8 Strategies to Guarantee Success in Your New Job

By Gerald Walsh ©

Once the initial excitement of accepting a new job has worn off, it’s time to think about how you can start off your new job on the right foot. At this stage – for many people – doubts start to creep in. Will I like my new job? What will the people be like? Will they like me? Can I do the work? Should I take courses to learn new skills? Will I fit into their organizational culture?

Though starting a new job can be stressful, the transition does not have to be full of tension and anxiety. With careful planning and the right attitude, you can conclude a successful career change. In today’s blog, I will outline proven strategies you can follow to ensure success in your new job.

Strategy #1

Prove what you told them in the interview

Whatever you said to the people who interviewed you, be sure that you demonstrate you can do it early on. For example, if you said you were good at web design, start to suggest ways the company’s website can be enhanced. Or if you claimed your strength is in motivating staff, start holding regular staff meetings or taking some other steps to prove it. All too often, candidates embellish their accomplishments in an interview. You don’t want to be left in a situation where your performance falls short of your boss’s expectations based on what you told them in the interview.

Strategy #2

Make a positive first impression

You made a good impression in the interview, clearly. Now you have to carry this same impression into your new job as all eyes will be on you as you begin. Here are a few strategies to follow:

  • Think about how you dress and make sure this in accordance with company norms.
  • Come to work early and stay late to demonstrate good work ethic.
  • Ask good questions and listen more than you talk.
  • Smile (a lot) – there’s nothing like a friendly face.
  • Build personal relationships with co-workers by inviting them for coffee.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • And, never tell people how much better it was at your old company.

Strategy #3

Adopt the behavioural norms

Every office has its own set of behaviours that employees are expected to follow and your failure to do so could cause irreparable damage to your career with that employer. Consider:

  • Where do people eat? Is it okay to eat at your desk or does everyone eat in the lunchroom?
  • How do people maintain their individual workstations? Is everyone’s desk cleared off at end of the day or can work be left out?
  • What about telephone etiquette? Is it okay to take the occasional personal call? How do other employees control their voice levels so they don’t bother their neighbours?
  • How do people speak to each other? What tone and language do they use?
  • What about hours of work? Is it acceptable to come in 10 minutes late and stay 10 minutes longer at end of the day? Or does everyone work precisely 8:30 – 4:30?
  • What are the meeting rules? Do they start right on time? Are people permitted to eat during staff meetings? What about bringing cell phones into meetings?
  • Who cleans the dishes in the lunchroom? Is someone responsible for that task? Or does everyone clean their own?
  • Remember, you are the new kid on the block. You are the one who is expected to conform to these behaviours, not the other way around.

Strategy #4:

Determine the level of communication your boss wants

There are several relationships you will have to manage in your new job but the most important one is with your new boss. In particular, it is important to establish the frequency with which she wishes to meet with you and the depth of information she requires about your work. For example, does she want to assign work to you and know everything you are doing? Or,is she okay with a daily meeting or weekly update?

Whatever it is, you should be prepared to adapt to her style. If she wants to know everything you do and you prefer a lot of freedom, don’t resist it at the beginning. Give in to her way for the time being and build her trust level so she will give you more freedom over time.

Strategy #5

Understand the scope of your authority

One way to do this is to categorize your decision-making into three types.

  • A Level 1 decision is one you can make on your own without checking with your boss or telling him.
  • A Level 2 decision is one you can make on your own but one you should tell your boss after the fact that you made it so he will not be caught off-guard.
  • A Level 3 decision is one where you must receive approval from your boss before making it. Usually, Level 3 decisions are more strategic decisions and of greater importance and it is important that you gain approval beforehand.

It is best that you and your boss clearly understand which types of decisions fall where.

Strategy #6

Be respectful of the person you are replacing

When starting a new job new, you should be aware of the person you have replaced. That person may have left for any number of reasons: retired, fired or just left to assume a new job somewhere else.

Some time ago, I spoke with Peter on the first anniversary of him taking over as Executive Director of a member-based association. A year earlier, Peter had taken over from Don, his predecessor, who was well-respected and responsible for rescuing the organization from financial difficulties in its early days. Peter said he was acutely aware that he and Don were very different people in terms of age, background, management style and even dress. Peter said, “I was very mindful there were staff who had worked with Don for the entire 11 years he had been there and who had become accustomed to his style.”

Peter considered for a while whether he should change his style to match Don’s. Or, should he just be himself? Ultimately, it was a “balance of both” said Peter, and that worked well. He was still able to be his authentic self yet respectful of relationships Don had with staff.

Strategy #7

Sort out the office politics

Whether you like it or not, office politics is a way of life in every organization and you need to understand and master it if you wish to succeed. Beyond understanding the formal organization and who has authority by virtue of their position, you should:

  • Find out who the real influencers are – the people who can get things done even if they lack formal authority.
  • Develop an understanding of the social networks that exist within the organization. Who gets along with whom? Who are the groups and cliques that connect? Which groups clash with each other?
  • Don’t align yourself with any one group; instead build your own social network by associating with many groups and networks across the entire organization.
  • Most important, build your relationships on a firm foundation of trust, respect and high-quality work.

Strategy #8

Stay in touch with your old boss

Technically, this is not a strategy for being successful in your new job but it is a smart plan to follow just in case your new job doesn’t work out. Assuming you left your old job on good terms, you can maintain a relationship with your old boss and past employer by:

  • Sending a holiday card;
  • Extending best wishes on their birthday;
  • Updating them on major changes in your life such as marriage, new child, buying a house, or moving to a new location;
  • Letting them know you’ve received a promotion or moved to a new job;
  • Sending them articles of interest or forwarding any competitive intelligence you may have;
  • Dropping in the office for a visit from time to time; and
  • Staying in touch through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn .

If the new job doesn’t work out, you might consider returning to your old employer. At a minimum, you may need them to provide a good reference should you decide to move on to something else.

My Summer Reading List

Every summer I look forward to some downtime and catching up on my reading. I know I should read more fiction but I can’t help be drawn into all the excellent business, career and personal growth books that are out there. Here’s on what’s on my list for this summer. Let me know what you are reading. I will recommend these in future blogs.

  1. The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends; Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don’t – by Carmine Gallo. I loved Gallo’s first book Talk Like TED, which you should read if you haven’t done so. This is a great follow-up book.
  2. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy. Building off her TED talk – the second most viewed talk in TED history – Cuddy gives us her personal recipe for feeling more confident and powerful.
  3. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Career One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer. This is one of the best researched books on leadership that I have seen and debunks many of the “half-truths” and “self-serving stories” that are common in leadership circles.
  4. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The authors challenge everything we know about strategy by suggesting that success comes from untapped growth areas rather than from competitors’ market share.
  5. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni. This is Lencioni’s eleventh book. It is a clearly-written fable on how to build better teams in the workplace.
  6. Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. As the title suggests, this Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times reporter gives us his perspectives of productivity.

Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn