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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Impress When You're the Youngest One on the Team

As they say, everyone has to start somewhere.

But being the most junior member on a team is never an easy position, and it can be tough to gain trust and credibility when you’re learning the ropes surrounded by more tenured colleagues.

Part of overcoming this sometimes-awkward stage is achieved simply through patience and hard work, but there are also some tangible things you can do to quickly make an impact, regardless of your rank. Here’s how to gain the trust and respect of your colleagues and position yourself for success when you’re the new kid.

Learn the Business

One of the hardest things about being the low person on the totem pole is that there’s just a lot you don’t know about your field or company. But, that’s a totally fixable problem. The more research you can do—even if it’s anecdotal—the better off you’ll be when it’s time to impress your new team.

First, dedicate time to reading through your company website, social media platforms, and news releases, as well as industry-focused sites and publications, both before you start the job and in your regular weekly routine. Building up your arsenal of knowledge not only helps you do your job better and seem more prepared, it will also make you feel more confident about your lack of time on the job.

Better yet, try to connect with people in your department or those who’ve held the position previously to learn from their experiences and uncover any unforeseen challenges or opportunities. Proactively ask if you can go to coffee or lunch with your new manager or others on the team—even before your official start date. Going that extra step will demonstrate your commitment and start building credibility.

Be Annoyingly Reliable

When you’re the new kid on campus, it’s important to not only make a good first impression, but to keep making good impressions. As people begin to get to know you and feel out your work style, they’ll be testing you to see how you handle different tasks.

My advice is to be unfailingly reliable. This includes everything from being early to meetings to having projects completed on time and always following up with your commitments. (You’d really be surprised how far this goes!) Reliability also extends to include things like your personal appearance and punctuality. Sounds simple, but the more consistency you can demonstrate in all areas, the likelier others are to begin to trust you sooner.

When Mistakes Happen, Own Them

It would be wonderful if we always knew exactly what to do and could deliver it flawlessly. Unfortunately, mistakes happen to everyone—especially when you’re just starting out. And this is actually where a lot of new professionals go wrong—either trying to cover up a mistake or over-apologizing for it.

Here’s the deal: If you find yourself aware of a problem or an error in your work, do your best to address it, but don’t keep others in the dark. Chances are they will hear about it anyway, and if it’s not directly from you, you could damage the credibility you’re working to gain.

That being said, your team won’t just want to hear what went wrong, they’ll want to know how you’re going to fix it. When you approach your co-workers or manager to address an issue, have all the information and facts together as well as your proposed solution. Present this in a calm, professional way, and explain what you’ll do to avoid it occurring again in the future.

Go the Extra Mile, Even When it Feels Like Overkill

The steadier you appear to those around you, the sooner you’ll gain their trust and partnership. So, instead of just showing up to the task at hand, try to anticipate what will be asked of you or your role on a project, and come to meetings prepared in advance. Set up meetings with key contacts and stakeholders and compile as much information as you can so that you are prepared and ready to deliver.

On a less-traditional level, going the extra mile also means having a positive attitude, even when things are stressful and new, and being willing to jump into things that may extend beyond your typical job description. You don’t have to be everything to everyone, but being a “yes person” who is skilled at finding solutions is a tried and true way to build relationships and work effectively with others.

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