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New job? Here are 5 ways to make a great first impression

You'll need to show people quickly how you're going to make a positive impact in a new role. Here's how.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor
Image: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images

You've got the job you always wanted -- but now the hard work begins. Any new entrant to a company will have to convince those they work with that they're up to the job, especially if they're moving into a senior role. 

Research by consultant McKinsey suggests 46% of senior management appointments are regarded as failures or disappointments after two years. So, how can you succeed in a new role? Five business leaders give us their top tips.

1. Set out your objectives clearly

Lisa Heneghan, global chief digital officer (CDO) at consultancy firm KPMG, says anyone taking on a new position should get clarity on scope as soon as possible.

"When you start in a new role, you need to create some structure and you need to understand what you've got, but you also need to very clearly work out what you're going to do," she says.

Heneghan says the requirement to create a strong sense of scope is particularly pertinent in a role like hers, where everybody has a different perspective on what a CDO should be doing. 

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"Creating some clarity around that role, so that people understand what you're going to focus on, is key. And then it's about making sure you've got the clarity over the team around you and their responsibilities, because you can't do it all yourself."

To that end, Heneghan says new starters should spend a lot of time engaging with colleagues.

"Success there is about not just projecting what you want people to hear. That means trying to hear and actively listening to what people's challenges are -- and then showing that you're taking that information on board." 

2. Don't rely on tried and tested tricks

Ed Higgs, group director of IT shared services at Rentokil Initial, says new starters must be careful to not simply use a set of techniques they've applied before. 

"The biggest mistake that I've seen in the past at other organizations is people going in and implementing something that they know has been used somewhere else and it's worked. Every business you enter is very, very different."

Higgs says strategies used in one organization or region won't necessarily work when they're applied to a new workforce in a fresh location. Coming into a new role and treating everyone in the same way is a shortcut to failure.

Instead, Higgs says the key to succeeding in a new role is spending time with staff to work out their key challenges and the underlying requirements of those at the top.

"You have to listen -- you have to understand the workforce," he says." But you must also understand what the senior guys are trying to achieve and link those aims together."

3. Win hearts and minds across the business

Clare Lansley, CIO at Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One, says new entrants must have an open ear to the people around them, so that they can understand the challenge they're taking on.

"You need to make time to engage with the team and listen, as opposed to just getting in and trying to fix stuff," she says. "Because, actually, there might be underlying challenges or reasons why certain things aren't in place, so you'll need to listen." 

Once you understand the scale of the challenge you face, show people how you can make a difference -- and quickly, says Lansley.

"If there are areas where there are some real pain points, then you need to make a commitment to fix stuff. Then, people will start trusting what you're saying." 

She advises other people looking to climb the ladder to spend time engaging with others, too.

"I'm never at my desk. Because if you do that, how are you going to understand what the issues are and what the perception of your team is? You need to go and win some hearts and minds, so you've got to get out there."

4. Deliver quick wins to prove your value

Alex Read, senior manager of data platforms at utility giant EDF UK, says the key to being successful in a new role is to identify your aims quickly and then make sure you deliver them. 

"You need a vision that you can unite people behind, and a core set of values that keep you honest and that you measure yourself against," he says.

Read got the opportunity to test this philosophy when he joined EDF UK last May. He was charged with enacting a successful enterprise data strategy, implementing a range of cloud services from providers such as Snowflake and AWS.

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Just over six months on from his appointment, Read's team is delivering the benefits he promised. Now, the business is using this data platform to deliver a range of machine-learning products to help customers make smarter decisions about energy use.

"You must have a mission and a clear set of goals, and then you need to drive and deliver against them," he says. "If your key stakeholders cannot see what they're getting as a return for their investment, then there will always be questions around the value of your work."

5. Get out and meet people

Steve Capper, CIO at engineering and construction specialist SNC-Lavalin, says any new entrant to a company must be visible.

"The first thing I would do moving into any new role is to meet as many people as possible," he says. "Give them your time. For me, if you engage with people, you're off to a great start."

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