Congratulations – you’ve secured a new job! There will no doubt be lots of words of encouragement coming your way from friends, family, and new work colleagues. You might also pick up some sighs of frustration from those you know, who are still job hunting. Spare them a thought. At this new and exciting time, it’s easy to forget other people and focus on your needs. Remember what it felt like to be jobless.

If you can, do something for someone you know who is out of a job. You’ll be doing the economy and a fellow human being a big favour. It’s easy to forget other people when you are suddenly sorted – try and be time generous and as supportive as you can. You might encourage them to read our blog on interviews and how to make a good impression to get them in a good place to land something new.

Now would also be a perfect time for you to invest in our career journal, ‘The 1st 90 days in my new job‘ to ensure you get organised to land with impact and influence.


How to succeed in a new job

So, you’ve started a new job. Most people, especially in these economically challenging times will want to thrive in their new role – and importantly, keep it! This means succeeding at it – hopefully from the get-go.

how to succeed in a new job

It’s worth pausing to ask yourself what ‘being successful’ means – in the first instance, to you, and latterly to your colleagues and your employer.


Know what success means to you

One option is to consider ‘success’ in the same way as psychologists and academics think about theories of motivation – yes, think Maslow (hierarchy of needs) and Herzberg (two-factor theory) among the many others. More simply put, what ‘needs’ is your new job fulfilling for you. For example:

  • Does it give you a sense of financial security – the money to keep a roof over your head, to buy food, and look after your family?
  • Does it help you feel that you belong – a chance to stem any feelings of loneliness, build friendships, and feel interpersonally connected to others?
  • Does it help your self-esteem, giving you a sense of status, respect, or recognition?
  • Will it go beyond just being about ‘doing a job’ and be more about reaching your personal goals or contributing to a wider purpose?

Of course, all these things could all be of the same importance to you. Perhaps something stands out for you within one area in particular? Before going any further, why not use your Notebook Mentor or another journal, and note down what personal success looks like to you?

how to succeed in a new job

We think personal success in a new job means:

  • Showing up at work and doing your job to the best of your abilities
  • Feeling content with what you are doing
  • Feeling some sense of security – or at least helping you feel calmer about your finances, wellbeing, and personal opportunities
  • Being in tune with the working environment around you (either face-to-face or remotely and over technology)
  • Building positive relationships at work with your line manager, team co-workers, partners, suppliers, and customers
  • Listening and learning from others
  • Receiving feedback on how you are doing, both positive feedback and any constructive ways to improve
  • Being free to share your ideas and views – your newness in the role makes this a brilliant time to see everything with fresh eyes!
  • Learning on and off the job, even if to just ‘stay on top of’ the new job you are doing
  • Having an understanding of how you can develop if that’s what you want to do
  • Having some fun and light-heartedness at work – there’s enough gloom in the world already! When at work, success surely means an element of personal enjoyment!

We don’t think personal success means:

  • ‘Selling yourself out’ at all costs just for the money
  • Giving up your morals, values, and principles
  • Pretending to be something or someone you are not and, in the process, losing all sense of who you are
  • Going to work and being constantly miserable and depressed, even though work is getting done
  • Working but being bound by so many rules that you feel no freedom to act, no autonomy or personal motivation
  • Feeling on edge, stressed, frazzled, or constantly in a state of worry

Understanding what thoughts and feelings come to mind when you think about personal success will help you keep a focus on doing things that contribute to these goals. However, it’s not enough to just think about your success…


Know what success means to your colleagues

Of course, we can’t accurately predict what success might look like to your colleagues – that might depend on the circumstances you all find yourself in, how well your employer is doing, or what your goals and targets are.

It wouldn’t be unusual if those around you at work felt that success was about:

  • Having someone join the team who people felt they could get on with
  • Welcoming a new colleague who was bringing some expertise, knowledge, or skill to the team that people would benefit from
  • Having an extra pair of hands to help out, be enthusiastic and energised about the tasks at hand
  • Feeling comfortable that someone unencumbered by what has gone before is willing to listen to any concerns or frustrations they might have
  • Building a new, trusting relationship, developing potentially into a friendship
  • Having fun and some light-hearted banter with their new colleague
  • Working together towards common goals and targets

how to succeed in a new job

The best way to find out what success means to your new colleagues, is, of course, to ask! Listening closely to what your colleagues have to say is something we highly recommend in the first few months of starting something new. You might want to consider asking them the following kinds of questions:

  1. What are you trying to achieve in your job?
  2. How does my job support what you are doing (and vice versa)?
  3. How can I help you be successful?
  4. What do you think some of the hurdles to success will be?
  5. How do things work around here?
  6. Who do I need to work with to be successful?
  7. What do you value in a new colleague?
  8. How is what we are doing together supporting the company’s goals and targets?

You might want to pursue this line of inquiry beyond your close work colleagues. Think about asking colleagues in other departments, as well as suppliers, or partners.


Know what success means to your employer

If you’re going to be successful in a new job, it’s important that you get a clear idea of what success looks like to your employer. However, it’s certainly dangerous to think that everyone has the same idea of success! Within your company, there may be different measures or views about success. We recommend you start with your line manager – after all this is likely to be the person who will help you settle into your new role and performance evaluate you if that’s part of the way of working.

Hopefully, your new line manager will have furnished you with a role or job description. This might summarise the purpose of your role or could simply list the key deliverables or targets to be achieved. Some job descriptions might include information about the training required to do the job or list the skills, knowledge, or personal attributes that will help you be successful. Even if you haven’t been given anything in written form, by talking to other people doing the same or a similar job to your own, you should be able to roughly work out what needs to get done. It’s worth remembering that knowing ‘how’ success will be measured is as important as knowing ‘what’ it is you must achieve.

how to succeed in a new job

For more information on this topic read our Resource File job descriptions and role profiles.

Think about the type of employer you are working for, the sector they are in, the economy, and how certain situations (like Covid-19, Brexit, or technology change might be impacting them). For example, certain businesses will have very different measures of success:

  • If you’re working in a listed business that trades shares on the stock exchange, financial reporting will be very important as this is likely to affect share price and dividends. Hitting those quarterly targets could be all-important
  • If you’re working in the public health sector, your employer may be all-consumed with dealing with a public health emergency. All hands to the deck, alongside protecting colleagues and serving oaths, will likely matter as much as anything
  • If you’re working in a charity, protecting the vulnerable, then making sure you have the resources to uphold your charitable goals will be important
  • If you’re working in a business start-up or a smaller scale company, then flexibility and a willingness to learn new things might matter most


Don’t assume, because assumption is the mother of all ****-ups!

We apologise for the starred out expletive above, but in all honesty, the saying is one of our most treasured wisdoms. Please do not assume that you and your line manager agree on what job success looks like. Speak to them about it – listen carefully to what they have to say. Ask questions of clarification – checking back regularly to ensure things are still the same or have moved on because the company situation has changed.

It’s also worth considering that your line manager’s view of the world might be different from other people’s views. You can’t necessarily change this, but as you get settled into your new role, listen to the wider conversation. What is your employer’s purpose (perhaps both financially and socially)? What key goals are a broader group of people talking about? What challenges and hurdles are being discussed over coffee or at the beginning or end of the Zoom call? What does your instinct tell you is going on?

Tuning into these thoughts and feelings will help you get a balanced perspective of how your contribution might matter, and in turn, this will help you settle down quickly and impress as someone focused, professional, and up for the challenge.


Apply the six-box success grid

Another way to plan for success is to work out and write up the following six-box grid. This doesn’t just ask the question of what success looks like right now – it asks you to consider how things might need to change in the future. What does ‘success’ look like today for you, your work colleagues, and your employer? Given the challenges ahead, what might success look like in 6, 12- or 24-months’ time – for you, your work colleagues, and your employer? What gaps might need to be closed? What things might you need to learn or do differently? Remember to keep this as a ‘live’ working document – going back to it, as you settle in and establish yourself. If you feel confident, why not also share your thoughts with others.

How to succeed in a new job


Take time to consider that things may not go to plan

In an ideal world, you’d want everything to go well in your new job. It’s worth acknowledging that this isn’t always everyone’s reality. You might turn up in your new job just as your line manager is being exited from theirs. Perhaps your employer is restructuring and dealing with redundancies in some quarters, but growth in others? Perhaps the budget for training that was historically available to help get you inducted has suddenly been cut. Maybe you’re struggling to get on with a particular colleague you have to work with.

Don’t let these hurdles and hiccups wear you down or make you feel inadequate. These types of challenges at work are commonplace and even if you experience them early on, it’s not necessarily a sign that things will go wrong for you.

If you find yourself in a new job and things are not quite going how you thought they would, do the things we have already suggested. Take stock of what’s going on. Ask for feedback and listen to what colleagues have to say. Be open to asking for support or help. Speak to your line manager and let them know how you feel. Most importantly don’t suffer in silence or let things build up. Chances are other people want you to be successful, and if that’s the case they’ll always be someone on hand.

Elisa Nardi is the Founder and CEO of Notebook Mentor, journaling workbooks to help ordinary people manage, develop, and be happier at work.


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