Dicks blog_1 - first job

What do I have to do to be successful in my new job?

I am a senior citizen and grandpa.  Because I have over 45 years’ experience studying top performers in the world of work, people sometimes ask me: “What do I have to do to be successful in my new job?”.  Of course, there are many answers to this question, but to me, it seems that six universal truisms are necessary for success.  Two of them can be viewed as precursors for success while the last four are on-the-job actions.  

The Two Precursors 

1)  Find what you do best, your Talent, and 2) Work hard to develop and grow your Talent.  As children we engage in free play and eventually find things we enjoy doing.  This gradually leads to more structured activities in which we home in on our preferences.  We find things that interest us and do them more often than we do other things.  After a while we become pretty good at doing them.  The more things we are exposed to help us become aware of our strengths and give us more options when we need to make important choices for an occupation.  

Thus, if we listen to our yearnings, we understand ourselves better and make choices that lead us to an occupation that interests us and that we are good at doing.  When we think of talent, we usually think of movie stars, athletes, singers, authors, artists, sculptors, designers, entrepreneurs, etc.  These people’s accomplishments are usually very visible and well-documented.  What most people fail to recognize is that it requires talent to do a so-called “ordinary job” very well.  A few years ago, I was consulting with a seafood restaurant chain and I met a world class shrimp breader.  This person knew more about breading shrimp, than I believe, anyone in the world AND he really liked his job.  Plus, he produced delicious results every time.  


Congratulations on landing your new job!  You must be elated, and if you are reading this, you must be the type of person who likes to be prepared in advance.  This is an essential quality for success in the world of work.  Regarding advance preparation: We’ve observed that you can increase your effectiveness by routinely making a checklist of action items, identifying your top three priorities for the day, and ensuring that you complete those first!

The On-The-Job Actions 

Now, that you are starting that new job tomorrow, the last four ideas become of paramount importance for your success.  The next point is about your attitude.  Be open to learning, 3.  learn, learn, learn and be a sponge.  Find out everything you can about your new company; it’s customers, what it does best, what its challenges are, it’s products, your co-workers, and your manager’s expectations for you.  Part of this point leads us to the fourth and fifth ideas which are 4.  become productive as fast as you can which yields to the notion that 5.  you are paying for yourself and more.  Figure out what you need to do to pay back the company’s investment in you.  This means becoming productive quickly and continually finding ways to continue that productivity into the future.  It also means passing your learnings and knowledge on to those who come later to the company.  Become the person that others approach for advice and to share ideas.  

The last and most important point, 6.  Is never lie, cheat, or steal.  This point is obvious to most people.  A few years ago, we asked people in various organizations that if they could choose one word which would become synonymous with their name or reputation in their company, what word would that be?  Many words were chosen such as cooperative, mentor, productive, friendly, etc.  When asked about their choice, many used the word honest as part of their narrative.  And, many actually choose the word honest, integrity or ethical as their word.  Therefore, this point becomes the basis or bedrock for the other five.  This one underlies all the above.  

In closing, I’d like to address one last issue regarding a phrase you hear almost daily: “If you want it bad enough, you can get it.”  That is partially correct.  We would add to it as follows:  if you want it bad enough AND are willing to work hard enough AND you have the talent you can get it.  Our definition of talent includes attitudes to work and covers dimensions such as integrity, responsibility, courage, empathy, self-discipline, positivity, resourcefulness, openness to learning, and diligence.  To shine in your new job, build on your foundation of talent, work hard to acquire the knowledge and skills, and apply them for the benefit of your customers and employer.  

Remember that talent exists for all jobs.  I worked on a construction crew the summer after my first year of college and by the end of the day, I would be a dirty, sweaty mess, covered in mud while my coworkers would be very clean.  That was part of their talent in doing the same job I was doing.  Each person doing a job well, knows something about that job that is not apparent to the rest of us.  And it does not matter what that job is.  There is world class talent in every job!  We know that great athletes, singers, artists, authors, etc., spend thousands of hours perfecting their performances as do housekeepers, teachers, nurses, firefighters, maintenance workers, baggage handlers, shrimp breaders, and the high performers in every job function.   To shine in your career, grow your skills, wow your customers, and be helpful to your teammates.  These tips work for jobs where you are in the spotlight as well as those where you are a part of the supporting cast, behind the scenes.  Best wishes for much success in your new job!  

About the Author

Dr. Richard Harding has more than 45 years of experience working in the field of psychometrics creating validated instruments such as assessments, structured interviews, and surveys.  With his teammates, he has developed hundreds of interviews and surveys for organizations in the US and around the globe.  His expertise includes evaluating new hire quality, assessment effectiveness, source channel efficiency, time to hire, cost per hire, and other such metrics that are of critical importance to Human Resource Professionals.  He teaches statistics and research.  He also specializes in fairness analyses and auditing compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines, such as the 4/5ths rule.  

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