If you’re about to start a new job, you’re in for an exciting but busy time, which is exactly why you’ll need every tip up your sleeve in order to prioritise effectively.
Making an impact – and fast – will be uppermost in your mind as you embark on your first few weeks in a new job. Your arrival has likely been much anticipated by your colleagues and management, too; each with their own agenda of work to delegate or pass off in your direction. It’s important to keep a clear head, differentiate between what’s urgent and what’s important, and quickly work out how and where you can add value most effectively.
At FindMyWhy we are passionate about helping you to create and maintain a life and a career that you love. We believe strongly in the power of personal purpose and self-awareness, and our free services are designed to help you on your journey to defining the key things that drive your sense of fulfilment. We are here to help you craft a personal and professional life that aligns perfectly with your core values and drivers. In career terms, that means not only pinpointing the perfect job role for you, but also positioning you to secure it and then maximise your full potential once you’ve started in it. Our range of resources provide plenty of useful guidance around handling some of the hurdles that crop up in your first 100 days (and beyond) in a new role. And so … in no particular order of priority (!) … here are our key tips for managing your workload and setting yourself realistic goals for output in those crucial first few weeks.
10 Tips for Managing Your Priorities
Build your network
From key stakeholders (within and outside the business), to colleagues and line managers – work will come at you from all directions. Rarely will it be prefaced with, ‘It’s not urgent, but …’ (especially if your arrival has been long awaited). As lovely as it is to feel welcome and needed, you’ll need to get to know who’s who, quickly. If the nature of your role means that you have multiple work-streams, there’s a likelihood that they aren’t all interlinked. Everybody will regard their priority as the priority, and, unless you know your network (putting it brutally, that means knowing who is actually important, as opposed to who is self-important) it’ll be hard to establish whose work to prioritise. Moreover, the urgency or importance of a task is not always in direct correlation with the volume and force with which it is requested, nor with the seniority of the person making the request. Proactively managing various people’s expectations (that means managing up, down and across the hierarchy at times) will be all the easier if you have built strong relationships with them, established trust, and figured out the most effective approach to communicating with each individual.
For some this comes naturally. If that’s not the case for you, then now is the time to dig deep. Your first few weeks will be packed full of new information to take in, and if you’re to make a good impression quickly, the less time you have to waste trying to lay your hands on hastily scribbled notes or dredge your recall for the workings of a particular system or process, the more time you’ll have to deliver measurable outcomes. Do whatever works best for you – keep lists or spreadsheets, create templates to speed up regular processes, and plan ahead for your day by setting yourself achievable goals and tasks.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
You have plenty of time to create a lasting legacy, and nobody expects you to achieve miracles in your first few weeks. It’s important to harness your enthusiasm in your first few weeks – this, after all, is the stage at which you’ll be most ambitious and positive, and most likely to identify areas where you can make an impact. However, as the mantra goes, it is better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around. Break your ambitions down into short, medium and long-term goals, factoring in not just what you believe is important for the business based on your observations, but also the priorities as they’ve been highlighted to you by your employer. Your short-term goals should be restricted to the things you can feasibly achieve in your first 100 days. So, you need to work out what you require by way of support and resource to make each of these goals happen, and set realistic timelines against each as determined by any practical limitations (including your time and skill set). If the resulting goals or objectives are at odds with particular expectations placed upon you by your employer, then this will have served as a constructive exercise. You will be armed with a good case for reshaping and renegotiating either the priority or timeline of your probationary objectives, and even more impressively, you’ll be presenting a solution, rather than a problem.
Allow more time than you would usually need
Remember that you’re new, and as a consequence, everything is new to you. Don’t under-estimate the impact this can have on your time. You’re starting everything from Ground Zero, as you’ll have to build up your knowledge of people, systems, politics, processes and policies – to name but a few – before you can start to deliver outcomes. So, just because you’d have breezed through a sales forecasting task in your last role, don’t assume it will be as quick and straightforward in your new environment. Build extra time into your deadlines for a spot of learning, discovery and – though we hate to admit it – the scope for the occasional hiccup.
Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo
Don’t be backward in coming forwards. If you can see a more efficient, but equally (or more) effective way of doing something, then speak up, especially if it makes the achievement of your own objectives all the easier. What seems obvious to you as a newcomer might not have even occurred to your colleagues or managers, so don’t assume that there’s a good reason why things are done in the clunkiest possible way. Remember you’ve been hired because of your experience, and that includes suggesting new practices where appropriate. But be prepared to accept that your suggestions may not always be adopted, and, of course, everything exists best in moderation (suggesting one or two minor improvements is one thing; wielding an axe through everything they have ever done is quite another).
Identify the quick wins
Going for the low hanging fruit will help you to make a visible and tangible impact fast – but it must be relevant to your role, add value and have some sort of ‘so what’ element, otherwise it won’t improve anything or impress anyone (and in fact will be seen as the ‘noise’ that distracted you from the stuff that really matters). If you can identify a few simple, quick fixes that in some way deliver positive change or improvement, then you’ve achieved two important things very early on – kudos and validation – without detracting heavily from your focus on the ‘bigger picture’ projects.
Maintain regular contact with your line manager
The exact format and frequency of this will depend on what works for you and for your line manager, in the context of the work environment, but whether it is face to face meetings, or contact via phone / email, it’s important that you have dialogue. Until you find your feet more firmly, you’ll need that regularity of contact in order to know that you are maintaining focus on the right priorities and projects, and that your time and efforts are directed most appropriately. The first 100 days are a key stage during which your line manager will be assessing your performance in the role – it’s up to you, as much as them, to make sure they are clear on what you are working on, the challenges you’re facing (if any), the support and resource you need, and your achievements (however big or small). Priorities can change, too; what was presented to you as ‘mission critical’ when you started on day one might have fallen down the radar in favour of something new that’s cropped up. If this is the case, you’ll need to know!
Keen is good … but be careful not to fall into the trap of agreeing to everything but delivering effectively on nothing. If you’re working on multiple projects, or have multiple stakeholders, this is especially key. New starters can often feel like they have to take on the world to prove themselves. In addition, the palpable relief felt by colleagues at the arrival of an extra pair of hands means that work that shouldn’t be put your way sometimes is. If you’re unsure about the appropriateness or priority level of a project or work request, check back with your line manager. Above all, always make sure you agree realistic and achievable goals and set time frames you can work within and stick to.
Play to your strengths
It may well be that you’ve started a role that is a step up and a bit of a stretch. In prioritising your goals for your first 100 days, think carefully about what you can deliver most impressively. By all means set yourself some ‘stretch’ targets, as you’ll need to demonstrate to your new employer that you can rise to the challenge of the role at hand. However, make sure you’ve a few things on your short-term list that deliver an impact whilst allowing you to operate in your ‘sweet spot’. You’re likely to make a strong and positive impression in this way, validating your appointment with evidence of your immediate strengths as well as your potential to deliver beyond your comfort zone,
Recognise how and when you tend to stand in your own way, and be self-aware enough to reign yourself in. A common example of this is not knowing when to ask for help. Being new means there will be inevitable gaps in your knowledge, and there’s no shame in that; in fact, arguably, you’ll learn faster and make a bigger impact if you do ask for and accept help when you need it. Perhaps you’re a born perfectionist, yet the role requires your strategic input as much as (or more than) your detail consciousness. Whatever your Achilles heel, be mindful of it so that you can manage it, rather than the other way around.
Maximise Your Potential with FindMyWhy
Here at FindMyWhy, we understand that starting a new job comes with excitement, opportunity and its fair share of challenges. Maximising your potential in a new role requires a solid understanding of yourself, your unique strengths and your values. Sometimes we all need a reminder of what’s important to us, how and when we operate at our best, how to draw upon our strengths and how to manage our weaknesses (yes, we all have them!). We want you to be the best version of yourself at work, so that you can love what you do. Perspective and self-awareness is key to this, whether it’s seeing yourself from someone else’s point of view or self-reflecting with greater clarity and introspection.
FindMyWhy is a free personal purpose project which offers tailored support and guidance to help you love the life you live, both on a personal and professional basis. Created by our expert team of psychologists, FindMyWhy starts as a simple online psychometric test and produces complementary and bespoke reports detailing your unique strengths and values as an individual, where you excel and where you may need to ask for support, helping you to plan ahead for the potential challenges in starting a new job.
FindMyWhy produces deep-dive analysis of you as an individual, your personality and how you are seen by others, helping you to better understand your own motivating factors and the impact you have on those around you. By delving into your inner self, you can learn to reflect and grow from the experience, developing a true sense of ‘self’ and enabling you to make the best impression on those around you. FindMyWhy will help you to identify how to play to your strengths and stay true to your values, providing a new perspective to influence your behaviour and performance at work. Find out more by visiting our website to hear more from those who have tried it and loved it: www.findmywhy.com