Advice for starting a new job – FOT-Style

For me as well as for I am sure many other folks in FOT Nation these first days of 2013 are not just the start of a New Year, but also are the start of a new job.  In a bit of shameless self-promotion, and for anyone that cares, the details of my new gig can be found here.

New jobs, even ones that seem a perfect fit or ones in which you were recruited heavily into and maybe even wined and dined (and perhaps given a compelling contract/comp package), always come at the start with some nervousness and angst. Did you make the right decision? Will you like the people there?  Will the ‘deal’ that you discussed when you were being wooed really be the deal, or should you have believed what you read on Glassdoor?

Lots of questions, naturally. And when faced with tough questions, most people also have a natural reaction. We ask Google. So that is what I did a few days ago, searched the almighty Google for ‘Advice for starting a new job’.  There were over 80 Million results. I could have then applied some insight in order to winnow down the result list and find the real gems of understanding,  but instead, and also to try and mimic what I imagine lots of people do, I simply clicked on the first organic result, (not going to link to it here, for reasons that hopefully will become clear).

It was a pretty long piece containing some 20 tips for people starting a new job, not all bad, but I did want to call out a few of the ‘tips’ from the (at least for me), the number one Google search result that people starting a new job and looking for advice would find:

7. Endeavor to arrive earlier and/or stay later than your supervisor to prove you are ready to work hard.

8. Communicate with your supervisor via meaningful emails early and or late in the

day to document your extensive hours.

9. Strive for a perfect attendance record during your first two years. If you are ill try to accomplish as many tasks as possible from home and/or put in extra time when you return.

Classic stuff – get to work early, stay late, (make sure your boss notices both), send some 11:00 PM emails so she knows you’re not a slacker, and if you should dare to get sick (Horror!), try to work from home anyway. Maybe those are all good tips, I don’t know, but they present, individually and taken together in a grouping, (exactly how they are presented in the piece), an incredibly cynical, manipulative, and old-fashioned way to think about work and the workplace.

To be fair, most of the first six tips in the piece are decent, (align yourself with positive people, avoid office gossip, talk meaningfully with your manager to identify success criteria, etc.), so I don’t want to be accused of cherry-picking only the worst bits to call out here. But the idea that hundreds, maybe thousands, (the top result in a Google search has to drive a lot of traffic, no?), of people are being advised to think about their first days on a new job through a kind of a Lord of the Flies paranoia is a little depressing.

So members of FOT nation here is what I propose – let’s try to drive a new take on ‘Advice for starting a new job’ up the Google charts.  Let’s give new job starters some better and more balanced advice from our collective experience and insight. And if you think I am nuts, and ‘Get there early, leave late, and fake like you are working 24/7’ is good advice, then let us know that as well.

Have one best (or at least decent) piece of advice for those of us that are working through those first few awkward days on a new job?  Drop a comment and help us out and maybe this post will one day top the Google search results.

And good luck to everyone starting a new job in 2013!


FOT Background Check

Steve Boese
Steve Boese is fondly known to many as the HR Technology blogger. By day, he is the Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive's HR Technology Conference. He is also a former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle and an HR Technology instructor. Steve can also be found hosting the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast … you know, where a bunch of HR pros get together and call in to talk about HR stuff. Sounds like an SNL skit, we know. But when you have Dave Ulrich, the grandfather of HR as show guests, well, I guess you’re doing something right.  Talk to Steve via emailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook.


  1. Randy Clark says:

    Share your ideas and opinions in a positive way. Holding back your ideas will protect you right into a corner. Would you rather be labeled a yes-person and non-creative, or someone who thinks outside the box, who is an innovator and a thinker? Besides, if they hate your ideas or retaliate because you voiced them – is it the right job for you?

  2. Steve Boese says:

    Good advice Randy – thanks for sharing!

  3. Brian Deming says:

    “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” I have tried to utilize a 90% listening / 10% talking rule on day 1 and gradually scale it back to a 50/50 ratio by the end of week one. I can’t fix the problem until I understand the problem is (real or perceived). Throw out the occasional “I ran into ___ at a prior job and we tried ___” during that first week to see how receptive everyone is to new (your) ideas. Ideally you’ll have a barometer after the first week so you know whether to start rocking the boat harder or ease up to allow others a moment to catch their breath.

  4. Steve Boese says:

    Hey Brian – good advice for sure. I particularly liked the advice to avoid the ‘at my last job, we did XYZ’ line. People usually hate that one. Thanks!

  5. Melissa Fairman says:

    Listen, Listen, Listen. Take notes while listening. Especially if you are spending a lot of time training. There is nothing worse then training someone who is not taking notes. One other tip that is cliched but true: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

  6. Steve Boese says:

    Thanks Melissa – that is a great point. When you are on the first few weeks on a new job you are bound to get overwhelmed with information – writing notes definitely is a must-do. Thanks again!

  7. Jen Picard says:

    Figure out what needs to happen for you to be successful. Get together with your boss to review metrics, goals, maybe even a 30-60-90 day plan. I will generally put one of these plans together during my interview process, and get feedback from my boss early on. That way, you know what it’s going to take to prove that you were a strong hire.

    Also spend as much time as possible getting to know your co-workers. They will be instrumental on getting you up to speed quickly, and may be very valuable resources in the future. Start building relationships as early as possible.

  8. Steve Boese says:

    Hi Jen – I think that the ‘define what success looks like’ step is really important, great point. And no doubt long-term success will rely on the ability to develop solid relationships with colleagues. Thanks for sharing!

  9. William Tincup
    William Tincup says:

    My advice is simple… just be yourself…

  10. Pay attention to who the key players are. This will help anyone navigate a new company.

  11. HD says:

    Congratulations again on the new and exciting opportunity, Steve!

    Make mistakes early, ask questions and correct those mistakes moving forward. Get dirty and figure out what works for you to get the job done – which may be a different route than the route of others who previously held that role.

  12. Joel Kimball says:

    Great comments from everyone. Since I get moved a lot (every couple years) within my Company, and it’s inevitably to a location where I know few – if any people – I treat it like it’s a job at a new company. So I definitely do my best to LISTEN and avoid saying “Well, at XXX location we…” as noted above. I would add:

    – Walk around and get to every physical spot in your new location early on. I usually walk around randomly for the first month and ensure I cover every square inch of my turf. Look for the people and look at the surroundings. As an HR guy, I have responsibility for everything including safety and security, so I assess my new surroundings early on for issues and strengths. Oh, PS, I meet a ton of people this way, too (the real reason for daily walks to random places :).
    .- I also tell my people right up front, “I’m new, you know what you’re doing. I appreciate your input and guidance going forward so I don’t walk into any glass walls and to help me make better decisions.” I say because 1) I mean it and it’s true and 2) it invariably breaks the ice and lets my folks know that I know that I DON’T know…it all. Or even clcose. And that I WILL rely on them.

    Congratulations and good luck!

  13. Steve Boese says:

    Thanks Colleen, HD, and Joel for adding your comments. Time will tell if we rise to the top of the Google search!

  14. ES says:

    I Started a new job about 6 months ago – below are a few things I focused on, the list is in no particular order.
    – Although the environment is very relaxed and casual its important to maintain a professional presence, that doesn’t mean I was a snob, but I maintained a balance between wearing a black pin stripe suit and taking off my shoes to throw my feet up on the desk while bbm-ing all my contacts.
    – I listened to business conversations around me and piped in where I had something of value to say
    – I asked lots of questions to get a solid understanding of the business before recommending changes or new initiatives …adding to this point I always thing its key to understand how all parts of the business operate not just your specific department, it might sound like common sense but I find most people don’t care to understand groups outside their own.
    – I’m not a big fan of eating out regularly for lunch (a little health conscious) but in my first few weeks, if invited, I would always accept a lunch invitation or ask others out to lunch. It’s important to have some time outside the office in an (even more) causal setting to build rapport with new coworkers.
    – After the first month (timelines may vary for individuals by role or function) I proactively developed a 6 month action plan to discuss with my director to outline the things I’d like to accomplish in my first few months to show how I’ll be adding value asap.

    I have settled in very well in my new gig and have a great relationship with the people around. I agree with the other posters’ points as well, especially avoiding the “when I was at xyz company we did this…”

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