5 Tips to Start Strong at Your New Job

5 Tips to Start Strong at Your New Job
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New hires totaled 77.7 million from March 2021 to March of this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a total employed labor force of 158 million, that means nearly 50% of workers started a new job last year.


Those trends are likely to continue, and you may find yourself seeking and accepting a new employment opportunity. And I know what you are thinking: “The hard part is the job searching, résumé prep, and interviewing – surely it gets easier once I’ve landed the position and join the new team.”


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The reality is, no matter how many times you’ve been “the new guy” or how much experience you bring to your new position, being new is hard. Whether you are a transitioning servicemember, veteran with a career advancement opportunity, or a military spouse reentering the workforce, the simple fact is that we all start the same on Day 1. We are the newbie!


You should anticipate experiencing a range of emotions as you embark upon your new position. We all know making a positive first impression is important. Here are five tips to ensure your transition to the new work environment goes as smoothly as possible:


1. Avoid Replicating Your Old Job. Leave any preconceived notions at the door. Have you ever caught yourself or someone else saying “We did it this way at my old company” – or, worse yet, “at Base X” or “Ship Y”? This kind of comparative thinking only hinders you from fitting in with your new team and adapting quickly to their organizational culture.


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2. Build Relationships and Find a Mentor. This should be your top priority. Get to know your boss and colleagues personally and professionally. Show respect and don’t rush to judgement. It could take weeks, months, or even a year to build relationships, but it will have a direct impact on your success in your new role.


As you build these relationships, keep your eyes open for a company mentor. A trusted colleague can help you answer those things not addressed in policy manuals – everything from navigating tricky informal lines of communication to basic tasks such as requesting office supplies.  


[RELATED: ACP Veteran Mentoring Program for MOAA Members]


3. Observe Everything. Learn all you can about your colleagues, the new company, and clients or customers. Dig deep into the business aspects: How do they make revenue? What are the most pressing challenges today? What about in three to five years?  


Certified career coach and human resources executive Marlo Lyons noted in a Harvard Business Review article: “No matter what position you’re in — entry level or senior executive — the more you know about the company and culture, the more effective you can be at aligning your work to the goals of the company and behaving in a way that’s congruent with the culture.”  


4. Proceed With Caution. Avoid premature problem solving. To prove your worth, you may be tempted to make or suggest changes without fully understanding the nature of the issue or concern. Be sure to do your research, ask probing questions, consider alternatives, and seek the perspectives of others. Sometimes there are very good reasons why things are done a certain way. Remember, success is always easier to achieve when everyone is on board with the change or solution.


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5. Give Yourself Time. Remember, it is never easy to be the new kid on the block. As Lyons put it, “People take jobs and want to feel connected instantly, but that doesn’t always happen.”


Stay positive and take every opportunity to showcase how valuable you are to the team. Each person and situation is unique. Just know you’ll eventually integrate with the team, feel comfortable, and start contributing to the bottom line. You got this!


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About the Author

Col. Brian D. Anderson, USAF (Ret)
Col. Brian D. Anderson, USAF (Ret)

Anderson joined the staff of MOAA's Career Transition Services Department in August 2011. He served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force in a wide range of command and staff assignments. Connect with him on LinkedIn.