Known for the right reasons?

Career Advice
15 September 2017 | Career Advice | Guest Author

As a new employee with a new perspective and set of skills to offer, you're in a unique position to help your new colleagues: fresh eyes, no history and lots to learn.

This novelty stage does pass though. You'll get sucked into the system and 'their way' of doing things, you'll start using team lingo and get busy really quickly. So how do you make sure you don't leave your reputation to chance in your first few weeks?

The early days are important. People understand that you don't know much yet and all eyes will be on you. So make sure that you show up as your best you; the enthusiastic, wholehearted person they hired.

Be curious, be proactive

Start as you mean to go on and learn to ask great questions at the right time. Be proactive about finding out what is required, what you are being asked to achieve (very clearly) and if you are given work you don't understand, ask questions that clarify it.

Your tasks may not always be clear. Don't assume your supervisor is clear either. Yet clarity is the first thing you need. Before you ask questions, have a shot at outlining the project. Create a short summary of your understanding, the task, the outcomes, the time frame, assumptions – and even ideas that you have about how to tackle this.

If you need more context, ask for it. If you like to have weekly catch-ups, suggest a simple format. If you need resources that are not in your control, like money, people or equipment, ask about this too.

Get stuck in and don't get distracted

People warm to new recruits who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. But don't fall into the trap of taking on things that take you off course. Learn how say no gracefully: "That looks like a really interesting project. What's your timeline? I'm committed for the next 3 weeks on developing the marketing database, so I can't do anything right now."

If you do have time to take on wider tasks, ask your supervisor about the demands on your time at your catch-ups. People appreciate doers who get things moving, but taking on things that are not important to your boss won't help you to fit in.

Look, learn and then offer your ideas

Take time to learn about the culture, the systems and the undercurrent of how things work. Don't wait too long, otherwise you'll lose your fresh eyes. You will see things that might benefit from a change - things that perhaps your co-workers don't see any more. Instead of offering improvement ideas on a daily basis, share them tactfully at your first month's check-in.  This will stop you coming across as a know-it-all and make your observations look more like valuable insights for discussion. You'll find that there are usually (but not always!) solid reasons, good and bad, for the things you see. Establish yourself as someone who is curious, constructive and knows how to look and learn.

Be positive and purposeful

At the start of any new job, the volume of new info can seem overwhelming. People can seem preoccupied when you need them most, and you may feel that things aren't what you expected. Recognise that you are still learning (everyone else knows this, remember) and don't be hard on yourself (but do work hard!). Notice the things you are achieving, keep notes of your progress and learning, start meetings talking about achievements and learning.

Being new can be stressful – but mostly it is exciting. As long as you know what you need to do to be successful and you're clear on how your contribution will be measured (and when), then you can't go wrong, so find out what that is as early as possible!


Jill Boggiss leads Eyes Wide Opened (EWO), a London-based team of career-coaches working with young people at a crossroads.  Top coaches from business, the arts and the voluntary sector run reflective, practical courses and workshops - for individuals and  in schools, colleges and universities. They bring clarity, direction and self-awareness skills and action plans to achieve your goals.

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