completely takes over. With a few strategic steps, you can showcase your leadership potential and position yourself for long-term growth within your new environment, all while reassuring your new colleagues that they went with the right hire.
Here’s how to win over your new boss in the first 10 days on the job:
1) Shut up and listen.
Your first job in any new environment is to observe how things have been done before. This is true whether you’re a junior or senior staff member, a change agent or someone who’s been hired to stay the course. Before you make your intended imprint, learning “the way things are done,” can provide a helpful perspective and better understanding of where your colleagues are coming from.
In today’s innovative era, company norms vary widely from organization to organization, department to department. Is everyone in the office before 9 am each day? Does everyone but the boss mainly communicate through the company slack channel? Do team meetings always start on time or are they reliably 10 minutes late? What behaviors are rewarded and how? What warrants eye rolls or outright derision?
Try adopting some of those habits yourself to build stronger bonds. Research shows that mirroring in this way – aligning your style with that of your new team members – can be an important aid in building strong business relationships.
Remember: while you’ve been hired to give your opinion and make your own voice heard (all things I’m a huge proponent of), for those first critical days, keep your eyes and ears open.
2) Don’t drink from a firehose.
Beware: on-ramp overwhelm is real. Well before you’ve finished learning the ropes, you might be handed 10 new projects that need your attention, to the delight of your overworked team members.
While you don’t want to disappoint, the worst thing you can do is over-commit and then under-deliver. So when you’re faced with a “to do” list a mile long, ask your supervisor for clarity about what’s important versus what’s urgent.
“But everything’s urgent!” they might say. Sure, that may well be true, but you literally can’t make progress on every single task at once. When figuring out your plan of attack, order matters. For example, client-facing work or group projects that hinge on your individual progress to be done first become urgent, while long-term projects that don’t need to be completed for months – but require a lot of work – may just require some of your attention every week.
Be proactive in asking for clear deadlines, and solicit feedback from your supervisor as you strive to align your priorities with hers. Research shows that millennials want feedback, but aren’t always asking for it. Don’t wait for your boss to tell you – asking for clarity on the priority of your deliverables shows initiative.
3) Start a listening tour.
Building authentic relationships with your new boss and colleagues starts with truly grasping their perspectives and motivations. The theory, from the world of community organizing, teaches that you can only build collective power once you understand the underlying “why” behind the “what” people do.
How do you come to learn such things about your new colleagues? Authentically share your personal story (model the behavior yourself) and ask them to do the same. Ask about people’s backgrounds – inquiring why they chose to get into this line of work and what choice moments led them to this place in their life. I’ve seen this work best one-one-one over coffee, lunch, or as a part of a “listening tour” you do when you first join the team. Keep in mind, not everyone is willing to be that open, especially with new colleagues, so this isn’t something that happens overnight. But I’m a big believer in the long-term benefits of one-on-one meetings, as a power-building principal.
That ability to empathize is the foundation of all healthy relationships, and it puts you in a better position to best support them in the future.
4) Figure it out.
Often times, new hires are handed a thick employee handbook on the way in the door. If you’re like most of us, you gloss right over it in pursuit of getting things done and delivering on your supervisor’s priorities. But don’t neglect those materials for long!
Use resources like the handbook or internal website to learn and absorb as much information as you can on your own. You’ll have lots of other questions for your colleagues, so you don’t want to take up anymore of their time than you have to.
Even if there isn’t a lot of documentation available to you, be proactive about problem-solving and professional development. Try your best to find the answers and resources you need before interrupting your boss or co-workers.
5) Show you’re in it to win it.
While I’m all about work-life balance and advocating for healthy boundaries at work, those first critical days on the job aren’t the time to saunter in late, take a long out-of-office lunch, or leave at five on the dot with your yoga mat tucked under your arm. Showing your commitment and work ethic makes a strong first impression.
Do what you need to in order to stay ahead of the curve on your deadlines and show your commitment to effective, efficient work from day one. And make sure your efforts are visible. (If they don’t know you were in the office until 9pm on Friday night, how can they care?) If that means cc’ing your supervisor on after-hours emails you’re sending or letting her know you’ll be in an hour early the next day because you’ve got to leave a tad earlier than usual, so be it. Be assertive about making sure they know you’re keeping their priorities front of mind.
The good news is, with the US economy nearing full employment, we’re likely to see increased employment mobility in the coming months, as hiring steadily climbs across many US sectors. By following these simple strategies, you’ll be able to make the most of your career leap and set yourself up for sustainable success in your new role.
By following these practical tips, you’ll be able to set yourself up for sustainable success in your new role.
How do you make a good first impression?
What steps have you learned to take to make a strong first impression when you’ve joined a new team? I’d love to hear your best tips in the comments section below.