Tips for Excelling at Your New Job

1. Take the time to document what you believe are your objectives/results expected. Share that document with your boss for a discussion to make sure expectations are aligned. Doing this can avoid one of the biggest mistakes I see new people make.

2. Start keeping track of your “accomplishments”. What you’ve achieved either monthly or quarterly. Accomplishments are the results you’ve achieved on the job, especially those you are proud of and enjoyed working on.

3. Try to read your boss, what’s his/her personality like. How does she like things…e.g. is she detailed and likes concrete information? If so, make sure you communicate that way. Pay attention to what works and doesn’t work with the boss. Consider it a process improvement project. Aside from mismatched expectations (see #1), relationship with the boss is another of the key problem areas when people don’t do well on the job.

4. Go above and beyond in everything. Beat a deadline if you can without sacrificing quality. Develop an early reputation for fast, high-quality delivery. You get cut a lot of slack later if you build an early reputation.

5. Try to be early for everything, not an hour but 10-15 minutes. I’ve always lived by the rule that if you aren’t 10 minutes early, you’re late! As you might expect, being late is taken as disrespectful and unprofessional. If it looks like a pattern, it can seriously damage your career advancement potential.

6. Always be positive. Don’t say anything bad about anyone or anything. The phrase I’ve always used is: never tell anyone their baby is ugly! You just don’t know who is friendly with or dating whom. And, especially, don’t fall into the trap that if one of your colleagues is bad mouthing someone else, don’t chime in or even agree. If you agree, you’ve said it!

7. Double/triple check your own work. Obsess, even over every email. Never send the first draft and have zero typos. Use Grammarly if you can download it to your work issued laptop.

8. Try to be transparent in most of what you do. Never bcc anyone, even if others do. Instead send your email and then forward your sent email to the person you think should know but could not be cc’d for whatever reason.

9. Smile – people like to work with happy people. Smile even when you don’t feel happy. Laugh with others but refrain from joking until you are much more established and refrain from laughing at jokes that seem offensive. Jokes can create problems, can easily offend individuals or groups. And never joke about people with whom you work, even if the relationships seem solid.

10. Don’t forget the social aspects even regarding e-mails. Add niceties to emails. Start with a nice greeting “I hope this email finds you well.” Or, “Thanks for reaching out…” It helps to read over the e-mail for tone, how might it come across to the person getting it. Read as if it will be forwarded to other people.

11. Take feedback graciously. Say thank you even if you don’t agree with the feedback. AND, ask for feedback. Most people don’t want to give feedback but when you ask, you are giving them permission and then they will want to help. It’s so important to know how people perceive you so you can make course corrections. The only way to know is to ask. BUT, only ask people who are widely respected. Others may mislead you.

12. Dress for the next job, not just the one you have. How you look matters more than you might think. If you look smart, they believe you are smart and the 1st impression can sometimes be a long lasting one.

13. Show initiative as much as possible. This is my biggest gripe when having people report to me. They often fail to take the initiative, even when they know what needs to be done. Try to find answers on your own first. People are busy. They want to see you are resourceful. If you don’t know, research it, Google related topics. If you still don’t know, then you can ask.

14. Listen way more than you talk and listen to learn. At the same time, don’t be the wallflower who never speaks up. Cultivate the art of active listening which means asking questions, clarifying your understanding, paraphrasing what you’ve heard, etc. It shows respect for the person and demonstrates that you are actually listening, trying to understand and communicating back that understanding.

15. Take notes even if others aren’t. It helps you internalize and remember information and you can go back to them if you forget a detail. It’s also a sign of respect to the person talking. You are new and others will expect you to take notes.

16. Bring a pad/pen or your laptop to every meeting. Even lunch meetings.

17. Watch what others do and say, how they dress, how people interact with one another. Take note of what you observe. Culture is powerful but unspoken. Seek to understand it so you can fit into it. At the same time, don’t assume that what you hear is exactly how things are. In many cultures, people can be nice and encouraging to your face but not so in the hallway. Take what you hear from peers with a grain of salt until you come to your own conclusions about how things operate there.


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