April 13, 2018
You’re starting a new job—congratulations! Now go make the best first impression you can. Dress appropriately. Express confidence. Use a firm handshake. Smile, and be aware of your body language.
But more important, arrive without preconceived notions. Don’t assume you have to know everything. Don’t assume how your supervisor wants you to do your job. And don’t assume how people will act based on their age, gender, or other demographics, say AMA faculty members Maribel Aleman and Laura Smith Dunaief.
Here are some other dos and don’ts they suggest for putting your best foot forward in a new job:
Do: Research and prepare for your role
You should be prepping before your first day, says Dunaief, a trainer and coach and the Leadership Ambassador program director for Take The Lead. This is especially true if you’ve been out of work for a while or it’s a new role. Get to know the company and the culture, and take stock of what you know, don’t know, or haven’t done in a while. “If you’re rusty on some skill, spend some time brushing up on it,” she says.
If you don’t feel confident, fake it, adds Aleman, executive and leadership coach for Alemán & Associates. “Remember, you were hired for a reason,” she notes.
Don’t: Think you have to know everything
“Have a conversation with your manager to learn and understand their expectations for you,” says Aleman. “Don’t try to prove you know it all.”
Ask your supervisors how you can support them. Ask questions of your new team, adds Dunaief. And “listen—a lot.”
Do: Realize that not everything may go right
Not all organizations have their onboarding process working smoothly, so there may be delays in getting a sign-on for your computer or a good chair for your desk. While these things are being handled, “use the time to introduce yourself to others,” Dunaief says.
Don’t: Keep quiet when you really need something
Be patient, but not too patient, when you don’t have the resources to do your job, Dunaief says. A lack of resources could quickly affect your performance, and people will already have a bad impression of you. “Speak up clearly and early,” she says.
If there are conditions you’re unhappy about, don’t think you have no say. Not making waves in the beginning, and letting your unhappiness fester, may cause you to be closed off and unapproachable down the road, Aleman says. Even if something can’t be changed, have a conversation with your boss about it as soon as possible.
Do: Be assertive and understanding with difficult people
If you sense a bad vibe from someone on your new team, “address it up front,” Dunaief says. The other person could feel threatened by you or may have wanted the job that you were hired for. Be diplomatic, she cautions. Tell the person, “I feel we’re not working together as well as we could be.”
Once you’ve “called out the elephant in the room,” you can move into finding a way to work together. “People respect that you’re willing to have that conversation with them,” she says.
Don’t: Take action before you know the players
If the unpleasant person is not on your team, talk to your direct supervisor about how to handle it. Learn who the players are and who has power in the office. This knowledge can guide you on what action to take, Dunaief advises.
It’s exciting to start in a new place with a fresh new opportunity and role. “People don’t know you. You have an opportunity to build your own credibility,” Dunaief says. If you’re nervous, remind yourself of your experience and knowledge. Remember, “you’re infinitely capable of handling the job,” she says.