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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

8 Ways to Hit the Ground Running at Your New Job (Even if You Have No Idea What You're Doing)

You’ve done all the hard work and totally rocked your job search. You got a great offer—and you even negotiated a better salary. Kudos and congrats!

Now, you show up on your first day, ready to knock it out of the park. But like so many new hires I’ve coached, you arrive to a lukewarm response. There’s no marching band heralding your arrival. In fact, your boss is in nonstop back-to-back meetings for the next two weeks and left absolutely no instructions for what you’re supposed to do in the meantime.

Don’t despair. Here are eight tips to help you hit the ground running—even if you have absolutely no direction.

1. Get to Know Your Job

Even without your manager on board the first day (or more), you can start drilling down into what your job is all about.

How? Pull out the job description originally listed for the role, and highlight what it describes as your key outcomes and deliverables. Note anything you have specific questions about, and ask your colleagues to help you better understand until you get some face time with your boss. Find others in the organization who have the same job title, and ask to meet with them to discuss how to get started successfully.

2. Find Other Newbies

Don’t reinvent the wheel as you start your job. If there are others on the team who have started in the past six months or so, go chat with them!

Ask about the most important things you need to know about working there. Find out what went well for them when they first started, and what they would do differently based on what they know now. Get their suggestions about how you can get started swiftly and successfully, and add those things to your startup plan.

3. Get to Know the Organization

You did a lot of research on your way to getting the job offer. Now that you’re in the position, start learning about the company in new ways. Comb through the organization’s internal website and review pages for departments including training, IT, HR, business development, sales, marketing, and customer service. Read about the organization’s value and culture. Learn more about how exactly the company does what it does, and start thinking about how you’ll fit in.

Also, review the org charts to get a sense for the names and roles of key leaders. Read personal messages or videos published by executives. This will help you develop a feel for leadership messages and themes you can bring into your own work.

Then, if it’s published, review the organization’s financial information. Immerse yourself in the key initiatives and success metrics for the next 12 months. Connect the work you’ll be doing with the big-picture goals of the organization.

Finally, learn as much as you can about your own department. What big projects are priorities right now? How does your team measure success? Who are the key players? This will help you indoctrinate yourself quickly to your immediate work group.

As you do all this, jot down questions or observations to share with your manager when you eventually get some one-on-one time.

4. Get to Know the Industry

If you’re in an industry that’s new to you, you’ll experience a learning curve. Ask your new colleagues to recommend publications, blogs, or other media sources that will help you get familiar with the business.

Get a sense for the other players in the industry, as well as your company’s direct competition. This will help you develop ideas and speak intelligently about how you can bring a competitive advantage to your organization and department.

5. Befriend the Assistants

Even if your boss isn’t around in the early days, there’s still plenty to learn about how things get done. After all, you’ll need to figure out details from how to order your laptop to where to send work for printing.

Based on what you know about your job, make a list of the work processes you might need to learn. Then, turn to the people around you for answers. If there are administrative or executive assistants, make them your best friends. They know tons about how the organization is run, what the managers expect, and how the processes of the business work. They can point you to the right people to have conversations with and help you avoid any booby traps you might inadvertently step into.

6. Figure Out the Seven Most Important Relationships

No matter what job you have, successfully completing your work will require relationships with others.

Now that you’re getting more familiar with the organization, identify the seven most important relationships essential to doing your job well. Seven is a good number to start with; it’s a realistic goal to accomplish, but won’t overwhelm you.

Obviously, one will be your manager—but who else do you need to get to know? The graphic designer? The digital content expert? A team lead from a department you’ll work closely with?

Start reaching out to schedule one-on-one conversations with these colleagues. Introduce yourself as a new member of the team, ask for 20 minutes on their calendar, and tell them that you’re looking forward to working with them.

Then, during the meeting, find out what exactly they do and ask how you can help them be successful. Your new colleague will appreciate your initiative and effort to build relationships.

7. Update Your LinkedIn Profile

Now that you officially have the new job and the title, take some time to revamp your LinkedIn profile. Update your employer, title, industry, and location, if needed. Build a brief description of your new job in the employment section, revise your summary, and update your contact information.

Then, once you start meeting your new colleagues, connect with them on LinkedIn as well!

8. Create a 90-Day Plan

You may not have time to complete all these steps before your boss sits down with you—but they’re all important for your success. So, sketch out a plan for learning the ropes, meeting with colleagues, developing relationships, and hitting those short-term milestones within your first 90 days.

If your boss is up for it, schedule a regular weekly update with him or her so you can share your plans, report on your success, and clarify direction for moving forward.

In my experience, most onboarding experiences leave a lot to be desired. If your new employer hasn’t mastered that process, take heart. Using these tips, you have lots of options to get up and running quickly—and meaningfully—in your new job.

Photo of woman typing courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.