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posted: 6/30/2013 7:05 AM

Career Coach: Make the most of a new job

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By Joyce E. A. Russell

You finally landed a job at a good company. Way to go! Now what can you do to keep it?

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The first few months on a new job create lasting impressions. So make those first few months really count. Show up every day trying to impress -- by your professionalism, hard work and dedication. Some things to think about:

-- Develop a plan for the first few months. There are numerous books written about the importance of the first months on the job (for example, "The First 90 Days," by Michael Watkins). Develop a plan for that initial period and stick to it. You can't do everything, so develop some specific goals.

-- Set out to exceed expectations. The job market is incredibly competitive so you need to achieve more than ever, and as soon as possible. Show that you are an employee who can deliver results.

-- Dress for the job. Make sure you dress professionally by examining what other successful people at the firm wear to work.

-- Don't forget that relationships really matter. Take some time to build connections with your boss, co-workers and staff. Engage in some social activities (e.g., lunches, sports teams, volunteer campaigns, etc).

-- Identify who's who in your department or organization. Learn the names of staff, co-workers and bosses. Take the time to learn who your potential allies are. If you have direct reports, spend some time getting to know each one of them individually. Learn their unique skills, what they like about their jobs, what they see as their challenges, and how they feel you can best help them.

-- Begin networking. Join regional and national professional associations. Set up meetings with others in your firm to learn more about what they do.

-- Pitch in. Remember that you were hired because you are needed. Your boss needs you to be successful so he/she can also be successful. The same is true for your colleagues. Find out their greatest pain points -- what they really need help with -- then, help them out.

-- Show initiative. Come to work early, stay late, ask colleagues and your boss what you can do. Don't just wait for them to come to you. Go to them and show you are willing to do whatever it takes.

-- Display a positive, can-do attitude. Even if others at the firm are negative or have whiny attitudes, you still need to remain positive. Likewise, show respect to your boss, colleagues, customers and staff. Be polite, calm and professional in your dealings with others.

-- Continue learning. Set goals for the knowledge and skills you will need to develop to succeed at your job. Maybe you'll need additional certifications or training. Identify what these are (you may need help from your boss or other successful employees at the firm), then draft your learning development plan. Once you have learned as much as you can on your job, learn about other jobs. Knowledge is valued at firms, and often whoever has the most knowledge is viewed as critical to the firm.

-- Be open-minded and willing to learn. Don't assume that the behaviors that worked in your last job will work in this job. Be willing to try something new. Seek feedback from your boss and co-workers and listen to their constructive comments.

-- Stand out. Work hard to be known for something. Develop strength in some area the organization values. Whenever I ask chief executives of any size firm what they most look for in their employees, they agree that they want hardworking, loyal, dependable, conscientious employees who show great initiative. They will also say these employees are rare and very hard to find.

-- Focus on a few early wins. Think about a few specific areas to show success. This enables you to build momentum for later successes. It also helps to build your reputation and credibility.

-- Get advice from the best performers and follow what they do. It is OK to ask for help. It's even better if you can get a few to volunteer to mentor you and show you the ropes. Make sure to find out the dos and don'ts of the firm since every company has unique cultural norms.

-- Be the best you can be. Keep records of what you have done on the job so you will be prepared to share this with your boss when it is time for your review. He or she may not have seen all of the things you have accomplished.

Remember, getting a new job is only half the battle. Excelling at it takes some planning, preparation, hard work and patience. But the rewards will be worth it.

• Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management. She can be reached at jrussellrhsmith.umd.edu.

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