Five Ways to Quickly Settle into a New Job — Even if you’re working from home

Jane Horan
6 min readJun 22, 2021
(TierryMJ)

Getting your bearings in a new job can be challenging, especially if you’re working from home. These tips will help successfully launch you into your new role.

Despite the challenges of career-switching during a global health crisis, you’ve landed a new job. Congratulations! Now it’s time to focus on settling in properly.

For all the ways people adjusted to remote work during the pandemic, starting a new role now can actually be harder.

How do you get up to speed with the requirements, get to know co-workers, or make a meaningful impact when not meeting anyone in person — and may not be for some time?

In my role as a career coach, I deal with new starters every week.

There are several strategies I use to help these clients start effectively, and with a little creativity, can be applied to remote work.

1. Know what you’re looking for

With a new position, one of the most pressing concerns is to determine not only why you’ve been brought in but also ‘how things get done around here.’ During the interview process, you probably got a birds-eye view of the role’s requirements. Now you need to get the worm’s-eye view:

● What does the leadership believe the main issues are?

● What does the staff think the issues are?

● What goals should you be looking to hit in the first 30, 60, 90 days?

● Who has influence within the team, both official and unofficial?

● What roadblocks are you likely to face?

● Is there a sense of urgency you must convey?

It’s important to prepare and answer these questions at the outset. Keep a checklist handy, and you should find it easier to get answers despite the limitations of Zoom, Teams or Slack. Uncovering the answers to these questions, you will start to know ‘how things get done around here.’

2. Observe what you can

At the beginning, you’ll know little of the inner workings. That’s fine. All your puzzling and pondering are completely valid in the first weeks of a new job. Use this time wisely. Attend as many virtual meetings as possible, observe what you can and speak to as many people as you can to get any answers you need. Just because you’re not physically face-to-face shouldn’t stop you from introducing yourself — relentlessly.

Remember that this is a ‘honeymoon’ period, and that after the first few weeks, people may have less patience for your questions. Being proactive during this period you begin to uncover the priorities and competing agendas. I encourage people to explicitly use this period in an ‘observing and listening’ mode. Resist the urge to plunge in and fix problems too eagerly, “This is the way we did it at XYZ, and it worked.” At best, this is annoying. At worst, it shows you are blind to a new corporate culture.

Your first job of your job is to learn what the role actually is, assessing the different personalities and the culture. Hold back on ‘problem-solving’ mode until later.

3. Earn trust

We are wired to trust others, but trust is always a two-way street. While you are observing and learning about your co-workers, they are in turn trying to understand you. Use your early weeks to model the behaviour for which you wish to be known: honest, ambitious, professional, diligent and generous.

It is easier to earn trust when you meet up with people. Remote work eliminates some of the opportunities to share something of yourself, to demonstrate personal integrity. Which in turn means you have to work harder to prove competency and consistency to the team.

Show consistency: Be very consistent with your actions and words. If you say ‘no’ to one colleague and ‘yes’ to another, you’ll be found out, WFH or not. Engage with everyone in the same manner and make sure your behaviour matches your values.

Find common ground: People are more likely to trust you if they feel your values are aligned with theirs, so engage authentically, and link your ideas to your values. The more co-workers understand where you are coming from, the more likely they’ll support you.

Be careful with your time: When everything is new, it’s tempting to say ‘yes’ to every project or invitation that comes your way. Make sure not to over promise. Better to show restraint and do a few things really well than take on too much and risk letting people down.

4. Communicate for success

Interpersonal dynamics are difficult to manage virtually, both for technical reasons and because people are harder to read over text and video. Keep the tone of your conversations and emails neutral until you can gauge your co-workers’ personalities. No slang, memes, jokes or emojis until you’re comfortable knowing what’s acceptable.

Engaging well in with remote work has three dimensions: immediacy, receptivity and composure.

Immediacy is how your audience perceives you and the kind of impression you give. Being animated, enthusiastic, inclusive (using ‘We’ and ‘Our’) and looking directly into the computer camera all create immediacy.

Receptivity is that two-way street of trust. It is a willingness to listen, asking relevant questions, nodding and affirming people’s ideas — all increase receptivity.

Composure reinforces your competence by showing others you are confident, relaxed and in control. It plays out mainly through your body language, so practice holding yourself still (but not stiffly), using appropriate gestures for emphasis. With virtual meetings, we’re all on stage so maintaining eye contact with the camera helps.

These points are not the message, but do determine how well your message is heard. If this is a weak spot for you, try recording yourself presenting to the camera and address some of the more obvious errors. Okay, looking back on recordings might feel uncomfortable but remember the camera picks up every move — a shoulder shrug, an eyebrow lift, a perplexed look — a simple adjustment results in a greater connection between you and your audience. And, eliminate other distractions (phones and other open sites), while you’re working from home, remember your always on camera.

5. Show loyalty and citizenship

Like every new employee, you begin as an ‘outsider’ and become an ‘insider’ by showing support and allegiance to your team members. This is hard to do remotely, and thus your gestures may have to be bigger or more public to be noticed. For instance, you might show loyalty by endorsing the reputation of a colleague to other external groups, or publicly acknowledge people’s contributions, or simply giving credit where it is due.

Going beyond your own job to help others achieve excellence is another way to show citizenship. What is your unique expertise or experience, and how can you teach it while learning about your new company?

Bonus tip: Find a coach, fast!

It’s tempting to focus all your energies on your new company in the first days and weeks of a new job. But don’t forget that it’s a fresh start for you as well. Use it as an opportunity to focus on your personal career goals, and act on it in a more deliberate way.

Even if your new organisation has a high-quality on-boarding program, you may well benefit from executive coaching during this transition period. Research shows that even with on-boarding, almost 80% of executives take between 6 and 9 months to have a full impact.

Coaching provides an external, neutral sounding board to help make the mark you wish to do, be the kind of leader others respect and want to follow. It reduces the ramp-up time quite significantly, so that even when the role is remote, you can be impressive from day one.

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Jane Horan

Author. Helping people find meaningful work. I write monthly on inclusion, political savvy and careers and how these interconnect. jane@thehorangroup.com