The first 30 days at a new job are make-or-break. Even if you were heavily recruited and sailed through the rigorous hiring process, that first month is not a time to sit back on your laurels.
Your new boss and teammates are excited to welcome you on board because they believe you’ll be an asset to the company. You set their expectations high during your interviews, and now you have to live up to those standards.
Highly sought-after candidates sometimes make the mistake of assuming that once they’ve signed their offer letter, they’re safe. But nothing is guaranteed. Job markets change, and what seemed like a very secure position can become an uncertain one in a short amount of time. There will always be someone gunning for your job, and if you become complacent, there’s a good chance they’ll get it.
That’s especially true during economic downturns. When companies downsize, the last person hired is usually the first one out.
You want to prove your worth from day one because the best job insurance is working hard and creating value as early as possible.
Of course, some candidates go to the opposite extreme and wear themselves down trying to prove themselves in those first 30 days — but that’s not a winning strategy either. Companies recruit and hire candidates who will benefit the organization for years to come. They don’t expect, or want, them to flame out in a few weeks.
If you really want to start a new job successfully, you need a driven yet sustainable mindset. Show up ready to work and eager to learn. Make it your mission to earn your position. When you take a humble, dedicated approach to your work, you’ll impress your new boss and prove they made the right choice by hiring you.
The following strategies will help you make a good impression on day one and build that momentum going forward.
1. See yourself through your manager’s perspective.
You already know what you’re hoping to gain from your time with the company. But to excel, you need to understand your manager’s and team’s goals as well.
They’re building a team, and they picked you for a reason. Find out what that reason is and then strategize how best to fulfill that role. Self-awareness helps you deliver value without the need for handholding and extensive coaching.
Retaining a job requires you to become part of a whole, and you can only do that if you know how you fit into the bigger picture.
This practice will prove useful throughout your career. When you’re interviewing for new jobs, you focus on selling yourself and ensuring that your needs will be met in your new position. But retaining a job requires you to become part of a whole, and you can only do that if you know how you fit into the bigger picture. Broadening your perspective will help you anticipate people’s needs and exceed their expectations — two of the most useful tactics for rising through the ranks in any industry.
2. Hit the ground running.
Research your new role and connect with your soon-to-be colleagues before your first day. Ask if they have any advice on how to get up to speed, and mine their experiences for insights.
What did they wish they had known when they started with the company? What one piece of advice would have eased their transition? What were their biggest challenges? Are there any materials you should watch or read before your first day? The more well-versed you are on day one, the easier it will be to integrate into the team.
Here’s an example of what pre-job preparation might look like. Let’s say I’ve been hired as a senior accountant, and I’m responsible for the general ledger and a few other core responsibilities. But I know one of the overall mandates is to reduce the amount of time it takes to close the books each month. Instead of lounging on the couch while I wait for my start date, I read process improvement articles and source recommendations from my industry contacts. Then I can show up armed with ideas and suggestions on my first day.
Obviously, it makes sense to spend some time observing during your first few days, but having ideas and suggestions ready to go can make a lasting impression.
3. Be a team player.
Being a team player means more than showing up and doing your own work. People sometimes fixate on their stated roles, but “I was hired to do X, so that’s all I’m going to do” is not a very collegial attitude. Going the extra mile shows that you’re invested in the company’s well-being, not just your own success. It also gives you a chance to learn new skills and explore different facets of the organization.
Look for opportunities to jump in on projects you weren’t originally assigned, and say yes when colleagues ask for your help, no matter how menial the task. When I worked as a director at a startup, I wasn’t above restocking the snack supply and sweeping the office ahead of an investor meeting. The impression you make in the first 30 days could define the rest of your tenure at this company, so go out of your way to prove your dedication to the team.
4. Get to know people.
The biggest mistake you can make at a new job is not getting to know your co-workers. Make a point of introducing yourself to your immediate colleagues, as well as to people in different departments.
Attend company lunches and happy hours, and take advantage of collaborative assignments to develop a rapport with your teammates. If you’re an introvert and feel uncomfortable chatting in big groups, ask one or two co-workers to grab lunch or coffee.However you choose to approach people, don’t wait for them to come to you! They already know one another, and they’re comfortable in their jobs. You’re the new face, and you can set the tone for these relationships by showing that you’re keen to fit in.
Don’t be afraid to meet with your boss or other senior figures as well. Finding a mentor can be transformative to your career, so get to know the most successful people at your company.
You’re the new face, and you can set the tone for these relationships by showing that you’re keen to fit in.
A candidate I placed in a senior financial analyst role seven years ago now works in Switzerland as a Business Unit Controller with a global company. She traces her rapid advancement to a mentor she sought out while working as an analyst. Although the company lacked a formal mentorship program, she asked someone higher-up that she admired to serve as an unofficial guide as she navigated her new role. That relationship opened new doors for her, and she rose quickly through the ranks because she had a champion helping her make smart career decisions.
Never underestimate the power of your internal network and never wait for people to come to you. If there’s someone you’d like to connect with, take the initiative. It could make all the difference to your career.
5. Be a positive influence.
When you first join a new company, you may feel compelled to go along with office gossip or complaining sessions for the sake of fitting in. However, going negative is always the wrong choice. Your manager is watching you closely, especially during the first 30 days, and they don’t want to see you involved in petty conflicts or griping about the job.
If a co-worker repeatedly complains to you or speaks negatively of other teammates, respond by countering with a potential solution to their problems or a positive observation about your mutual colleagues. You may need to politely assert your boundaries and explain that you don’t feel comfortable talking about others. Whatever you do, avoid joining in their misery. Maintaining an upbeat, collegial attitude demonstrates leadership and fair-mindedness, both of which will endear you to your boss and other team members.
6. Take notes.
Be ready to learn at every opportunity. Whether you’re in a meeting with your boss or sitting in on a client consultation, take notes on what’s being said, reflect on the conversation, and ask questions. No matter what your previous experience is, the first 30 days at a new job are filled with teachable moments, so pay attention and engage.
Make sure you process the information you gain as well. Most bosses and managers are happy to answer questions and discuss any concerns or challenges you’re having. But they become frustrated if you don’t listen to their advice and keep making the same mistakes. When people take the time to teach you or provide you with information, integrate that into your understanding of the problem before you come back with additional questions.
7. Exceed your boss’s expectations — and your own.
Ask your boss what they hope to see from you and the metrics they used to evaluate employees who held your job in the past. That will give you a sense of what you should be working toward each day, but don’t rely solely on other people’s standards to define your goals.
Think about what you want to achieve at this company, and keep those ambitions top of mind at all times. They’ll help you make that one last call or file one more report when you’re tired and feel like calling it a day. Bosses notice when new hires put in the effort and push themselves to new heights.
Think about what you want to achieve at this company, and keep those ambitions top of mind at all times.
If you’re struggling to achieve your goals, don’t suffer in silence. Bosses won’t applaud your stoic efforts; they’ll feel frustrated that you didn’t come to them for help. They may even question whether you really wanted to make good on your targets. After all, you didn’t even mention your problems until they had become crises.
Instead of staying quiet, communicate regularly and ask for guidance. No one expects you to get everything right, especially during your first 30 days. But they do expect you to ask questions and do what it takes to get up to speed.
Your first 30 days at a new job are exciting, hectic, thrilling, and terrifying. They’re also critical to developing a strong foundation from which you can grow. Take this time seriously and take advantage of the learning and network-building opportunities inherent in any new career move.