New Job? 5 Actions to Take Your First Week

Even in a slowing economy, hiring continues. But so does initial scrutiny of how you perform.

Despite recent layoffs, employers are continuing to hire. In March, in fact, more than a quarter million new jobs were created, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, even as unemployment, at 3.5%, remained low.

But firms want to confirm that they’ve made the right hire, which means that new employees have to endure a high level of scrutiny. Little wonder that some 53% of workers say starting a new job is scarier than a trip to the dentist, holding a snake, or skydiving.

“Starting a new job is exciting, and often a little intimidating, too,” says Korn Ferry Advance coach Frances Weir. Changing jobs may be less nerve-racking, however, if you’re taking action to set yourself up for success. Some ideas:

Ask what success looks like.

Translating your job description into performance goals and metrics isn’t always easy. Don’t be shy about asking your manager what you need to do to earn an “excellent” or “exceeds expectations” performance rating at your annual review. “Write down what your manager said, word for word, and act on it,” recommends Korn Ferry Advance coach Sarah E. Williams.

Develop a 30-day plan.

Work with your manager to create a 30-day plan that includes learning goals, personal goals, and performance goals. The learning goals should be the knowledge or skills you need to acquire in the first 30 days, including what systems, software, and procedures are important to your success, Williams says. Personal goals might focus on building good relationships with your manager and coworkers, as well as developing a network of internal support outside your department.

Introduce yourself to stakeholders.

Ask your manager to help you identify the key stakeholders for your department and team. Then set up informal one-on-one meetings with each of them to get to know what they do and how you can partner with them, Williams says.

“Treat these conversations as networking opportunities, and ask who else you should speak with when you have questions,” Weir says, adding that these exchanges can help you learn the unwritten rules of the organization. They can also provide an opportunity to find out what your predecessor worked on, which past approaches have (or haven’t) been successful, and whether stakeholders have suggestions on how to accomplish the work differently in the future. “This will give you an idea of what quick wins you can deliver,” Weir added.

Track your success.

Don’t wait until the end of the year to find out about the annual performance-review process. During your first week, ask for a copy of the performance-review form used at midyear and year-end reviews, Williams says. Find out what metrics have been used in the past so you can track and measure your own success. Once you have built a relationship with colleagues, consider asking your peers about the performance-review process and how it has worked in the past, she says. Understanding and preparing for your first performance review will ease your transition, given that 85 percent of employees consider quitting after an unflattering performance review.

Develop an ideas notebook.

During your first few weeks on the job, it’s natural to notice many things you want to comment on or fix—but Weir recommends patiently observing for a while before committing to any projects or ideas. Once you have a better idea both of your manager’s priorities and the challenges facing your department, you can begin to identify projects and ideas you want to get behind, she says. Your ideas notebook may also come in handy in the future, when you’re asked to develop new performance goals or suggest new projects.


For more information, contact Korn Ferry Advance.