New Job? How Not To Screw It Up.

Pamela McClinton

22 February 2015

Have you ever welcomed a new colleague, then became subjected to a never ending “At the XYZ Company, we did it this way.” Yeah well, unless you specifically asked, chances are, you Really. Didn’t. Care. what they did at the XYZ Company.

Don’t be that guy.

Chances are, you will be the new guy at some point. Here are some tips to increase your chances of starting your new job as a rock star and never looking back.

You weren’t hired because you are smarter that everyone else. On your first day, you don’t even know where the restroom is. It could be said that on day one, you are the most clueless person in the company. Because no one enjoys that feeling, we sometimes work too hard in a too obvious way to show everyone how smart we are. We want everyone to realize what a brilliant decision it was to hire us. You were hired to fill a particular need, or because there is something the company decided they needed more of, and they hoped that you had it. Truly, it can be very unsettling to have zero credibility or track record, or any juice with anyone. On the flip side, if you made mistakes in your last job, or really wish you had done some things differently or not at all, you get one big do-over. Really think about what your highest and best use is in your new organization, what you want to be known for, how you can contribute at the highest level, then take a deep breath. You don’t have to do it all on day one.


You will be in a fishbowl for a while. Remember when you’d get a new kid in your school? Everyone was checking him out, deciding who he is, where he would fit, and if they wanted to invite him to their lunch table. (In retrospect, that’s kind of terrifying!) Same thing in a new job. Everyone will hear some new person has been hired in marketing, and they will all want to check her out. What’s her story? Is she a threat to me? Is she going to make my job harder or easier? Is she gonna be boss’s pet? Be on your best behavior. Do not join any informal cliques, politely excuse yourself when the gossip starts and be pleasant to everyone. In our desire fit in, we can sometimes, well, sit at the wrong lunch table.

Contribute early, but don’t overdo it. Of course, you want to add value. And you will. You’ve no doubt been in meetings with new people who clearly have gotten the advice to hit a grand slam early. Sure, go ahead. Everyone loves a show off. I am not saying you shouldn’t do good things early, I’m just saying that sometimes, from the perspective of the people watching you, hitting a few of singles early can be more productive in the relationship-building part of your new role.

You have two ears and two eyes. Use them. Anything that smacks of “you people are idiots. Be grateful that you have me to bail you out” will go over as you might imagine it would. You did not do everything right in your old company, and even if you did, no one cares. You have to earn the right to give your thoughts, and you earn it by observing, listening, and understanding so that when you do open your yapper, it is relevant, thoughtful and on target.

And of course, ask for feedback, be open to constructive criticism, play nice, use your listening ears, your inside voice and always share your lunch table with the new guy.

Pamela McClinton

Subscribe to our leadership newsletter