The 8 Unspoken Rules of Starting a New Job

When starting a new job, there are unspoken rules that you will not find in the employee handbook.

New woman at work


Cecilia Harvey
Cecilia Harvey16
May 29, 2024 at 3:10AM UTC

When starting a new job, there are certain unspoken rules that you will not find in the employee handbook. 

Of course, there are policies and procedures that all employees must comply with. But understanding and mastering the following unspoken rules can lead to job promotions, salary increases and strong professional relationships, because you will earn yourself respect right off the bat.

1.  Be humble.

There can be a fine line between confidence and arrogance. We love confident people – they're naturally magnetic. However, never act as if you are superior to others. Ask colleagues if they need help. Offer to get someone a coffee or pick up lunch for a coworker that is very busy. Be kind and be the first to reach out to learn more about your new office.

2.  Engage with colleagues at all levels. 

Don’t just engage with very senior people and meet people that work outside of your immediate team. The more relationships, the better. Develop a rapport with your colleagues by asking them more about themselves, and try to find where you have similar interests and experiences. Where were they born? Do they have children? How long have they been with the company? Do they have any hobbies? Asking questions will demonstrate that you are trying to make an effort to build a good working relationship.

3.  Learn the history.

Change can be good, but it is important to understand the history of why certain processes and policies in your new role were put in place. Many people make the mistake of going into a new job and trying to make too much change too quickly.  Your colleagues will appreciate that you take the time to understand the history of the organization and solicit their perspective before moving to make significant changes.

4. Identify key decision makers.

It’s not just your boss you need to impress. Who are the other people that have input into decisions such as promotion and pay increases?  Who does your boss need to impress? These people are potentially the same people you need to impress or the people who will provide you sponsorship later on. When you understand who the key decisions makers are, try to find opportunities to develop good professional relationships with them. This can make or break your entire experience in this role. 

5. Get your hands dirty.

Get into the detail. Be a person that gets involved in producing work products rather than just telling people what to do. I remember having a colleague that would see an error in presentation and rather than making the correction, she would spend time sending a email to tell her team member to make the change. This was not only a waste of time, but also showed that she was not going to get involved, be part of the team and get work done. Don't be that person.

6. Say “please”, “thank you”, and “can I help you?" 

It is a very simple thing to do, yet so many people forget; Be polite to everyone. Saying “please” and “thank you” will get you very far in professional relationships, especially with your superiors. 

7. Confirm your boss’ priorities. 

Priorities can always change, and you always want to ensure that you are aligned to your boss’s newest set of priorities. Don’t just focus on your work – make your boss look good. Frequently check in with your boss to confirm top priorities, ensure your work aligns to those priorities and provide status updates on your progress. This is especially crucial when you first begin a job, and your boss is trying to identify where you fit on a team. Show her that you fit at the top of the roster by proving your worth. 

8. Be visible. 

Be sure that people recognize your good work and how you go the extra mile. Volunteer to help on special projects, don’t be obnoxious, and highlight your achievements while also recognizing others. That's the way to get a gold star. 
The employee handbook might tell us “what to do,” but these unspoken rules tell us “how to do” our job.  Although certain rules may vary among companies, humility, respect and teamwork are the foundation of any professional role. Now, go succeed in your new position. 

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