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Starting a New Job? 20 Tips to Make an Unforgettable Impact

Updated: May 8

Have you just landed a new job or are you a career coach who just helped a client land a new job? Congrats! That’s exciting 🎉

Lots of people feel stressed and anxious about starting a new job, regardless of where they are in their career. They might feel pre-job jitters, fearing they’ll do a poor job or won’t break into the social club. 

Some of these fears are justified—according to one study, over half of CFOS said that new hires have less than three months to prove themselves.

So in this post, we’ll go over everything a new hire needs to know to make a fantastic impression, crush their work, and leave their boss saying, “You’re one of the best hires I ever made.” 

The Four Phases of Starting a New Job

Before going into tips, let’s break down the different phases of starting a new job; you don’t just show up to a new job, learn the skills, and then you’re a seasoned employee at the company. There’s a process for integrating into a new role.

Leadership expert Michael Watkins notes that there are four distinct phases someone goes through in the first 90 days of a new job.

He calls these phases Define, Learn, Build, and Do.

The Define Phase (days 1-29)

This is when a new employee gets super clear on the expectations of their role. They are like a sponge soaking up company culture, KPIs, manager communication style, and role expectations. 

The Learn Phase (days 30-59)

Then there's the Learn Phase around the 30-day mark. This is when the employee starts to deeply understand the company culture, cadence, people, and structure.

About 70% of what a new hire will learn about the company and their role will come from their work on challenging projects. About 20% of their learning will come from coaching and mentorship. And about 10% will come from structured learning. 

The Build Phase (days 60-89)

The third phase is the Build Phase, which is around 60 days in. This is when the employee starts to solidify their office relationships, build trust with the team, and start to find wins and opportunities through their social ties. 

The Do Phase (day 90 onward)

Finally, the Do Phase takes place around the 90-day mark. This is where the employee has absorbed enough information and built strong enough relationships to go into “full execution mode” in their role. 

Once your client has hit the Do Phase, it might be time to meet less frequently with them. They have reached their goal, and now it’s time for them to settle into their groove.

The days of each phase are approximate and depend on the pace of the company and the complexity of the role. 

One book I recommend for those entering into a new leadership role is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. It gives a brilliant framework for navigating the critical transition period and establishing a strong foundation for long-term success in the new role.

Now that we understand the context of engaging in a new role, let’s get into some actionable tips your client can use to become a dream hire.

Tips for How to Excel at Your First Day on the Job

The first day is all about onboarding and first impressions. Here are some ideas to help you or your client foolproof the first day on the job.

Reach out before the first day to clarify expectations

It’s important for a new hire to make certain they’re on the same page as the company. It’s a good idea to reach out to the point of contact a few days before the first day and get crystal clear on:

  • The dress code (even if it’s a remote office)

  • If there’s anything they should bring

  • What time to arrive

Review the job description before the first day

You’ll feel most well-prepared if you come into work feeling refreshed on what’s expected of you.

Take another read through the job description and any notes about expectations you jotted during the interview process.

This way you can come in pro-active instead of needing to be reminded of what exactly it is you’ll be doing.

Arrive early

I won’t belabor this one because we all know the importance of punctuality at work. Nobody wants their very first impression of a new job to be them running into the office, clothes unkempt and wet with sweat, huffing out through vigorous bouts of panting something about alarm clocks and the bloody L train. It's not a good look!

That said, for some of us, arriving on time can be a legitimate challenge. 

If this is you, no shame! Just keep these tips in mind:

Action Step: Write out what time you’re supposed to arrive, then subtract fifteen minutes. 

For example, if you’re supposed to arrive at 9:00 am, plan to arrive at 8:45 am.

Then, calculate the commute estimate on Google Maps for the time you want to arrive and multiply that number by 1.5. Then write down what time you have to leave, and make sure you leave your home no later than then!

In our example, if Google estimates it’ll take 30 minutes to get to work at that time of day, you need to budget 45 (which is 30 x 1.5). That means you should leave their home at 8:00 am and no later.

Make charismatic first impressions

People form first impressions of others in a matter of seconds. And once that impression is set, it can be surprisingly challenging to change. 

A new hire is going to shake hands and swap names with a lot of people on the first day. But what actually makes a good first impression?

The key is to come off charismatically.

North American social psychologists agree that the magic of charisma comes down to two ingredients: warmth and competence.

Warmth is essentially how kind, friendly, empathetic, and funny you come off.

Competence describes how intelligent, confident, effective, and professional you seem.

If you’re all warmth and no competence, then you might come off as the likable friend whose opinion nobody takes seriously. If you’re all competence and no warmth, then you’re the effective automaton that nobody really wants to spend time with.

But if you can strike the right balance between the two, then bingo. You’re set to make a killer first impression with everyone you meet.

Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Action Step: When meeting new people, practice the following:

  • Genuine smile (warmth)

  • Eye contact (warmth and competence)

  • Express your excitement to join the team (warmth)

  • Keep your body language open and expansive to convey confidence (competence)

And if working for a remote team, it’s important to have a clean and intentional background, and to avoid placing your face uncomfortably close to the camera.

Research communication norms if working with an international team

The main caveat to the above advice on first impressions is if you or your client is joining an international team; international communication styles and workplace norms can vary tremendously. 

Take Norway, for example.

As one career coach from the International Association of Career Coaches explains, Norwegians operate by a set of social rules centered around modesty, equality, and conformity.

Norwegians would never boast about their achievements, and self-promotion is more taboo than in other countries. Norwegian businesses normally have a flat organizational structure, where the CEO is no "better" than the assistant. Companies value every employee's opinion, and leaders seek consensus and agreement as much as possible. 

Additionally, Norwegians put a strong value on work-life balance, family, and leisure time. As a result, staying late to finish work would not impress your boss as it might in other countries.

These invisible social codes are quite different than those in, say, the USA.

So if you are taking on a new role that involves cross-border collaboration or joining a team with international teammates, it is critical to do a little research into the culture’s working norms ahead of time.

It’s not a bad idea to check in with your manager about how those cultural norms show up in the workplace, but don’t expect them to help you navigate and identify the difference between your old workplace culture and theirs. That is your work to do.

One helpful way to understand differences in international norms is to join an international community. A good option for career coaches is the graduate program of the International Association of Career Coaches.

Clarify online communication tools and norms

Email. Slack. Discord. Notion. Asana. Google workspace. Lattice. Basecamp.

There are so many communication platforms out there! Get clear as soon as possible what company-wide tools and department specific tools people use.

It’s also useful to understand the norms around online communication. If someone sends you a Slack message, are you expected to respond within the hour or by EOD? Some companies and teams may even have specific ways they need you to post or interact in a given Slack channel or project management tool.

Square up benefits right away

If the company offers insurance or matches retirement fund contributions, it’s best to get these tasks done right away. 

Checking off these logistics ASAP will clear mental space so you can focus your efforts on building relationships and doing their work.

Get familiar with HR policies

A new hire might want to get clear on HR policies and procedures as soon as possible to help avoid missteps. This can help them feel clear on the company culture, understand legal compliance, have a clear sense of time off-policies, and see how the company approaches diversity and inclusion.

Action Step: Schedule a meeting with HR in the first day or two to get the full run-down on office policies.

Tips for How to Excel at Your First Week on the Job

With the first day out of the way, here are some tips to help a new hire push forward their positive momentum through the entire first week.

Ask questions, questions, and more questions

Questions will be your greatest ally for their first week.

Many new hires feel hesitant to ask too many questions. In the interview process they marketed themselves as a competent worker who gets the job done. So they might feel sheepish asking for help and coming off as a newbie.

But the reality is, onboarding takes time. And their new employer knows that. It’s way better to ask too many questions than to not know what they’re doing and make errors or feel completely lost and overwhelmed.

Action Step: If you feel uncertain about your role or responsibilities in any way at all, ask for clarification. 

You can also hash out with your manager if it’s better to ask all the questions upfront, or if you should only ask urgent questions on the spot and compile the rest into an email at the end of each day.

Also, remember that you don’t need to limit your questions to your manager. You can glean a lot about culture, procedure, and unwritten rules from coworkers and employees.

Take handwritten notes

A new hire will be intaking a lot of new information: how to use company tools, how to prepare for meetings, and who to contact for different needs. 

Trying to memorize an onboarding process without notes is a bad idea; your memory is fallible. Don’t rely on it.

Taking notes has a few benefits:

  • The act of taking notes can help retain information

  • You can refer to your notes later to remember processes

  • Taking notes also signifies to your manager that you are diligent and eager 

Writing notes by hand has a few benefits over typing them on a phone. 

For one, writing notes with a pen actually activates different parts of your brain than typing and leads to better learning. 

Plus, we all associate typing on a phone with texting, internet rabbit holes, and doomscrolling. So, if a new hire’s boss sees them typing their notes on their phone, it might give the impression that they are distracted, regardless of how focused they actually are. 

If you have messy handwriting, you should type up your handwritten notes as soon as possible. That way, you won’t be left trying to submit a report following scribbled instructions that inexplicably contain a word that looks remarkably similar to “elephant.”

Create a vision statement for the role

You’ve taken good notes. Now, combine those with the job posting and the job description to create a vision statement for the role. 

This statement should include answers to questions like:

  • What is the overarching problem I’m here to solve?

  • What projects and tasks will solve that problem?

  • How is success measured? 

  • What tools do I need? 

  • Who are my key stakeholders? 

  • What behaviors are rewarded in this culture? 

  • What behaviors are frowned upon in this culture?

  • Who should I meet?

  • What training classes should I take?

After doing this, sit with your manager to help fill out this vision statement. Ask all of the above questions. This will help you get a clear and precise scope of your role.

Build a project list

After clarifying the vision statement with their manager, it might be wise for a new hire to outline 3-5 projects that have emerged for their role. 

For each project, they’ll want to write out:

  • KPIs that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound

  • Milestones or qualitative goals that might be harder to quantify 

Create a face book

No, we’re not talking Mark Zuckerberg here. 

I mean the old school definition of the phrase, where you create a digital or paper book of everyone you’ll be working with and everything you might need to know about them.

It’s definitely useful to include the bigwigs at the company as well as everyone you interviewed with. But the more people, the better. 

Here’s the bare minimum a new hire should include in their face book:

  • A picture of each person’s face

  • Their name

  • Their title

And if they want to go the extra mile to build rapport with them, consider including:

  • Their birthday

  • Their work anniversary

  • Key points of their professional background

  • Their alma mater and degrees

  • Their hobbies and interests

  • If they have kids

  • Their communication preferences

This face book will be their personal cheat sheet to connect with their workplace and make their colleagues feel respected by them.

Introduce themself to everyone

A new hire might want to make a goal over their first week to introduce themself to everyone in the office.

Many coworkers will go out of their way to say hello and be the ones to break the ice. But there will be people who they just won’t organically meet. And the longer they wait to swap names, the more awkward it might get.

But if they shake hands with everyone, it will fastrack their relationship-building process and help them feel more comfortable in the office.

Action Step: Every day of the first week, approach people you haven't met yet and simply say, “Hi, we haven’t met yet. I’m ______. I’m the new ______.” 

Easy as that!

If it’s a remote company, then sending a friendly email or Slack message will do the trick.

Set up a weekly one-on-one with their manager

Microsoft surveyed thousands of new hires and found that employees who have a one-on-one with their manager in their first week see a huge social benefit 90 days later. At the 90-day mark, they report having a larger internal network, spending more time collaborating, and feeling a greater sense of belonging at work.

A strong connection with your manager is your gateway to a strong connection with your team. 

Action Step: Schedule a one-on-one with your manager in the first week and request a weekly one-on-one for at least the first month.

In each meeting, you may want to work on your “vision statement” with your manager.

Don’t point out inefficiencies or fix things right away

As a new hire learns about the company, they are going to see glaring holes right away. They’ll notice where systems are inefficient and see quick fixes to old problems.

But they may want to bite their tongue at first. For one, if they try to fix everything right away without first integrating into the team, they might come off as annoying, disrespectful, or arrogant. 

And secondly, some systems might run the way they do for a good reason that isn’t visible right away.

Instead of chirping at every inefficiency they spot, it might be better to write down all of the blindspots they see.

Once they understand the systems in place and have built rapport and trust with the team, it is then their time to solve these problems.

Tips for How to Excel at Your First Month on the Job

First day? Check. First week? Check. Now, let’s learn how you (or your client) can carry that momentum into the first month so you can wow your boss.

Get an early win

A new hire will want to keep their ears perked for any time their manager or an executive mentions a pain point. Plucking a thorn from a higher-up’s side is a great way to get noticed and earn trust.

If they notice a pain point and feels like they have a solution to offer, then here’s their time to shine. 

Action Step: If you come up with an idea to solve a pain point, they create a short PowerPoint presentation explaining the problem and the solution you are proposing. Then, set up a meeting with your manager to propose the plan.

Ask coworkers to lunch

So much of one’s job success comes down to relationships. Strong connections create a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Plus, connections can offer support and create opportunities.

This is why a new hire must take an active role in building relationships in the first month. One terrific way to do this is by setting up lunch (or coffee) dates.

Action Step: Challenge yourself to set up two lunch dates per week over the first month. To determine who to ask, answer the following questions:

  • Who is someone I felt a rapport with and the potential for a meaningful connection?

  • Who is someone I feel impressed or inspired by?

  • Who are the key stakeholders and influencers I should get to know better?

And if it’s a remote office, you could still go for a 30-minute “virtual tea.”

It’s okay to feel inept

Earlier, we discussed that most people don’t hit their stride and get into “full execution mode” until about 90 days into a job.

It’s natural to go through cycles of different emotions until then.

Most people will enter a new job feeling excited. 

At some point, the excitement will fade, and many folks will feel anxious about learning new tools and understanding a whole new system. Sometimes, this can even lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of their depths; their confidence may falter, and they’ll question whether they were the right person for the job. 

But over time, they usually start to get the hang of things, find their groove, and feel confident and satisfied.

So, as a new hire, if you feel anxious, unconfident, or overwhelmed in the first month or two, this is totally normal.

Understand the company's power structure

Within the first week or two, it will be valuable for a new hire to see the company’s org chart and to ask their leader how big decisions are made. But of course, the power structure in a company is far more complex than just who has formal authority. 

Grasping the power structure can help a new hire understand who pulls which strings, how they fit into the greater social context, and how to grow in the company.  

Aside from reviewing the formal org chart, a new hire may want to keep their ear to the ground and look out for the following: 

  • Who seems to call the shots? 

  • Who has power because of their expertise? 

  • Who has influence because of their charisma? 

  • Who do people turn to for ethical dilemmas?

  • Who controls valuable information?

  • Who has power because of how well-networked they are in the company?

Extra Tips for Succeeding as a New Manager

If you (or your client) is coming on as a new manager, there are a few specific tips to help you succeed early on. 

Here are some considerations for new managers:

  • Set the culture for your team. As a new manager, you have the opportunity to shape the culture of your team. While your team's values should align with the company's, you can create a distinct subculture for your group.  Start by clarifying the values you want to instill. Communicate these values to your team, reinforce them through systems and processes, and share stories that convey your team's identity. Most importantly, model the behaviors you want to see from your team because your actions as a manager will be the primary driver of your team's culture.

  • Learn what the team thinks is working and what’s not. Whether through anonymous feedback, one-on-ones, or a group discussion, it’s vital to understand the pulse of the team. Then do your best to nix the bad and double down on the good.

  • Set up one-on-ones. It’s crucial to get to know everyone on the team. What are their professional goals? What do they like about their job? What don’t they like? What motivates them?

  • Set expectations. It’s best to clarify norms as early as possible. You may want to talk about what you expect from your team and what your team can expect from you. 

  • Feedback early and often. An open feedback culture is critical for a healthy team. You may want to invite space for feedback as often as possible.

Takeaways on Starting a New Job

Here is a reminder for some tips to help a new hire start their new job off with a bang.

  • Ask questions: If something is remotely unclear, ask!

  • Create a vision statement: With the help of their leader, craft a clear vision for their role

  • Build a project list: List key projects and success metrics

  • Create a face book: Compile a directory of colleagues and their details

  • Introduce themselves: Make sure they have shaken hands with everyone

  • Set up a weekly one-on-one: Meet with their manager weekly for at least their first month

  • Don't point out inefficiencies right away: Wait to provide feedback until they understand why things are done as they are

  • Ask coworkers to lunch: Get proactive in building relationships

  • Understand the company's power structure: Look at the org chart and identify influencers and decision-makers

If you’d like to strengthen your skillset as a career coach and join a thriving network of other career coaches, you might be interested in checking out the certification program with the International Association of Career Coaches.

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