Job transitions are tricky. You leave a gig at the height of your success and capability, only to be dropped into a new seat where you feel like a blind baby bird for a while. In a new job, many of us are getting a hearty push to show up in all our glory either from the things we tell ourselves or from well-meaning colleagues. Some of this advice to jump right in upon arrival needs a little nuance, but actually shaping these myths into actionable advice helps you start off in a new job on the right foot.
1. Come In With Big Ideas
Ever since the first interview you’ve been sketching out your initial days in the job and all of the brilliant ideas you’ll bring to the table. Many of those remain completely valid, but are an academic exercise in thinking about your new role. They likely aren’t yet formed considering the practical applications of your new day to day. And, they’re not founded in a cultural understanding of team dynamics and other management priorities.
Never assume that what you worked through as an initial plan of work or goals in an interview stands now that you’re on the job. In interviews, managers are just as much testing how you think about a problem as evaluating the utility of your answers. As a best practice, set up time with your new boss as soon as possible to truly get on paper what a successful first few months looks like, how your progress will be measured, and how you will get feedback.
2. Meet As Many People as Possible, Immediately
It’s a great idea to get the lay of the land in terms of teammates, but do some serious homework before reaching out to new colleagues. It’s natural to want to immediately start forming new connections and understand how you fit in the larger picture. Instead of firing off introduction notes or immediately asking any new encounter to coffee (guilty), move a little slower.
Ask a few key people — your manager, maybe an HR contact, or if you’re lucky enough, whoever was previously in the role — to help you prioritize introductions. Then go into those meetings with some thoughtful preparation. A scan of the org chart, and a quick google will catch if they’ve stood out in press or company events recently. Then do due diligence reviewing any public profiles to get a sense of their work history. This lets you go introductions focusing more on them and asking smarter questions, leading to a more productive introduction!
3. Sit In on Any Meetings You Can
As a general rule, you shouldn’t regularly sit in on meetings where you do not have a dedicated role. It unnecessarily crowds your calendar and it’s not a good look to routinely show up in a meeting where you are not actively adding value or having a dedicated learning experience. Lastly, it can set an expectation too early on that you will consistently attend a certain meeting before you have a chance to understand how it fits in your broader work plan.
That said, sitting in on various team meetings, and even getting an opportunity or two to shadow a higher-up during their meeting, can be helpful for picking up the lingo and getting a better sense of people’s contributions. To make this guidance more effective, ask a lot of questions about any meetings that people invite you to. Who normally attends? How often are they held? (Catching an annual or quarterly planning meeting can be very useful context for your larger organization). What are the deliverables that generally come out of the meeting? And lastly, what, if any, small, one-time role could you take on to add value? It could even be as simple as introducing yourself and your position but make sure that any meeting you sit in, you speak up and walk away with at least one or two new introductions.
4. Start Taking Leadership Actions
This one is all about how you interpret “leader.” As we start to move up in our careers, manage larger and more complex teams, and command a higher price tag, this pressure grows. You might have even been brought into a role knowing that some organizational changes need to be made or that parts of a team need a complete staffing overhaul.
While you can feel urgency to show up and start finding ways to add value and influence the organization, the best leading you can do in the early days of a new job is listening. If you’re on the hook to implement major changes — a new product launch, growing a team, — have clear and concise deadlines worked out.
Ask them to define what success looks like and how it will be measured. Let them know that your first month or so will be a listening tour — gathering input from colleagues, direct reports, and others around you so that you can best implement what’s being asked. This exercise also helps build the initial trust you need to get ideas off the ground, ensuring that you’re truly building that leadership muscle long term instead of quickly coming in to manage to a specific action item.
5. Grow a New Network
You absolutely need to start adding new experts to your circle. However, if you just landed in a new job, chances are a number of people in your previous network were involved in getting you on to this next adventure. Your first priority should be reaching out to anyone who assisted with informational interviews, introducing you to new contacts, or tipping you off to hot job prospects. Double-check you’re hooked up with them on LinkedIn or another social media — it’s helpful to be sure that you don’t lose track as your new world takes off. This extra mile in showing appreciation to your old crew goes miles in strengthening relationships. It also makes it easier to connect in the future even after a longer period of time and gives you an avenue to pay it forward.