How to Succeed in Your New Job

Happy man starting a new job.

A Guide to Onboarding Successfully in a New Job

There’s no doubt that starting a new job is an exciting time in your life. New jobs often bring with them the opportunity to meet new people, expand your areas of expertise and often, earn more money. But they also bring with them a need to prove yourself all over again, which can be a daunting process. With so much to learn and so many things to do, where do you start?

Don’t worry — we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll share with you exactly what you need to focus on in order to ramp up and succeed in no time, so you can spend less time stressing out and more time enjoying your new opportunity.

Define Success

You can’t succeed in a new job if you don’t understand what success entails, so make a point to learn what exactly your manager, and the company at large, wants you to accomplish. Reviewing your job description is a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to explicitly ask your boss what they expect of you.

Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, recommends that you “Ask your boss how your success will be measured and over what time frame. Without context and expectations, you will have no clue as to deliverables, the time required to come up to speed and the resources you will need to deploy to achieve success productively and efficiently.”

Not only will your boss be happy to help you out — they will likely admire the proactivity and initiative you display by asking.

Define Success

Get to Know the Company

Besides understanding your own role, you should also take the time to understand how your role fits into the bigger picture of what your company is trying to accomplish. This is another item you can discuss with your boss, as well as other coworkers, but there is likely also existing work out there that can clue you in.

“Immerse yourself in reading all that you can about the company’s culture and norms: old newsletters, articles, decks, org charts, etc.,” says Amy Zimmerman, Head of Global People Operations at Kabbage. “If done effectively, you will have far more context and information, which will help you understand the company, your role and what success looks like.”

As you read these materials, try to answer the following questions:

  • What are the company’s quarterly, annual and long-term goals? How do they plan on achieving them?
  • What is the company’s overarching mission and vision?
  • Who are our customers and/or clients? What problems do we help them solve?
  • What are our company’s core values? How do those manifest themselves in day-to-day life?
  • How do people describe the company culture here?
  • What are the rules of office etiquette, formal or informal?
Get to Know the Company

Start Networking Internally

A critical component of starting your new job off on the right foot is getting to know your coworkers. Developing strong relationships with your colleagues doesn’t just benefit your social life — it can benefit your professional life as well.

Start with the people you’ll be working with regularly, both within your team/department and others that you’ll be collaborating with closely. There’s a good chance your boss will introduce you to some of these folks, at least on a cursory level, but make sure you go beyond exchanging names to gain a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities and where you fit into that.

A good way to do that is by setting up introductory meetings with a few key players you’ll be working with. Here are a few questions you can use to guide your conversations:

  • What’s your title, and what do your responsibilities entail?
  • What are your team’s goals and priorities?
  • How do you imagine we’ll be working together?

Show your new colleagues respect by actively listening, taking note of important items and asking intelligent questions.

Another more casual way to get to know your colleagues is through employee resource groups (ERGs). Many companies have dedicated employee resource groups for people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans and more, as well as clubs or group activities like softball leagues, book clubs, happy hours, etc.

Start Networking Internally

Determine How You Can Add Value

Now that you have a better understanding of what’s expected of you, what your company’s goals are and who your coworkers are, you can begin thinking about how you can best contribute to the success of your organization. Think about how you can apply your unique experience and expertise to your current job: Are there processes you could improve, projects you could take on, or relationships you could strengthen?

In addition to brainstorming, make sure to get hands-on experience. Sit in on key meetings or volunteer to help teammates with a project. Practice speaking up when you have a great idea, or weighing in on a relevant decision. And of course, make sure that any tasks or projects your manager requests from you are high-quality and on-time.

Determine How You Can Add Value

Take It to the Next Level

At this stage, you can start to get a little bit more proactive. Rather than focusing on observing how things are done and completing assignments, you can step up into more of a leadership role and begin making recommendations, proposing initiatives and solving organizational challenges. Before you suggest any sweeping change, though, make sure that you come armed with data that backs up your assertion and a well-thought-out plan of action.

Other goals you should consider setting for yourself at this point:

  • Strengthen the relationships you’ve been building; consider finding a mentor
  • Anticipate problems and challenges ahead of time, and plan for them accordingly
  • Avoid novice mistakes like apologizing too much, multitasking in meetings and gossiping
  • Ask to take on more responsibilities outside of your typical scope of duty (as long as you don’t step on any toes)
  • Make your ambitions and accomplishments known to your manager and other leaders

Starting a new job can be overwhelming and nervewracking — but it doesn’t have to be. If you spend enough time learning, building relationships and thinking about how you can drive value, you’ll be able to step up to the challenge and wow your coworkers.

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