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Got a Job Offer? Your Start Date May Be Earlier Than You Think

New Job starting day or date circled on a calendar with a red marker

Let’s say that you just got a job offer for a position at a new company – and you accepted. Your first day is scheduled three weeks hence. When is your start date?

From your perspective you have a few weeks to wrap up your old job, maybe buy some new clothes, take a few days off in one of those rare windows in which you have absolutely no work to do.

You’ll show up on your first day eager to make a good impression. You’ll be ready to learn and excited to meet your new team. While you have every intention of hitting the ground running, you figure the best approach is to ease yourself into the role. You plan to take a few days — if not a few weeks — to get to know people and get up to speed properly.

For all practical purposes, you think, no one will reasonably expect anything from you until you have been there at least a month.

Why You’re Wrong About Your Start Date

Now think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective. Bringing on a new employee is a lot of work. The reason she went through the corporate rituals of getting the budget approved and opening a headcount was because she has a great need. Someone is in pain, and most likely it’s her.

One or more people on her team are overloaded. The decision to hire someone is the beginning of the relief. Problems remain unsolved. Work is piling up. The decision to hire you is a turning point; already she can begin to see how you are going to take up the work that is causing the pain.

From the moment you accept the offer, the hiring manager, with a sense of relief, begins to mentally load work onto your plate. From that instant forward the hiring manager is — in her mind — offloading responsibilities and expectations onto you. From her perspective, it’s as if you have already started.

The Truth About Your First Day

The day that you walk into your new office for the first time, you are already behind. In most companies your email and calendar accounts will already be created. In some organizations you will already have a backlog of email and meetings. Even if there are no visible signs of a work backlog for you, rest assured that in the mind of the hiring manager, there are already a variety of problems for you to solve and myriad of expectations already on your shoulders.

What to do

  1. Don’t be naive. Pay attention to other people’s expectations of you — both spoken and unspoken — from the moment you accept the written offer.
  2. Have a plan. Be deliberate in your efforts to understand the bigger picture. Get started on drafting a 90-day plan before you arrive on your first day. Pay particular attention to the eight dimensions of success. Finalize the plan with your new boss by the end of the second week.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. Take some time at the end of every week to assess your progress. Use something like the Jump-Start Worksheet to help you be aware of all that is going on in the multiple dimensions of an organization.
  4. Jump-Start your team. If you lead a team, consider sponsoring a Jump-Start Workshop to get the entire team aligned, attuned, and operating at a high level of performance.
  5. Build a network quickly. Understand how the organization works, and how power and influence flow. Use this network to not only understand expectations but to manage them as well.
  6. Show continual and demonstrable progress. Don’t wait until two or three months into the job to start to delivering results. Look for ways to add value as soon as possible. It is paramount to show incremental progress and deliver quick wins within the first few weeks.
  7. Get a coach. The first few months in a new position are insane. There are so many things going on in so many dimensions that it is impossible to make sense of it all without the sage advice and outside perspective of a coach who is experienced in helping people accelerate their onboarding.

Next Steps

Whether it’s with a new company or a new role within your existing organization, new positions are tremendous opportunities to leap forward in your career. Do so wisely.

  • Download a copy of my Jump-Start Worksheet.
  • Read The First 90 Days or Your Next Move by Michael Watkins. Both are excellent resources for starting in a new role with power, grace, and aplomb.
  • Get a coach who is experienced in working with onboarding and rapid acceleration in new roles.

 I wish you success.

Originally published September 8, 2013. Updated and revised July 29, 2019.

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