You are new on the job and you want to ensure your success. You are taking notes, asking insightful questions and listening carefully in all the meetings. With each passing day you are growing more comfortable and competent with your new responsibilities. It is exciting to be making progress.
The big question is when and how do you find your voice? When do you start to offer your insights and suggestions in meetings? The answer most likely is “it depends.”
- Start by listening– No one in the meeting appreciates the “new kid on the block” coming in and dominating the meeting with how something similar was done in a prior company. Don’ t assume you know all the answers until you listen to understand the true problem and what solutions have already been tested. Demonstrate your commitment to success by listening to learn the organization.
- Observe meeting protocol – Different companies have different meeting styles and philosophies. There may be significant differences depending on who is leading the meeting so you need to be a keen observer. Does the level of participation in the meeting vary by the level of attendees? Are there meetings where you only speak if you are formally listed on the agenda? Are there expectations that you must be a certain level or above to speak in the meeting? Is there an open sharing of ideas?
- Take Notes – Takes notes during the meeting. It shows your level of engagement, It also provides valuable information for future reference. When they are discussing something you don’t understand it is easy to jot down questions to ask your manager later. Because you are already taking notes it not obvious that you are capturing questions.
- Sanity Check Your Observations with your Manager – Share what you have observed about participation in meeting and ask for confirmation or clarification.
- Test an Idea with Your Manager – If an idea comes to you during a meeting, make a note of it. Discuss with your manager and ask if it would be appropriate to share such ideas in future meetings.
- Share with Confidence – When you are ready, share your ideas with confidence. Do not be timid. Identify the problem and offer a possible solution. Do not be arrogant. Demonstrate that you wish to be part of the solution.
As I am wrapping up visits with the students currently out on corporate residency and their managers, the most common feedback this year has been helping the students find their voice at the table once they’ve settled in on the job. If they can hone this skill while on residency it will serve them well throughout their careers.
Starting a new job is the perfect time to make a good impression. You want the employer to be confident that they made the right decision in hiring you for the position. Here are some recommendations based on feedback from our employers.
- Be Punctual – This is a way to show you are serious about the job. You can worry about flexibility later after you have proven yourself. Always arrive a few minutes before starting time so you are ready and eager to begin your day. Managers notice when employees are not punctual. If something comes up and need to ask for some time off, give as much advance notice as possible. Try to minimize the negative impact on your work deadlines and offer to make up the time if appropriate. Always be mindful of critical work deadlines.
- Show Respect – Honor the culture of the organization you have joined and respect those in authority as well as your peers. Put your cell phone on vibrate and avoid taking personal calls except in an emergency. Do not use company property for personal reasons – this includes the internet. Follow the company’s dress code. Take the lead from your manager. Don’t gossip or participate in the office rumor mill.
- Open Communications – Identify your supervisor’s communications style and preferences and work to accommodate that style. Also identify the style and preferences for your colleagues. Discuss any concerns you have with your manager. Provide your supervisor with progress reports. Avoid surprises – such as a project not completed on deadline. Let them know in advance if there are issues. Keep your manager advised of any concerns that could impact results and deadlines.
- Ask Questions – Do not make assumptions. You are learning the company and the role. Ask questions to be sure you understand. Clarify requests to be sure you understand what you are being asked to do. Inquire how your work supports the department’s goals and the company’s objectives.
- Take Notes – Take notes so you don’t ask the same question again. Review your notes and apply what you have learned when faced with similar tasks or issues. Keep a record of your accomplishments – details of projects competed and impact on the organization, skills you developed or enhanced, knowledge you gained.
- Be Fully Engaged – If possible ask what you can do prior to your start date to learn more about the company, the team and the position. Do your homework researching the company, competitors, industry etc. Demonstrate your energy and enthusiasm. Remain positive. Show you are hungry for a challenge. Pay attention to both quality and timeliness of your work. Look for ways to exceed expectations.
- Identify Solutions not Problems – When you encounter problems, try to find possible solutions Identify unmet business needs and ways you can help meet them. When identifying a problem, always offer at least one reasonable solution.
- Listen – Learn as much as you can by listening to others as they talk about the industry, the company and the department. Listen carefully to instructions for assignments and clarify as needed. Pay attention to deadlines, guidelines, and procedures. Always ask for feedback and think about how you can apply what you learned going forward. Seek continuous improvement.
- Earn the Challenging Assignments – Employers don’t give the most challenging project to the rookie in most cases. Demonstrate with your early assignments that they can count on you to deliver high quality and timely work and you will begin to earn more challenging assignments.
- Show initiative – Look for ways to exceed expectations. Identify unmet business needs and determine ways you can help. Offer to assist a busy colleague with a big project. Volunteer for a project that needs a home.
- Be Flexible and Adaptable – Accept all assignments cheerfully and give every assignment your best effort Be open minded about new ideas, new procedures and different work. Anticipate change and embrace it.
- Curiosity – Ask open ended questions to demonstrate your interest. Offer ideas and suggestions for possible improvements. Seek opportunities to learn more about the company and the industry.
The manager hired you instead of all the other candidates because he/she believed you could make a difference on their team. Show them from day one that they made the right decision.
You’ve read that networking is critical to your career and job search success and that information interviews are a valuable way to build your network. So take a deep breath and commit to starting the process. It is not as scary as you may think.
- Identify and prioritize companies on your target list. Be sure to identify companies of different sizes in your target industries.
- Identify contacts in each of those companies using LinkedIn, your alumni networks, etc.
- Reach out to introduce yourself either by phone or email. If you are an alum of the same school mention that. If you share a common friend or connection, refer to that. If you are a student, let them know. Express your strong interest in learning about their career and their current role with the company. Ask for 20 – 30 minutes for an informational interview.
- Wait three days, if there is no response, reach out again. If still no response, give it one more try a week later. If you reach out three times with no response, stop pursuing this contact and more to another.
- Agree on a date, time and location for your meeting or telephone call.
- Do you research in advance so you have background on the company and the individual. Prepare questions in advance.
- During the meeting take notes. It demonstrates interest and provides valuable reference material for your search.
- Be sure ask the contact who else they think you should talk to in order to learn more about your areas of interest in the company.
- Always say thank you at the end of the meeting and send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours.
- Keep the person updated on your progress. If you have a successful meeting with someone the recommended, say thank you again.
You will learn a great deal about your target companies, how they hire, what competencies they value and what work is like in the functional area of interest to you. Later when you see a position posted at one of the target companies, ask your contact to forward your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager. While this does not replace the need to apply online, it greatly increases the likelihood that someone will look at your resume. Informational interviews are a great investment in your career so get started today.
When you arrive at a company for an interview, it is not just the formal interview behind closed doors that matters. Every employee you interact with from the moment you arrive until you leave is capturing impressions of you and evaluating you for fit with their organization. Be prepared to make every impression count.
- Arrive Early – Always arrive a few minute early. If you are unsure of where you are going, do a dry run in advance. Allow time for traffic or parking issues. Better to wait in the coffee shop on the corner for a few minutes than to arrive late. Use the few minutes in the lobby after checking in to compose yourself and prepare.
- Dress Appropriately – Demonstrate your professionalism by being appropriate dressed. Even if the company tends to be more casual, demonstrate that you are taking this seriously by arriving in a business suit. Professional attire sends a message and makes an impression before you even speak your first words. Avoid short skirts, flashy ties, too much jewelry etc. Do provide provide the interviewer any distraction.
- Firm Handshake – Web to web and a couple pumps demonstrate confidence and professionalism. This is no time for a limp fish handshake and a bone crusher can be a turnoff as well.
- Eye Contact – Make eye contact with anyone you are speaking to regardless of their position. Demonstrate your interest and respect. Wandering eyes make interviewers nervous and can demonstrate a lack of interest and confidence.
- Be Prepared – Do your research. Know about the company, their products and services, their industry and the competition. Have insightful questions prepared.
- Take Notes – Ask if you may take notes. It demonstrates interest and prepared you for follow-up. It also enables you to have your questions available.
- Be Professional, Respectful and Polite – In every interaction you should demonstrate your professionalism, respect and good manners. The administrative assistant who escorts you to the manager’s office may be asked for feedback. The receptionist at the front desk may provide input into the hiring decision. Treat everyone, regardless of their position, with dignity and respect.
- Always Say Thank You – Be sure to thank all those who help you during the course of your visit. Sincerely thank the interviewer and demonstrate your interest in the position before you leave. To truly differentiate yourself from the competition, send a handwritten, customized thank you note within 24 hours of the interview.
Put your best foot forward in every interaction to increase your success in the process.
Starting a new job is the perfect time to make a good impression. You want the employer to be confident that they made the right decision in hiring you for the position. The first hundred days in a new job can be one of the most critical times of your career. Here are some recommendations based on feedback from our employers. Click here to learn more about making a great impression in your new job!
While it is critical to differentiate yourself during the interview, many job seekers overlook the opportunity to further differentiate themselves with their follow-up. Thank you notes are an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and make a positive impression.
A handwritten thank you note should be sent to every person you interview with at a company. Each note should be customized to the individual referencing something that you discussed. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, your professionalism and your enthusiasm for the opportunity. Hiring managers remember who took the time to send a personal note.
Thank them for their time. Let them know what you are excited about regarding this job. Reference something you talked about. Let them know you want to be on the team.
If you know the process is moving quickly, you can sent very professional email thank you notes but should still follow-up with a handwritten note. It is a differentiator. So few people write handwritten notes anymore they are memorable. Always get your notes in the mail within 24 hours of the interview.
I had an employer who at the end of a long interview process was on the fence between two candidates. Unfortunately one candidate made it easy – she did not send a handwritten thank you note. The other candidate did and got the offer. The employer was impressed with the attention to detail and was reminded of the candidate’s enthusiasm for the job. After all the time invested in the process, don’t lose an opportunity for lack of a thank you note.
I had an employer arrive at our career fair on campus with thank you notes in his pocket. He had received thank you notes from several students after a networking event earlier in the school year and he wanted to be sure he connected with those students while he was on campus. Handwritten notes make an impression and are remembered.
In a meeting last week with a group of employers, one commented on how impressed she was to receive thank you notes from students after a networking event. Every employer in the room agreed that the notes make a very positive impression and help the students stand out from the competition.
If employers notice and remember thank you notes, it is well worth the investment in some note cards and the time to write a personal note. Use professional looking note cards – no kitties or teddy bears – use your best penmanship and truly customize each note to the individual. Multiple interviewers in the same company will often compare notes so be sure they are customized. If your handwriting is poor, consider printing your note and signing your name so it is easier to read.
This is an easy opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Use it to your advantage.