Making a positive impact in a new role

Written by: Sarah Pallett
Published on: 30 Jan 2020

Positive impact

Image © magele-picture / Adobe Stock

Starting a new job can be tough. You don’t know the people, the culture, or much about what’s expected of you – so the first few months can feel like a whirlwind of information, instructions and introductions. During which time you have a freaked-out, confused smile on your face the majority of the time.

When you begin a new job, or role, you have a real opportunity in those first few months to make a positive impact and position yourself as someone of value within the team – even when you are still learning how things work.

Plus, it’s a really good opportunity to change your behaviours, and set new intentions and goals for yourself.

Here are some simple tips to creating a positive impact, plus a few things to avoid when starting a new role.

Show up

I don’t mean just show up on time – although obviously that is hugely important for making a good impression – but show up mentally and physically.

There will be nerves (which is only natural) and a degree of fear (which is also natural) – but instead of letting those emotions take control, take action and set some new intentions for the person you will be, the energy you will create and how you want to be known by your new team.

You could, for example, be the solutions whizz, the information king, the social media queen, the super-organised team planner… the choice is yours.

Show up with a smile, energy and enthusiasm; demonstrate a diligent attitude; display a solutions-driven ethos; show interest and passion in even the basics of the role; and be presentable and stand tall.

Remember, you have worked hard to get where you are – and you deserve to be there.

Culture and politics

You may be completely qualified and competent for the role, but one of the things that will take time to understand is the practice or hospital’s culture and politics.

The who’s who, the cliques, and the unmentioned procedures and rituals – it can be a challenge to fit in at first, especially if you’ve come from a role where you felt comfortable and established.

Every place has them, and they could be different from what you have experienced before – so it is super-important to do your research and just watch for a while.

Be respectful, take the lead from those around you, watch how things work, see who the leaders in the group are and, most importantly, ask lots of questions.


Communication is the key to success in any new role, but (let’s be honest) it can come more naturally to some than others. Luckily, it is a skill that can be learned.

The most basic things to remember are “good morning”, “thank you” and “goodbye”. Simple, isn’t it? But so many forget these when they are feeling nervous or overwhelmed. If someone is taking time to help you and show you around, make sure you thank him or her – and be specific.

It isn’t just verbal communication we need to think about – our body language can often shout exactly how we are feeling, so it is important to be aware of how we could be perceived. Awareness is always the first step towards change.

Practise talking in the mirror, record yourself, and research communication experts for tips on appearing calm and authoritative (even if you’re not).

The truth is, you could be the most talented vet or veterinary nurse, but if you cannot speak to clients or team members effectively, your career won’t flourish the way you want.

Speak up and get yourself noticed by coming up with ideas and offering solutions. This can be scary, so think ahead to a day or situation you may find yourself in, and practise and rehearse what you would say and how you want to be heard – imagine the best version of yourself is in the driving seat, and think what would he or she would say in that moment.

Another key thing when it comes to communication is listening. Many people are too focused on thinking about how they will reply, that they forget to actually listen.

For the most part, everyone wants to feel they have been heard, so make sure you work on your active listening skills. This is especially relevant for owners, as this can help with displaying empathy and understanding.

Be coachable and ready to learn

Yes, you spent years studying, you are qualified and have learned all there is to know at that level – but now the real learning begins.

Many newly qualified vets and VNs worry they won’t have all the answers, and believe they will be caught off guard for not knowing something they feel they “should” – and that fear can have a huge impact when starting a new job.

The truth is, no conscientious employer will expect you to have all the answers at the beginning. What they will champion, however, is being honest and showing strength by asking for help. This demonstrates a desire to carry out the job correctly and your attention to detail.

Never struggle in silence, as that is when mistakes can happen – always ask if you are unsure, write it down and remember it for next time. As an employer and customer, I would rather hear “I am not sure, but I will find out” than be given the wrong information.

Add value and go the extra mile

Always be proactive, and communicative with your peers and team. If you have completed an assigned task, then ask what’s next. When extra duties come up and you don’t have a full plate, raise your hand and volunteer to do them.

Play to your strengths. If you’re usually one of the first to arrive, you could help set up the consult room, or tidy the leaflets and magazines in the waiting room. Any small task that can help someone’s day will make a big impact.

Love social media? Offer to take some photographs, create some imagery and draft a couple of posts for business social media channels. It will only add to your skill set and ease the pressure on others in the team.

Offer to help with something you haven’t been asked to do. For example, as a new starter, you could offer to review – or even write – an induction pack for the business. This will not only help the business by updating procedures and policies, and helping future new staff, but it allows you to make your mark and add real value.

Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression – and only you have the power to cultivate the impression you give and make the right kind of impact in your new position.