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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. March 13, 2024

5 Steps to Respectfully Making an Impact as a New Hire

Offer a fresh perspective, diplomatically

two women making an impact at work
Photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyantos

Everyone wants to succeed at work. It’s human nature to want to feel seen, heard, and rewarded for your hard work. When you’re starting out in a new role and joining a new team, it can be difficult to strike the delicate balance between trying to stand out and offer a fresh opinion while also respecting dynamics and policies that have been long established. 

For example, maybe you want to persuade your team to use a new project management software tool to stay organized but you know they’re comfortable and happy with the workflow they’ve already had for years. Or maybe you think you have a winning idea for a client pitch, but you’ve only just been briefed on the project. 

Of course, you shouldn’t overstep and point out flaws in the culture and company processes until you have a good understanding of the context, but there’s a way to express a fresh perspective in a polite manner.

If this situation makes you feel anxious, reframe your mindset. Think of it like this: You’re an expert in your field, and this company has hired you for a reason. The team interviewed you, listened to you walk through your experience, and offered you a job because they saw the value you could bring. They selected you out of a pool of qualified candidates. You have the opportunity to bring your unique skillset, knowledge, and opinions to the table. 

Career consultant Colleen Paulson knows firsthand what it’s like to join a new team and have the drive to have an immediate influence. She’s a five-time career changer who’s pivoted from fields like engineering, strategic marketing, and now career consulting, working with job seekers to help them achieve their career goals. “When starting a new job, you want to make an impact, but you also don't want to put a ton of pressure on yourself to come in right away and drive this drastic change,” says Paulson. “In my experience, the best thing you can do is have smart discussions, understand what the business needs, and think about how you can help from there.”

According to Paulson’s expertise, here are five steps to making an impact in a respectful way.

Read more: How to Memorably Introduce Yourself to a New Team: 10 Email Templates

Connect with the people you work with and build their trust

The more you know about the people you work with, the better you’ll work together. When you join a new team, ask your coworkers and team members to coffee or lunch. Get to know their background at the company, what they’re working on, and a few of their interests outside of work. Networking like this is about forging meaningful, long-lasting relationships with the people who can provide support, guidance, and opportunities throughout your career.

Ask your colleagues questions like:

  • How long have you been with the company?

  • What do you enjoy most about your position?

  • What are you currently working on?

  • What excites you most about the future of our organization?

  • Do you have any tips for getting up to speed here?

  • What do you like to do outside of work?

It can be more difficult to build relationships in a virtual environment. “You have to be much more intentional about building relationships,” Paulson says. “If you're in person it's different—you can take people to lunch or have coffee to build relationships one on one outside of a big meeting. If you work remotely, ask your new coworkers, ‘Hey, can we talk for 30 minutes to get to know each other better?’ P&G (her former employer) made us do that. As part of your onboarding, you can also talk to your manager and ask, ‘Who are the five people you think I should talk to?’”

Once you’ve built trust with your colleagues and they understand you a little bit better outside of work, they’ll be more likely to vouch for you when you have a new idea for the company, instead of assuming you’re only here for your own agenda. 

Read more: 100 Meaningful Conversation Starters That Drive Connection & Better Conversation

Take notes, ask questions, and offer solutions to problems

For the first few weeks, try to take as many notes as you can in meetings to help you remember essential details that you can refer back to when needed. Listen more than you talk. Don't come into a new job and act like you know everything, even if you’re in a very senior position. 

Seek clarification when you're unsure about something. Asking questions shows your eagerness to learn. One way to make a great impression when learning on the job is to couple your question with a potential solution. So if you ask your manager for help with a problem, come prepared with a few ideas or solutions. 

If you want to authentically make a difference, Paulson says, “The best thing you can do is start discussions and understand where the company is, then figure out how you can really help. Don't go in with a big agenda. Ask yourself, ‘What are the problems that need to be solved, and how can I help to make that happen?’”

We asked Paulson what questions new employees should be asking. She says, “It depends on your industry, but you can start with questions like, ‘What are our team goals for the year?’ or ‘Are there metrics of how we define success?’ In engineering and analysis, we had real metrics we were measuring, but in some cases, there might not be metrics you’re held to. In either case, talk to your teammates and boss and say, ‘What are our goals, and how can I make that happen? What's my piece of this?’ Then figure out how to step in.”

Don’t simply offer up your own ideas if they don’t align with what the company really needs or is looking for. Once you have a comprehensive understanding of where the company is headed and what the long-term goals are, you can take initiative and look for opportunities to contribute to the team's success or suggest improvements. 

Act like a leader even if you aren’t in a leadership role

Show early on that you’re a value add to the team. One of the best ways to make an impact on a new team is to lead by example even if you aren't in a leadership position. Treat others with respect, practice clear and direct communication, provide and be receptive to constructive feedback, have a positive attitude, and let others know you appreciate their work. Position yourself as a thought leader with something to say. If you’re confident in your abilities, people will gravitate toward you for advice and will solicit your opinion on important matters. 

If you experience imposter syndrome, remind yourself that you’re a subject matter expert, and that’s why they hired you. It’s absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed, out of your depth, or like you’re an outsider looking in, but you can boost your confidence with positive affirmations like, “I know my knowledge is an asset to the team, that’s why the company brought me onboard.” 

Read more: 60 Memorable Ways to Say ‘Thank You for Your Hard Work’

Err on the side of over communicating and ask for feedback

When you first join a new team, you should be overly communicative with your manager. Discuss your short- and long-term goals so you have more clarity and direction in your work. Collaborative goal-setting like this also demonstrates your initiative and commitment to professional growth. If you identify any opportunities or areas for improvement within the company, you can politely broach the subject with your manager.

Here’s an example of how you might respectfully bring that up:

“I’ve been so impressed by the dedication and talent within our team, and it's clear that there’s a strong foundation for success. I've noticed that while our team communicates very effectively within departments, there may be room for improvement in cross-functional communication. Would you be open to creating more regular interdepartmental meetings to create a more integrated approach to our projects? I’m happy to discuss this further and help implement any changes that align with your strategic goals and vision for the company!”

You should also regularly request feedback on your performance to understand your own areas for improvement and refine your skills. “Hopefully you're lucky enough to have a manager that looks out for you and they give you constructive feedback,” says Paulson. “Ask, ‘How am I doing in your eyes, and what can I be doing to help more?’”

As a new voice, it’s possible you might have to navigate resistance to change at some point. Paulson says if this happens, “It goes back to discussion. The biggest thing for anyone, at any level, is to keep lines of communication open and understand where the other person is coming from as you’re trying to get things going.”

Read more: 10 Email Templates for Setting Boundaries & Communicating Your Needs at Work

Get comfortable saying no and establish boundaries

You might be tempted to prove your worth as a new team member by working longer hours and saying yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Of course you should work hard, but it’s also important to set boundaries early on. Don’t try to prove yourself or take on more than you can realistically handle in the first few weeks. If you establish yourself as the person who will take on everything and never say no, you might start to experience burnout quicker.

When you have a vision for your growth trajectory at a company, it’s understandable that you’d want to come in and impress your boss the first couple of months with your work ethic, but if you start out by overdelivering, people will expect you to maintain that level of commitment in the long term. Being confident and firm in your boundaries will lead to more respect, and when people respect you, they’re more likely to be open-minded to your suggestions.

Read more: Learn How to Say ‘No’ Professionally

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