How to make your mark as a new employee

Never forget you were hired for your unique thumbprint

4 min read

Sitting down at a clean desk with a new computer and a mental pile of prior work experience, it’s easy to feel your past life has somehow been canceled out by that onerous starting-from-scratch feeling.

You made it through the interview process—you have proof in the photo of yourself, arms up in the air behind the chocolate truffle cake your mom bought you to celebrate—so high-five yourself and carry that momentum forward.

You won’t know stuff at first. You’ll live in a weird Venn diagram world of respecting the role as it existed pre-you, asking tons of questions, probably overthinking things a little or a lot, bravely suggesting new ideas, and figuring out if the wearing-jeans-to-the-office thing is real.

For every new hire, the unlocking-potential process will be different. And, it will be exactly that: a process, not a moment. Maybe you’ll:

  • Be patient with yourself as you learn new systems
  • Solve a problem that remained unsolved until you arrived
  • Make a friend or two, and that will instill the confidence you need
  • Hear a company leader speak at a new-hire session, where he or she will give you permission to be yourself at work (A key experience for me)
  • Experience something entirely different

Whatever gives you the courage to step outside the “I’m new here” complex is worth clinging to. To the extent you’re able to embody creativity specific to your role, always do it, and always within the framework of your company’s core values.

I heard our CEO Tricia Griffith speak at a new hire session, and she gave us permission to be ourselves at work. I thought my story had to be one-size-fits-all, crafted to be easily digestible by the new people in my life. But their encouragement helped me accept that I’m a lot of things simultaneously. Look for moments like those to hold on to and remind yourself that you were hired for your unique talents.

Perhaps my new-on-the-job to-do list will inspire you:

  • Make tactical choices as soon as appropriate. What can you re-imagine or suggest to enhance a process? What tools or resources would help you do your job better? How can you adjust a system to provide better customer service to external and/or internal clients?
  • Enhance your soft skills and build relationships in formal and informal contexts. For me, that meant scheduling meetings with my peers to learn about their worlds, joining a Learning Circle hosted by a Progressive Employee Resource Group, getting to know people outside of my immediate team, and joining a book club.
  • Stop invoking the “this may be a stupid question” line. Asking what you don’t know is going to make you feel better, which will make you better.

When I accepted the freedom to invest fully in my new title as the strategic, analytical, infographic-making, window-writing, recruitment-marketer me—the ideas flowed. I started having fun, and with that fun, I began exploring and thinking bigger and contributing more.

It bothered me less when well-meaning vendors asked, “Are you the new Sarah Smith?” (Not her real name.) I no longer worried about the potential of not living up to my potential, because I rested in the fact that I was hired, and now all I had to do was be a good hire by bringing my brain and my energy to the table.

And don’t make the mistake I almost made. Do not say “no” to opportunities because you’re afraid you’ll appear too eager. When my boss asked if I was interested in joining a new leadership program, I said no, not yet, only because I was afraid I’d appear too bold. But the real me is eager and enthusiastic and hungry to grow and yeah, probably bold sometimes. A few weeks later, I told her the truth.

Most importantly, it’s easier to be you at a company whose mission and values you believe in. Feigned commitment is obvious to others, and besides that, when your core does not feel good about what you’re doing every day, you’ll lose steam. If you can, where and when you can, find the company where you can be new, be you, and believe in what you do.

Lindsay Karklin is an Associate Manager of Recruitment Marketing who geeks out on Progressive, the life-changing career opportunities it provides, and the teams of amazing people who make it a great place to work.

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