The CEO Refresher Websites for Professionals
Take control of your online presence
with your own professional website!

Starting on the Right Foot
by Martin Yate, CPC


All too often we join a new company and in an effort to make a good impression, we achieve the opposite. 

I recently heard from an upwardly mobile marketing professional who was frustrated in her new job, "They hired me to innovate, and now I'm getting yessed to death, but there's no action!" How you behave when you first start work will determine your acceptance by management and by the team, your tenure, and your ultimate success with the company.

Here are some strategies that will help you avoid cranial-rectal inversion in your first months at that new job, and get this next step in your career started on the right foot.

Make a Positive First Impression

Your boss expects the same person who interviewed for the job to show up for work. - Bill Wilhelm, CPC. Executive Recruiter, Wilhelm and Associates, Inc. Industrial Sales and Manufacturing Management. 38 years' experience.

Never assume anything on a new job. Don't try to change the world before you know the way to the restroom. Your first task is to get to grips with your job, getting to know others who do this same job and the people whose work is affected by your work. Remember people's names, and go out of your way to smile and introduce yourself to everyone. Don't overlook clerical staff -- it isn't courteous and allies here can always repay your cordiality down the line.

Learn the job, the organization, the people. Show openness to feedback. Working extra hours as necessary without complaint. Form good relationships inside/outside your department. - Ron Weisinger, Principal Development, LINKS Consulting. Human Resources. 20 years' experience.

Notice everyone's immediate work environment. In some companies a messy desk signifies an industrious, brilliant creative genius at work. In others it signifies a messy slob who's an embarrassment to the profession. Similarly, inquire about dress codes before you start.

As you get acclimatized over the first few days, you will begin to see the flow of work. Whatever the apparent madness you see in the early days at a new company, there is usually some very sound method behind it. The paychecks don't bounce, so the company's employees and officers must be doing something right. With this in mind, don't make comments about how things should be done, because no one will listen and some will take offense that the "newbie is a know-it-all." That just encourages some wise-ass to put you in your place.

Get clear direction on goals, work as a team member, ask for regular feedback from your boss about how you are doing, and use the feedback to implement any changes that are needed. Teamwork and good relationships with others are critical as are delivering expected results. - Marsha Connolly, Managing Partner, The New River Group. Certified Executive Coach. 30 years' experience.

You need time to get to know the company, its services, and its people. In turn, those people need time to get to know you. If you arrive and immediately begin reinventing the company, it will be seen as arrogance and is going to be taken as an insult. No one wants to hear your ideas or advice until they know your real value. First meetings are especially tricky. You'll be introduced and encouraged to speak up. By all means say that you're new and excited to join the team, that you have a lot to learn and hope you can ask for help as you learn your way around; beyond this say nothing.

Take notes, make others feel what they say is important enough to write down. Say thank you to anyone who assists you, be appreciative of their time and input. - Nancy C. Anton, CPC. Talent Consultant, CIGNA. 20 years' experience.

Start Small

Failure to communicate is the major reason why things "don't work out." Do you know exactly what expectations they have of you? Do you know how your performance is being measured? Do you know the criteria to making a "keep" or "fire" decision? - Bob Morris, Owner, Storage Placements. Data storage sales/marketing. 44 years' experience.

Take the time to get your feet on the ground, learn your way around, make friends, and absorb the culture. As you do this you'll see plenty of opportunities to make a difference with your presence. Prioritize them and start small, with each project meticulously conceived, planned, and implemented.

If you have ideas, the time to start introducing them is some time after the ninety-day probationary period, when you know:

  • The names of everyone in the department
  • How the department works and why it works that way
  • How the company works and why it works that way
  • Who's trustworthy and who isn't
  • Management and other power players holding titles at least one and ideally two levels above you
Best things you can do? Nail proficiency in your job first. Help pick up slack on a necessary but unpopular task. Do enough homework to ask intelligent questions. Make suggestions and recommendations that help move projects forward rather than attacking bedrock assumptions. - Rick Kean, Consultant Emeritus, A. M. Hamilton, Inc. Staffing and training. 30+ years' experience.

When you have nailed job proficiency and the time is right to start making extra contributions, start with ideas for smaller projects -- they are easier to sell, and help you build a foundation of credibility. Working on smaller projects first also helps you recognize and learn to finesse the hidden hierarchies that can torpedo any initiative.

Additionally, it doesn't hurt for your ideas, when you do introduce them, to be seen as part of a team effort. They will usually carry more initial weight when a member of that inner circle also has ownership. You don't lose credibility with their endorsement; you gain it.

At the same time as you are getting settled in and begin to feel accepted as a member of the team, management and your coworkers are looking carefully at how you function and informally accrediting you a status within the group. Their considerations evaluate:

  • How well you know your job
  • Whether you can be relied on to execute your duties in a professional way that is respectful of the work and responsibilities of others
  • Whether you shoulder your share of the responsibility for a friendly, positive workplace
  • How you make decisions, and whether they respect the business imperatives that everyone shares
  • How you treat other people
  • Whether you recognize others' contributions and give credit where it's due
  • Whether you speak up for the team in meetings and defend its decisions
  • Whether you respect the existing hierarchy within the team

You don't climb alone; no one does. You will do it most effectively with the support, encouragement, and camaraderie of similarly committed professionals, and as such we grow together. That's why the people at the top of every profession all know each other and have done so for years.

No one likes to be overwhelmed with genius, and the better you are, the more you have to work at your humility. Taking it slowly in the first ninety days will speed your acceptance by the group as a whole and allow you the time to recognize the real players amongst your peers. When it comes to establishing your credibility and visibility, the good news travels more slowly than the bad, but it does travel.

Teams accept you when you learn what makes this new team successful, and when you learn from them. - Perry Newman, CPC/CSMS. Executive Resume Writer/Career Coach. 25 years' experience.

The team rejects someonewho has a condescending attitude. Don't be the guy who makes everyone feel like you were hired because they weren't doing anything right and you're there to fix it. - Michelle Hagans, Recruiter, Anu Resources Unlimited. IT and medical. 20+ years' experience.

The above is an excerpt from the book Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World by Martin Yate, CPC.


The Author

Knock 'em Dead


Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock 'em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is a New York Times and international bestseller of job search and career management books. He is the author of 11 job search and career management books published throughout the English speaking world and in over 50 foreign language editions. Over thirty years in career management, including stints as an international technology headhunter, head of HR for a publicly traded company and Director of Training and Development for an international employment services organization.

Within the profession he has a global reputation as the thought leader on job search and career management issues. He has lectured on four continents and has maintained a coaching practice since 1991.

The current recession is the 5th he has helped people navigate over the last 30 years.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives
The CEO Refresher

Copyright 2011 by Martin Yate. All rights reserved.

Current Issue - Archives - CEO Links - News - Conferences - Recommended Reading

Refresher Publications