The Do’s and Don’ts of Starting a New Job


February 1, 2010

Today is the day- day one at my new job.

Thank you to so many of you who gave me advice on what to do and what not to do when starting a new job.  From the comments on the blog, the DMs on Twitter, notes via FaceBook and e-mail, I feel like I am prepared to start this new phase of my life on the right foot.

One suggestion was to write a book about the do’s and don’ts.  I am not sure if that is in the cards, but what I will commit to doing here is share the journey with you by summarizing the suggestions, journaling my progress, sharing monthly updates, and asking for your advice.  Starting today, I’ll share my summary of all the advice I was given.  For the specifics, please see the comments from my post ‘A New Day, A New Job’.

So, if you are starting a new job, what are some suggestions to make your transition into the new role a positive one?

  • Be yourself and be friendly– Several people mentioned this.  It is important to show your team that you are genuine and sincere.  Let them see who you are personally and professionally.  Also, if you are currently using social media, examine your online persona and ask yourself if that is the reputation you want when starting a new role or meeting new people.  If it isn’t, make the adjustments now.  Once your reputation is out there, it is nearly impossible to change.  Use the first few months to really work on building relationships.
  • Listen and learn–  It is often easy to fall into the trap of talking about yourself so much that you do not make time to listen and learn from your new colleagues.
  • Journal–  I love this idea.  I plan to make notes so that while I’m listening I am also capturing key pieces of information that may be of value later.
  • Assess first, then prescribe– Once you’ve observed for several months and made notes, you can begin to really assess the situation.  Do not jump to conclusions that what you did at a former employer will automatically work in the new culture.  The worst thing you can do according to several readers is to say “we did it this way at company XYZ”.
  • Ask some important questions– Find out who you need to get to know, and why.  Prioritize your list and make appointments to meet with those people in your first few months.  Ask them what the top business issues (not necessarily HR issues) are keeping them from moving forward or meeting goals.  Then, find out what you can do to help remove those barriers.  You will build strong relationships by doing this.
  • What three things in HRM would make a real difference in essential business outcomes? Make those a priority to complete.
  • On a personal note, make sure not to get buried in the new job. Come up for air and continue to make time for your personal life too.

What are the recommendations of what not to do?  Pretty simple:

  • Don’t try to do everything yourself just to prove you can– This will just cause you undue stress and burnout very quickly.  Rely on your teammates and make sure they can rely on you.
  • Don’t stress– Remember that it takes everyone time to get up to speed in a new job.  Set small goals each day of things to learn or people to meet.  New situations are innately stressful, so just manage that up front and you can minimize the effect.
  • Don’t make assumptions– Remember that you are the new person in this culture.  Do not assume that your way is the right way, that you are being brought on board to solve a problem, or that you have all the answers.  Listen, observe, learn.  Then help the team.

Thank you to everyone who took time to send me advice.  I truly appreciate it and will apply it all in the coming months.


  • Trish- Congrats on the New opportunity! If you just stay true to yourself, you will be great. I love the idea of journaling.. Have a wonderful week, and I am looking forward to following along on this exciting new phase in your life.:)

  • These are great suggestions. I am looking forward to reading about the journey. If you would like to connect with some great HR folks in healthcare in Cincinnati, let me know and I will be happy to make introductions. Have fun on your first day.

  • Great recap of advice. I think these do’s and don’t are good reminders of what we should be doing all the time in our current job as well.

  • Hi Trish, how was day one?

    One of the advantages of starting a new job is the firsthand glimpse into the onboarding practices of your new organization. If you’re journaling (as you mentioned) it might be useful to make particular note for later reference.

    • Thanks for all the well-wishes on my new job. I have to tell you I was part of a very impressing orientation today. They really personalize it and in one day I already feel like part of the team. It’s a great start to a great new adventure. Thanks everyone!

  • Great summation Trish. I’d also add that you should resist the temptation to state, “At my prior firm we used to do (blank)…” during the first few weeks on the job. It’s a very tempting thing to say and a very difficult habit to break.

    Congrats on having such a wonderful new gig! 🙂

    • @Mark- Thank you for commenting. I agree with not mentioning the former employer. When assessing and prescribing, best to just use the knowledge you’ve gained in prior roles without calling specific attention to the employer.

      @Debbie- Thank you. Aren’t the comments from the readers great? I learn so much from all of you.

  • Great Post Trish! I love all the collective advice and agree with all of it!

  • Trish-
    I have been traveling waaay to much and just catching up – Congratulations!
    I love the advice. Although I recently celebrated 30 years with my employer, I feel every new assignment and project is a first day on the job. The advice you shared is as good for someone who thinks they know their way around as it is for a newbie.
    Thanks for sharing – and good luck!

    • @Tim- Thank you Tim. I am the one who feels like I’ve been out of the loop. I need to do a serious amount of reading on my Google Reader. Thanks for the well-wishes.

  • Fantastic post and congrats on your new position!

    I started a new job this week as well, and your tip on journaling the experience is key. I’ve purchased a beautiful new green notebook that I’m jotting down notes like crazy in! Not only does this help me stay organized, and give me something to refer to when I need to remember something– but it’s sure to be an interesting read a few months down the road!

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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