Finally landed an exciting new gig? Congrats! Once you’ve celebrated, we have a word of advice to those who are planning their next professional steps: Don’t treat a new job like just another paycheck—use it to strategically propel your career. Even if it’s not your dream job, there are a few things you can do to get off to a great start and turn any job into a foundation that will serve you professionally for years to come.
During the initial days at a new gig, when you’re dealing with things like HR logistics and on-boarding, you’ll make a great impression if you go out of your way to be a social butterfly—just don’t try too hard. “On day one, go around and meet as many people as you can,” says Dayne Shuda, who runs a blogging service. “Then start a little notebook to help remember the names. You can usually get a list of names and roles from the person who hired you.” Once you get to know them, keep connecting when and where it feels natural. “Ask what they’re interested in. Look for opportunities to work with people, to find others with similar values and interests and even for potential projects to work on,” she says. Not only can it help you with your success at the company, but it’s just a good way to connect.
A few weeks or months into a new gig is also the perfect time to start recording any applicable metrics, says Meredith Bodgas, editor-in-chief of Working Mother. “Make a record of all numbers you’re expected to grow as they stand on your first day,” she says. For example, if you handle social media, record the number of followers on each account, how much engagement each post gets, and how many posts go out. Or if you’re expected to bring in more or bigger clients, record how many have been assigned to you and what they’re spending. “This way, when it comes time to ask for a promotion or a raise–or prove your worth on a resume or to an interviewer—you have your starting numbers on hand and can easily measure and show off your progress.” Ahead, check out a few more ways to make sure you make a stellar first impression at the start of a new job.
1-6 Months In
This is the time to dive into your new role. Once you become more familiar with your new colleagues and company culture, it’s time to show your stuff while being receptive to feedback.“Buckle down and try to contribute as much good work as possible,” says Diane Elizabeth, an entrepreneur in the skin care industry. She said to avoid being late, taking time off that you didn’t agree on prior to being hired, and definitely keep your nose out of any corporate gossip. “This immersion will both help you to become an integral member of the team and set a strong first impression with your bosses,” she said.
Also, try to meet one-on-one with your manager or the leader of your department at least once during this period to discuss your work, ask any questions, and generally catch up and make sure you’re on the same page about how things are going. “Once you’ve been in your role for several months and have identified short-term and long-term goals, discuss potential career development opportunities with your manager,” adds Gene Kim, who heads up permanent placement services with the staffing agency Robert Half Finance & Accounting. For extra credit, compile a list of educational courses or conferences that you (and your department, via you) could benefit from. Then see if you can attend—and/or if they’ll pay for it. “Take advantage of the professional development opportunities your company offers, and keep your manager updated on the programs you pursue,” Kim says. “You’ll show your enthusiasm for the job, and your manager can also weigh in on other potential resources for you.”
6-12 Months In
When you’ve been at the company long enough to teach others about internal processes—and perhaps accrue some time off or a retirement plan—start looking at ways to meaningfully contribute to the organization that go above and beyond your job description, says Christopher K. Lee, a career consultant. Some people typically assess whether they want to switch roles or get promotions, but it’s perfectly okay to spend more time in the same position. Just try to capitalize on all you’ve done with the company, retain those connections for the future, and see where this job fits into your overall career aspirations. “Reevaluate, and if you’re not happy, start looking for your next opportunity,” Bodgas adds.