Master the learning curve for a successful start in a new job

You landed the new job you wanted.

What you do next is going to determine whether you get off to a smooth start.

A new survey demonstrates the importance of being prepared to learn as a new employee. Sixty per cent of managers and 44% of workers said learning new processes and procedures is the greatest challenge when starting a new job.

Getting to know a new boss and co-workers was a distant second, identified by one-fifth of managers and workers. The survey includes responses from 420 working adults employed in an office environment and 1,014 senior managers at US companies with 20 or more employees. Temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping staffing service Accountemps developed the survey.

“Most companies provide training so employees can get up to speed on formal procedures,” Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said in a news release. “However, it’s often more challenging to learn the cultural nuances of the firm, including how people prefer to communicate and collaborate.”

In the survey, 17% of workers and 12% of managers said learning to use new technology and tools is the greatest challenge when starting a new job. Fitting into the corporate culture was identified by 12% of workers and 7% of managers as the greatest challenge.

Accountemps offers seven tips for employees starting a new job:

  1. Clarify expectations. Create a list of goals and responsibilities with your supervisor and establish a timeline for achieving them. Request feedback to make sure you’re on the right path.

  2. Find a role model. Newcomers can learn about office protocol and performance expectations from experienced co-workers.

  3. Watch, listen and learn. Observe how a top performer approaches problems and use his or her behaviour as a guide.

  4. Go out for coffee or lunch. Build rapport by getting to know colleagues in less formal settings.

  5. Travel in different circles. Network with co-workers in other departments through orientation and training courses. This will teach you company jargon, operational practices and values.

  6. Ask questions. When in doubt, seek clarification.

  7. Strike a balance. Show confidence without projecting a know-it-all attitude. Consider all information before suggesting alternatives to current practices.

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.