Got a new job? Eight tips for a successful start

January is typically the month when we see the highest number of jobs posted to Idealist.org, and this year is no exception. If you’re lucky enough to snag one of those gigs, here are some things to keep in mind as you begin. Thanks to Michelle Moran of YNPN-NYC for this guest post.

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Good luck in your new role! (Photo: cogdogblog, Flickr/Creative Commons)

Once you have landed a new job it may seem like the hard part is over, but sometimes your first few weeks at work can be very challenging. Follow these tips to get off on the right foot and avoid making common mistakes.

1. Remember: you were hired for a reason. You beat out other qualified candidates for this job. That means the hiring manager believes you are the best person for the position. Have confidence that you will do a great job and can make important decisions on your own.

2. Learn from others. Pay attention to the ways that your successful colleagues and senior management approach their work, and leverage that understanding to be better at your job. Take the time to observe activities around the organization that may or may not be a part of your direct responsibilities. For example, if you are in fundraising, learn as much as you can about the program side of your organization.

3. Strike a balance between respecting what’s been done and making changes. Unless you are one of the first employees at an organization, there are certain norms that have been established for better or for worse. Don’t begin a new job thinking you are going to change things immediately. Instead, take time to understand why things are the way they are and how you can participate in your organization’s culture.

4. Meet one on one with everyone you will work with. From the intern to the top executive, never assume that you won’t interact with someone or that their advice will not be helpful. Everybody’s work (and opinion of you) matters, especially in a small office. If you can meet with them individually, ask what brought them to the organization, how they approach their role, and how you can best work together. Make sure to write a quick thank you note to everyone you meet.

5. Ask questions. Sometimes people can be so comfortable with a job or work environment that they forget to tell you important things that you need to know as a new employee. Take advantage of your newbie status to ask lots of questions.

6. Stay away from office politics. The last thing you want is to get involved in any drama. If people try to persuade you one way or another, simply state that you are here to do your job and don’t know anyone well enough to make judgments about them. Avoid the office drama queen (or king) as much as possible.

7. If you struggle in your new position, give it some time. You never know how things can change, and how responsibilities that seem difficult now may eventually be what you like most about your job.

8. Be yourself. Authenticity is key to not only winning over your coworkers, but also to doing a really great job in your position, and increasing your chances of a promotion. Ask: are you doing what you love? If your job isn’t what you expected, it might be worth a conversation with your manager.

What other tips would you add?

This is a slightly edited version of a post that originally appeared on the YNPN-NYC blog. The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of New York City supports the professional development of the next generation of nonprofit leaders by providing opportunities for skill-building, information sharing, and networking. Visit YNPN-NYC online at ynpnnyc.org and connect with them on Twitter @ynpnnyc, on Facebook at facebook.com/ynpnnyc, and on LinkedIn at ynpnnyc.org/go/linkedin/.

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Comments (12)


  1. Kiera writes:
    January 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Really great advice! I needed to read this! Thanks!


  2. NGWANA TITUS writes:
    January 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

    though i haven’t gotten a job the advice is great
    thanks for those words of encouragement


  3. Ann writes:
    January 25, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Thanks for the advice! Thank you for providing this tips, I usually have rough times when starting in a new job. I’m quite shy and silent and have problems interacting with my co workers, though I weren’t bullied ever. But then, I went on being my self, no fakes and it came out great! I still have good relationships with my coworkers even if I’m not working with them anymore. I love reading career advice like this, it makes me optimistic enough that I can surpassed any challenge in pursuing the career that I love. Check this blog as well http://liveitforward.com by Kent Julian, he writes a lot of articles that also encourages career seekers like me on how to make the move to achieve the life and work that I love.


  4. Anna writes:
    January 25, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for the post! I definitely struggle with striking balance between the change I want to make and what has come before. I think you’re right that these are ways to be successful but it can be very hard for youth just starting out! I wrote a response to this post at http://myorangechair.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/no-one-ever-accused-me-of-being-patient/ so please take a look!


  5. Peter writes:
    January 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks for this. I applied a position posted here, and was hired in July, Last Year. I wanted to acknowledge about this to idealist. Thank you so much.

    In my first 6 months in the new position as a Case Manager, I faced several challenges. This tips also help me.


  6. B Z David writes:
    February 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I really appreciate you for these tips. I have just started a new job that l feel so confortable with everyone in the office as a group, but l also noticed that there is a lot drama around mostly during lunch time. A coworker invited me to lunch that l have gladly accepted and she spent the whole time talking about everyone in the office and when we got back she was so friendly with everyone after talking about them like a dog and cannot understand that. Since then, l bring my luch with me and refuse to go out with them unless we are in group and no one talks about anybodyelse. Thank you very much for these tips.


  7. John writes:
    February 2, 2012 at 1:52 am

    Great tips! Thanks so much!


  8. Michelle writes:
    February 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Hi everybody,

    I’m so glad to see the great feedback on my post! I felt compelled to write this because I too was facing some issues in my new job, and wanted to provide some advice from someone going through it! Good luck to all of you.


  9. [...] new set of issues can arise. Check out my recent post for Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (later posted to Idealist) to get some tips on acclimating to your new job. Cancel [...]


  10. Bettina Seidman, SEIDBET Associates Career Coaching writes:
    February 6, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    As a career management coach with over 20 years’ experience, I don’t agree with the advice “Be yourself.” I have always recommended that clients be strategic – that’s very different. In an interview, in a networking meeting, on a new job – BE STRATEGIC.


  11. Vanessa writes:
    February 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I believe that its definitely hard when you are someone new in a job. There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made. We must also learn to face certain realities that there are times that we have to know when and where to be ourselves. This will help avoid clashes of personalities in your work and help you build rapport with other people in that office.


  12. Karen E. Lund writes:
    February 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Excellent advice. I’ve done a lot of temping, so sometimes have “new” jobs every few weeks when I get a new assignment. It can be challenging getting up to speed quickly.

    Number 3 really resonates: in my multiple temp and permanent jobs I’ve seen tasks done many ways, and most of them work. I try to mesh with what an organization is already doing–as long as it works for them–but have alternatives to offer if it’s not.

    One thing I try to do on every new job or assignment is a variation on number 4. Even if I don’t have time to meet one-on-one with all my co-workers, I make an effort to chat with the person who gives me work and the person my work goes to. I don’t mean my supervisor (though certainly that’s someone I want to know!), but whoever had their hands on paperwork or whatever I’m doing immediately before me, and the person who will handle it after it passes out of my hands. We’re adjacent links in a chain and if we understand the process well it will be a stronger chain. Often there are things we can do that will make the workflow more efficient (and even easier for us).


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