Ultimate onboarding guide: 7 tips to make your new role a success

Oct 14, 2021

Are you a leader or mid-career professional and about to begin a new job?

I was speaking to someone recently who compared starting a new role to riding a rollercoaster. Full of mental and emotional highs and lows.

Sometimes, multiple times a day.

Your initial onboarding period can be overwhelming and full of pressure. You’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to prove. And as a high-performer, you want to do this all at once!

I’ve put together the ultimate onboarding guide to help new-starters navigate these first few critical months.

Follow my top seven tips to discover exactly what to focus on in your first 90 days. You’ll walk away with clarity on the right steps to take to set yourself up for success in your new role.

TIP #1 — DEFINE YOUR GOALS

As a new-starter, a lot of your initial focus will be on your organisation. You’re busy getting on top of your new role, making a good impression and starting to generate results. But it’s important to take some time to consider what YOU want too.

What one or two key goals would you like to achieve in your first 90 days? Think about your career aspirations and reasons for taking on this new opportunity. Break down your long-term career goals into smaller micro-goals.

What would you like to contribute? Is there a specific project or idea you’d like to introduce and implement in your first 3 months?

Set SMART goals by making them specific, measurable and relevant. But don’t set the bar too high — you have a lot to learn, so they also need to be achievable. Make them time-bound by reviewing your progress after 90 days.

Having clear goals gives you focus, a sense of accomplishment and will keep you motivated. Especially in those moments of self-doubt. It’s normal for a new role and environment to test your confidence at times!

TIP #2 — IDENTIFY ANY ROADBLOCKS

Next, consider what might get in the way of you achieving these goals. What blocks are you aware of which could — or already do — hold you back? Come up with practical solutions to work through them ahead of time.

Tend to procrastinate when you’re overwhelmed by everything you have to learn? Creating a list of three priority tasks each morning could be a helpful practice to combat this. Or focusing on your one next, best step when you’re feeling under pressure.

What’s your greatest fear? Keep digging to identify the real core issue. It’s usually linked to worrying about someone judging you, failing or not measuring up in some way!

Explore the worst case scenario if your BIGGEST fear was to occur — losing your job, becoming broke or homeless. If this happened, what would you do? You’ll see your fears are unrealistic and you’re unlikely to wait until it gets to this stage!

TIP #3 — CLARIFY EXPECTATIONS

Are you clear on the expectations? Even if you asked in your interview or induction, keep checking in with your manager. What your boss communicates and expects of you in week one will be different in week ten.

How do they measure success? Get clear on any KPI’s or targets and how they may shift over time. What does this look like at 3 months or 6 months — and what do you need to do to pass your probation?

TIP #4 — CREATE STRUCTURES FOR FEEDBACK

Most organisations will do a monthly check-in via HR in your first 3 months. The best bosses will be conscious about doing this directly with their new team members too.

I also recommend YOU be proactive about setting up a weekly meeting with your direct manager in your first 90 days. This creates open communication and space to receive feedback from the start. Developing key relationships like this will be critical to your success in your new role.

Set up this meeting on a Friday when you’re relaxed and can review the week together. Aim to do these catch-ups face to face, using Zoom/Teams as a back-up only! Keep it short so you both stay consistent — 20-30 minutes is more than enough.

Use this time to ask questions, share your insights or ideas and seek out feedback. How do they feel you’re tracking towards performance expectations? Are there any areas for improvement?

Also share YOUR feedback — what you’re enjoying, want more of or less of. Communicate any challenges and steps you’ve taken to address them. And don’t be afraid to ask for help where you need it!

TIP #5 — LET GO OF THE NEED TO ‘PROVE YOURSELF’

Working with high-achievers, I see a lot of clients putting pressure on themselves to deliver results — and quickly! Give yourself some grace during your initial onboarding period. Realise it takes time to understand a new job, different people, systems and processes.

Instead, be curious and ask lots of questions. Remember, you’re not expected to know everything upfront. DO be proactive about finding the answers but if you’re stuck or need clarification — ASK!

I recommend keeping a running list of questions throughout the week. If it’s a time critical question, pick up the phone, email or ask for help in the moment. Then, take any other important, not urgent questions to your weekly meetings with your manager

TIP #6 — RECOGNISE YOUR VALUE

Feel out of your depth or questioning your abilities? Going from a role you can do with your eyes closed into a new environment, your confidence can take a hit. Some of my clients have a tendency to hold themselves back, not want to step on anyone’s toes or make a mistake.

Strike a balance between listening and observing as you learn. And confidently sharing your ideas and perspective. Remember, you have something unique and of value to contribute — it’s WHY your employer hired you.

Always be respectful but if you see the opportunity to contribute, do so! Notice if you’re holding yourself back out of fear and discomfort. If this is the case, be courageous and go for it!

TIP #7 — START INVESTING IN KEY RELATIONSHIPS

Get to know your boss, close colleagues and any direct reports as soon as you can. Take your team and co-workers for lunch or one-on-one coffee catch-ups. Introduce yourself to key stakeholders and make yourself known in the business.

You’ll learn a lot about each individual’s role, personality, strengths and drivers. Plus plenty of information on the organisation and team dynamics. This will help you come up to speed quickly in your new role.

Developing these relationships early on will get you noticed. You’ll have people you can go to for help and to ask questions. And opportunities to collaborate with those who have strengths in areas you don’t.

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, even for experienced leaders. These onboarding tips have helped my clients navigate their first 90 days and set themselves up for success in their new roles. I hope they support you too!

Want help to navigate your onboarding period and make your new role a success?

Let’s chat! Book your free 30 minute consult HERE to get started.

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.