1. Resist the urge to "do something."

We've all heard the advice that it's best to listen first and not make too many dramatic changes before you've built relationships in your new job. Yet it's hard to resist the urge to prove yourself and show everyone what a great choice you were. That's what happened with Larry, an executive at a major retailer. He was brought in specifically to make changes, so he assumed he needed to take action right away. "Within three weeks," recalls Alisa Cohn, an executive coach who later worked with him, "he had written a document outlining the new ways people would have to work and recommending a new software system."

But because he hadn't taken the time to ask for others' ideas or input, his plan was almost immediately rejected. So, even if your boss is lobbying you to move fast, it's worth pushing back. Going slowly at first can enable you to make faster progress later on. That may require redefining success, at least for now. As Cohn notes, "Just listening can be a 'quick win' in your first 30 days."

2. Ask your boss the most powerful question.

When I was 25, I landed my first supervisory job, running the New Hampshire press shop on a presidential campaign. My assistant, Kumar, was a fantastic employee—diligently completing every task I assigned, from maintaining media lists to blasting out press releases. But one thing he did stood out: Early on, he asked me, "What can I do to make your life easier?" By encouraging me to think broadly about what tasks were stressing me out, Kumar showed a willingness to help with whatever was needed. I was so grateful for his can-do attitude, I lobbied for him to be promoted, and even hired him again the next summer when I was working at a different job. By prompting that in-depth conversation about the challenges I was facing, Kumar also helped me realize that there were some areas of greater strategic responsibility that I could hand off to him on a trial basis. With his deft questioning, he expanded my sense of his potential—and when he exceeded expectations, he expanded his own job description.

3. Patch things up with potential detractors.

There's an unfortunate side effect when you win a new job: others, who also wanted it, didn't get chosen. Some of them may now be reporting to you, or may control functions that are essential to your ultimate success. It may feel easier, in the moment, to avoid conflict and minimize your interactions with these potentially rivalrous colleagues, but it's a poor long-term strategy, because it can allow misunderstandings to fester. Cohn worked with one newly promoted technology executive named Elizabeth, and encouraged her to set up meetings early-on with a detractor. He mentioned his ongoing frustration that her team never involved him in decision-making. When she showed an appreciation for his point of view, appointing a team member to liaise with him directly, she won him over and he became an ally.

4. Shake up your routines.

Finally, a new job isn't just a chance for a professional reset. It can also be a great opportunity to evaluate and change other habits and patterns in your life. Ben Michaelis, PhD, a psychologist and executive coach who is the author of Your Next Big Thing, recalls working with one client who used to buy a doughnut every day on his way to his old job. When the client changed employers, he disrupted his former routine and implemented a healthier new one, choosing hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, instead. "He's lost eight pounds so far," says Michaelis.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. You can download her free, 42-page book, Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.


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