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Congratulations: you got the job! But now you have to keep it. What you do (or don’t do) in the first 30 days can make or break your success in your new position. In fact, according to career coach Lauren Still of Careerevolution Group, you only have about three months in a new position to make the right impression.
“The pressure is on during that period, but you also have a unique opportunity to craft your image in the organization the way you want to be seen,” says Still. “Don’t get caught in the weeds and let this crucial window of opportunity pass you by.”
“The first 30 days is the honeymoon period in which you get to know the ways that things get done in the workplace,” says Lorenzo G. Flores, author of Executive Career Advancement. “Come prepared to expect the unexpected in terms of how people perceive the new employee.”
To help you hit the ground running, career-intelligence spoke with a wide range of career experts for their advice on how to maximize your first month on the job.
No matter how much experience you have in your field or industry, you’re the newbie when you start a new job. Therefore, your goal in the first 30 days of any job is to observe and learn.
“Take notes on how different people at different levels communicate with each other and what prompts praise and recognition,” advises Tracy Brisson, founder and CEO of the Opportunities Project. “Every culture is different. Letting the boss speak first might be the rule at most companies, but there are certain organizations where you will be perceived as a poor performer if you are not throwing out ideas at the same pace as the most senior people. Success is unique to an organization’s culture.”
As you scope out the lay of the land, keep an eye out for opportunities to problem-solve that will be particularly helpful to your new organization. Kerri Grosslight, executive vice-president and head of risk management and compliance within the technology and operations group at Wells Fargo, suggests that new employees shouldn’t be afraid to take on “dirty jobs.”
“Especially when you are new to a team or organization, these bring a level of visibility, along with experience,” says Grosslight. “Though there’s some risk involved as well when you take on a task like that, if you can prove yourself by cleaning up the mess, so to speak, it is well worth it in the long run with your manager.” Grosslight notes that at the same time, taking on tasks early on that others don’t want helps to build strong professional relationships.
It can be tempting to focus your relationship-building efforts exclusively on colleagues at your level. But the early days of your job present a great opportunity to connect with co-workers beyond your career peers, both above and below you on the ladder. By taking the time to do this in your first 30 days, you’ll earn alliances that may be crucial to your success later on. Offering to lend a hand to others during downtime in your first month is a good way to start building trust outside of your department.
“Don’t narrow your focus just to colleagues at your level,” says Michelle Tillis Lederman, founder ofExecutive Essentials, who has served as adjunct professor of communications at NYU’s Stern Business School. “Administrative staff often understand workplace dynamics better than anyone. Pursue the relationships that feel authentic to you to expand your resources, knowledge base, and support network. Offer your help. If you don’t have anything to do, find something. Build your brand as someone who pitches in.”
Elene Cafasso, founder and president of Enerpace, Inc., agrees that in the first 30 days, it’s crucial to identify your key stakeholders. She suggests thinking about who will need to rely on you to be successful, and who you will need in your corner to achieve your goals. “Meet with these people, form relationships, and most importantly, design an alliance by laying out what the other party can expect from you and asking what you can expect from the other party,” Cafasso suggests. “It’s best to know where you stand and who you have to help you get where you’re going, as quickly as possible.”
While you may be more focused on the big picture of your new role and company rather than the picky details, minor missteps in your first 30 days may stand out more than they would for more veteran employees. You’re under increased scrutiny in your first month on the job, so you need to take extra precautions to avoid making mistakes that will draw negative attention—even minor ones. So don’t assume you know how things work in your new organization; take the time to ask.
“As they say, assumption is the mother of all (bleep)-ups,” says Still. “Make sure you know what time you’re expected at work in the morning, where the closest printer and copier are, whether you are allowed to use your company-issued cell phone for personal calls, what standing meetings you’re expected to attend, what the company policy is on social media use. These may seem like basic, pedantic questions, but if you assume wrong, you may find yourself making missteps that are easily avoidable.”
Success in a new role is a two-way street: the responsibility lies with you as well as with your manager. While many employees take a more passive role to the on-boarding process, there are things you can do to lighten the burden on your supervisor while making a good first impression.
Still suggests being proactive through the following strategies in your first 30 days:
In addition to helping your superiors get you up to speed, make efforts to initiate with other team members as well. “Understand that as the new kid on the block, the onus is on you to be friendly, engaging, and likeable,” says Brigid Siegel, partner, Polachi Access Executive Search. “You can’t sit back and expect entrenched team members to make the first gestures in building a relationship. Get the outreach going from day one, and work on connecting with the team every day.”
Being a forward-thinker and risk-taker can help you get ahead in your career, but timing is important. When you first join a company, proposing too many new ideas too soon before you’ve taken time to fully understand the lay of the corporate landscape can be perceived as arrogant rather than advanced. Initially, fitting in can be more important than standing out. “You need to build credibility before rushing in for quick wins,” says Michelle Proehl, president of Slate Advisors.
“I think it’s important that women remember that ruffling feathers is eventually okay—in fact you can’t get ahead without taking risks,” adds Brisson. “But you have to first understand a culture and establish a basic track record for being excellent at what you do before you make that leap.” To that end, wait until your probationary period is over before you make proposals that may be controversial.
Author, recruiter, and human resources professional Abby Kohut, who has hired 10,000 people in her career, recommends treading lightly in the first 30 days at work and making every attempt to fit in with the team and blend in with the culture. “Many people and organizations find it difficult to accept change despite whether or not it will help them be more successful,” says Kohut. “The time will come for you to let your opinions be known, and you will sense when that is. Just like searching for a job, have patience and spend the time adapting to your new home.”