Take Five: On finding your feet in a new role

Written by
Sarah Trounce
Illustration by
Tommy Dearie

Take five minutes and read five practical steps to help you level up your job hunting.

Following our Guides to applying for a job and navigating the interview process, next we explore how to approach the first month in a new role.

Taking your place in an unfamiliar environment can be as challenging as it is exciting. Often, it can feel overwhelming. You arrive with high expectations for the future as well as baggage from previous experiences. Memories of old roles, trusty colleagues and favourite projects jostle with fantasies about ‘the new you’. That client who ruined your perfect design work three years ago? They're still haunting you. That time you embarrassed yourself twice in one meeting? The stunned silence is forever ringing in your ears. Time to move on. But how?

Beginning a new role is a rare chance to create the structure – and set the tone – for how you want to work going forward. If you can deal with the usual nerves and natural insecurities that come with starting afresh, you’ll find an opportunity to shape and grow your job from day one. Below, we suggest five steps to reframe your first-month thinking so you can conquer your fears, embrace uncertainty, and forge a path towards years of learning and enjoyment.

Set Your Routine

Arrive on time, or early. Leave on time, or only a little after. The same applies if you’re working remotely. If you start working overtime during your first month, beware of creating a habit that may be hard to break later on. Don’t be a martyr, or a vampire. Grapple with your work in the daylight hours in the sociable company of your team. Fretting and fiddling on your own after everyone else has retired will not necessarily create an impression of professionalism or dedication. Choose having a life. Then come back in the morning with fresh eyes instead of a broken spirit. Have fun with the challenges of the job. Bring a lightness of touch and a sense of humour; you’re in the honeymoon phase after all.

Make Allies, Before Friends

Becoming indispensable doesn’t happen overnight, but you can set the wheels in motion. Organise short, formal introductory sessions with all relevant members of the team (every member if it’s a small team) where you can ask questions – What does your day look like? How did you work alongside my predecessor? What can I do differently? – and start to build a constructive two-way relationship. More informal chats – over lunch, a coffee, or waiting for a meeting to start – are another important foundation of healthy work collaborations that may evolve into friendships over time. Remember: these encounters are only enjoyable and useful if you’re able to be yourself, and if your colleague feels comfortable enough to be genuine too.

Be considerate towards your new teammates but don’t spend all your time making tea (or plotting a heavy session at the pub) in the hope that it’ll win you friends. A better way to connect is by being curious. Don’t be afraid to hover (always reading the room first to make sure your colleague isn’t noticeably stressed or desperately trying to concentrate). Ask them what they’re up to, what they’re thinking about, where they’d like to see the project go. You may even help them unlock the problem, or give them a new perspective.

Ask For Help

It’s awkward. You don’t want to be a nuisance or cause delays in a project. But squashing your confusion and questions won’t serve you well in the long-run. Ignoring your insecurities or covering up your knowledge gaps may cause problems further down the line. Don’t seize up or become defensive for fear of being ‘found out’. It’s always okay to ask for help. The ‘trick’ is to ask from a place of enthusiasm, asserting your desire to learn and progress — rather than worrying or criticising from a place of anxiety.

Learn And Support

Going into a new role, it’s likely you’ll be working alongside both more and less experienced teammates. Exposure to each type of colleague can be beneficial in terms of your own personal and professional development. And even better: you might help with their development too. So, be alert to moments of generosity and take them wherever you can. This means active listening — not just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can jump in and tell them what you think. How might you ease a senior colleague’s workload — just a little? How might you support a junior colleague in tackling an obstacle they’re facing? Draw on your own deep well of experience — but assist them with compassion, never superiority.

Embrace The Newness

Your newness could be your superpower. As a fresh recruit, your viewpoint is a valuable resource for your employer’s business since it blends an outsider’s perspective with the desire to become an insider. You should respect and educate yourself in the tried and tested methods of your new team, while having the confidence to subvert the process where you see an opportunity for positive change. Ask the silly questions. Share your own insights and experiences. Challenge your colleagues to try something different. If you’re humble, warm and engaged, your new team will be excited by the future you’re shaping, not just for yourself and your role — but for them too.

Take Five

If You Could's Journal hosts a range of useful Guides to help you navigate key decisions at every stage of your career journey. Each Guide consists of 5 simple steps, alongside advice from professionals working across the creative industry. Read more from our Take Five collection here.

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