I have the privilege of greeting and addressing our newly-hired class of employees every two weeks. By far the most common question I’m asked is: “what advice do you have for me as a ‘new hire’?” Let me capture my answer in the form of the following checklist of recommendations.
1. Make a great first impression
You only get one shot at making a great first impression at your new job, and this is it. This is a time to reminisce over feedback from old colleagues and bosses about things you can improve upon…and actually do something about it. If you were always known as the under-dresser, this is your chance to upgrade your appearance (yes, wardrobe does unfortunately matter in business). If you didn’t speak up enough at your last job, this is your chance to be more visible and heard. Each new job is an opportunity at a fresh start unencumbered by a prior legacy or reputation.
2. Triangulate your job
Too often, new employees don’t sufficiently invest in understanding what success means in their new jobs. They frequently rely on one source for information and ignore others; you should triangulate three separate sources of information to ensure you have a well-defined job in your own mind:
- Your boss: ask your boss what it means to be successful at your job and what metrics matter to him or her and will thus define your performance.
- Your job description: review the job description for your role; yes, it’s frequently bloated with bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, but there is always one paragraph in the midst of the jargon that provides insight into what the intention of the role actually is. It might well be slightly different than what your boss mentioned.
- Your customer: if your role is customer-facing, make sure to understand what your customers see as important to them in the role you provide; if your role is company-facing, you can do the same thing with your internal stakeholders. After all, if you aren’t pleasing your customer, inside or outside of the company, how can you possibly be successful at your new job?
3. Know the product & industry
No matter your role in the company, make sure you understand the product your company provides and invest time in learning about your industry. There is frequently a great deal of content and information that is available but won’t be pushed on your. Most new employees get so busy doing their job that they don’t invest time in learning how to do it better. As to learning about the industry, never has it been easier to get up-to-speed on anything: you can leverage the Internet to subscribe to forums and on-line periodicals dedicated to your industry. Start out as a consumer of that content and, over time, begin contributing your own content as you establish your credibility and expertise.
4. Identify the rock stars and learn from them
Make sure you know the people who make your department and your company tick. If there are others performing your same role, make sure you identify the rock stars among them and ask for help; most will be more than happy to coach a newbie. It’s also imperative to identify rock stars in other departments: they’re usually the people whose names come up frequently; understanding the world from their perspectives will help you better understand your own department.
5. Understand your customer
Even if your role is not customer-facing, it’s important you find a way to talk to customers and to learn from them a few key things:
- why they use you as a vendor and what value your company provides;
- what they like and what they don’t like about what they get from you;
- finally, what their priorities and initiatives are that preoccupy them.
Understanding your customer will cement your success in your job.
6. Establish a rhythm
Starting a new job is a good opportunity to establish a regular rhythm that’ll ensure that your day-to-day schedule and habits are intentionally-defined and not just happenstance:
- What are your targeted daily arrival and departure times?
- What days and times will you dedicate to working out or other personal pleasures?
- What regular family commitments must be accommodated by your schedule?
- When will you have recurring meetings with your boss, colleagues, or others?
7. Establish a clear milestone for the first 100 days
Finally, it’s important to write down specific goals around each of the aforementioned categories to which you can hold yourself accountable. Give yourself 100 days to succeed, but be as specific as you possibly can:
- What specific constructive feedback from your past are you intent on overcoming in your new job?
- How will you affirm to yourself a clear understanding of your job?
- Which industry forums will you engage and how will you do so?
- What products are you going to learn and what means are you going to use to learn them?
- What new habits will have you established?
- …and so on.
Good luck with your new job!