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Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.
I will be starting a new job in a couple of weeks. I know you never get a second chance to make a first impression. What advice do you have to make a good first impression?
These four guidelines will get your new job off to a stellar start:
1. Understand Expectations
Get clear direction on the responsibilities of your job, your deliverables and the role your job plays as a cog in the wheel of the department's smooth-running machinery.
2. Become a Team Player
Learn people's names, and go out of your way to smile and introduce yourself to everyone.Developing good relationships with colleagues is a key part of making a fast start. Take time to get to know people who do the same job and those with whom you interact on a regular basis. Don't be afraid to ask for advice and say thank you for any guidance offered; if you question that advice, without mentioning names, quietly double-check it with your boss.
Work extra hours as necessary without complaint, and if you see something that needs doing, then volunteer or just do it, ascertaining first that what you plan would be the right action to take. While doing your job well comes first, when you see a colleague who needs a hand, step up.Understanding and showing respect for the roles of other team members puts you on the path to making the job a success.
Be friendly to all but don't make alliances until you know who the real influencers are. As you get to know the people around you and the informal positions of respect they have earned, you will begin to understand the real power structure of your new world. And remember that just as you need time to get to know the company, its services and its people, they need time to get to know you. Be clear in your mind of the professional persona you will demonstrate in word and action on this new job.
3. Tread Carefully in Meetings
Think before you speak, always. First meetings are especially tricky. You'll be introduced and probably encouraged to speak up. Say that you're new and excited to join the team, that you have a lot to learn and hope you can ask for help as you learn your way around—then stay quiet, observe and take note.
4. Take Time Announcing New Ideas
If you arrive and immediately begin reinventing the company, you'll be perceived as arrogant and what you say may well be taken as an insult. Don't make your new colleagues feel like you were hired because they weren't doing anything right and you're there to fix things. No one wants to hear your ideas or advice until they know your real value. Teams reject newcomers with such an attitude. Instead, take time to quietly absorb the culture.As you learn about your co-workers and gain acceptance, you'll also start to notice opportunities for making contributions. If you have ideas, start introducing them sometime after the 90-day probationary period, when you know your colleagues and why things are done the way they are.
As you do this, you'll see plenty of opportunities to make a difference. Prioritize them and start small, with each project meticulously conceived, planned and implemented; small changes are easier to sell and help you build a foundation of credibility. Working on smaller projects first also helps you recognize and learn to finesse the hidden hierarchies that can torpedo any initiative.
When you do introduce ideas, it doesn't hurt for them to be part of a team effort. Consequently, their initial introduction will carry more weight when a member of the inner circle shares ownership. You don't lose credibility with their endorsement; you gain it.
Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!
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