Starting a new job can be daunting. There’s a lot to learn, no matter what kind of role you’re taking on and, depending on the organisation’s employee onboarding processes, it can feel a little like you’ve been thrown in the deep end. You don’t just want to know how to start a new job, you want to know how to be good at your new job.
In my role as a career coach, I work with people who are starting new jobs, people who have utilised outplacement services and transitioned to a new role, and many others who are experiencing the anxieties that a new role brings.
Those first few days and weeks can feel daunting and the main focus is often getting through each day, taking on all the information you need to know and getting your head around responsibilities. But when it comes to career advice, some timeless words of wisdom lie in the phrase ‘first impressions matter’.
When starting a new job, navigating through each day can feel like a big enough challenge. But while you come to grips with the responsibilities of your new role, it’s just as important to be actively working on making a good impression.
In this article, I will be sharing career advice on:
- The importance of making a positive first impression during the onboarding process
- How to use ‘thin-slicing’ to your advantage when meeting your colleagues for the first time
- What you can do in your first week to make a positive first impression
- Seven things to look out for when starting at a new organisation
Why does your first impression matter when onboarding into a new role?
It all boils down to setting the right tone for your time with this organisation. You may be in this role for a long time, or for one reason or another you could be finding yourself in a career transition again soon. Either way, the tone you set through your first impression is important for shaping how the people you work with think about you.
Of course, it’s true that first impressions aren’t everything – many of us make quick judgements about those around us that we then need to reassess over time. However, first impressions do matter.
Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal coined a useful term that explains the importance of first impressions. It’s called ‘thin-slicing’.
Thin-slicing refers to the way people make very quick inferences about the state, characteristics or details of an individual or situation with minimal amounts of information.
While we know that first impressions can be wrong, studies have found that judgements based on thin-slicing can be just as accurate – and sometimes even more accurate – than judgements that are made based on more information. The impression you make right off the bat speaks volumes.
What can you do in the first week in your new role to make a positive first impression?
- Get enough rest – being well-rested sets you up to be calm and positive during the day. Don’t let anxieties stop you from getting enough sleep each night.
- Give yourself time – leave extra time on your commute so you get to work without feeling flustered by delays or traffic. And remember to give yourself time to learn the systems and processes of your new organisation – be realistic with your pace of learning and your ability to get work done while you’re still learning.
- Listen carefully – with new names to learn and processes to wrap your head around, listening carefully is the best way to figure out the lay of the land.
- Ask questions – When a new job is overwhelming, it can feel like you have more questions than answers. My advice here is simple – if you have a question, ask it. Abandoning your questions for fear of looking silly will only leave you struggling in the deep end. Those working alongside you will appreciate you asking for help early on, rather than later down the line.
7 things to look out for when you start a new role
First impressions are not restricted to your first day or week – as you begin to work with more people in your new organisation, they will continue to make judgements based on thin-slicing as you approach different tasks and have different conversations.
Here are seven things you should look out for as you settle into your role:
- Shared values – In my experience as a career coach, I have also found that people are often happier in their new job when they identify shared values with their organisation. Take some time to understand how your values overlap with your employer’s values and uncover the behaviours that underpin and reflect these values. You will be able to better emulate these behaviours once you understand them fully.
- Structure – every organisation has formal and informal structures. Your priority should be understanding your reporting lines and the go-to people for information and influence.
- Skills – You may be asking yourself: Am I good enough for my new job? Remember that it is not about being the best at everything. Career success is about applying your strengths and minimising your weaknesses in your new role.
- Strategy – set up one to two winning projects to energise those around you and demonstrate your skills as you build trust, credibility and value.
- Staff – learn how to best contribute to the team and understand the context of your role so you can be useful to everyone.
- Systems – understand how things work by listening, observing and asking questions. When a new job is not working out, it is often because someone hasn’t taken the time to understand the lay of the land at their new workplace. When you understand the lay of the land, you’re better able to contribute effectively.
- Style – your personal brand matters. The tips above will help you to put your best foot forward so that others gain an overwhelmingly positive impression of you.
Each of these seven things will help establish you as a trusted and valued employee as you make your first impression in your new role. However, this is great career advice for employees at all stages of their careers. Keeping these things in mind will help you to stay at the top of your game, maintain that positive first impression and become a star employee.
Landing a job is difficult, but succeeding in your new role is the real challenge. As disappointing as this is to share, there is about a 20% chance that you will not pass your initial trial period or probation period. But in my experience as a career coach to people going through the onboarding process, I have found that most of the reasons new employees do not pass their probation are avoidable.
If you’re the type of person who wants to put in the work to succeed in your new job, I recommend enrolling in my practical online program – Career Success.