Does 500 minutes seem a long time?

It is one working day!

What impact do you want to make in your first 500 minutes on the job? Charming? Assertive? Co-operative? Thoughtful? Easy to understand? Powerful? Brilliant?

All of these are important, so you must establish them quickly.

Start as you mean to go on. To be charming, smile. To show you are assertive, make sure you get what you want.

Thoughtfulness and brilliance are seen by the questions you ask and your response to the views you hear. You will soon know if you are understood. Power involves changing things.

Here’s a typical first day in a new job:


The welcome

This is the greeting that can be so warm or so chilling.

Observe which it is with each person who offers it. Observe the handshake and the body language. Is this person for you or against you?

Everyone takes sides with a newcomer, usually before they arrive. Observe their dress, accessories and, if you see it, office or desk space.

The question you have to answer immediately is “Will this person be a kindred spirit?”

You need one or two. Make a wrong judgment at this stage and you will be set back badly.


Ask questions

Think these through beforehand.

Is there a standard operating procedure for the part of the business you are involved in or for the business as a whole?

If there is, ask to see it so you can understand the rules. It will tell you more about the culture of the business than any other document.

What are the main problems and concerns the business is having — or anticipates finding — in the coming year? How can you help? 

Who is the most experienced person in the work area to which you are assigned? You need to establish a mentor in the business as soon as possible.

Make your number with those who do the grunt work as much as with the bosses.

Your progress in an organisation can be significantly helped by the personal assistants, secretaries, drivers and clerks. They will be the gatekeepers to information about senior management’s schedules, personal preferences, best practices and whims.


Make your mark

To do this, you must charmingly make three points about the arrangements that have been made for you.

First, be somewhat critical of something. It doesn’t matter what it is — anything, apart from the boss, will do.

Perhaps the colour of the office. Make sure a few people hear you doing this.

Second, you must make a change — again, something small. If all else fails, change the wastepaper basket in your office. Possibly even change the office. You can do it on day one, although later it will be more difficult. Make sure people know you made a change.

Third, you must speak to the boss, however briefly, or on the phone. The boss will be the top person connected with your part of the business — possibly the regional director or overall chief executive officer.

Your reason for doing so?

“I promised I would speak to the boss on my first day.”

There is no need to say who you promised or to say much to him. Tell the boss you wanted him to know how deeply honoured you are to be working for the organisation and how it has got 150 per cent of your effort. Tell him you hope to be able to meet him again before too long.

This conversation must be private. If there is resistance to this, push back very politely.

If the boss is in the same building, there should be no difficulty. If he is somewhere else, perhaps in another time zone, you should still speak to him for a minute or two.

When you have done these three things, you have established that:

•   you have a point of view;

•   you get things changed if you want to; and

•   you can speak to the boss when you want to.

Make use of the lunch hour, if possible, by meeting peers and superiors informally and asking lots of questions about the business and their part in it.

This is an opportunity for you to learn the more personal side of the business and its main players.

Be sure to thank those who help you; you are going to need their help again in the future.

Make your first 500 minutes work for you and you are well on the way to success. Keep it up for the next five years and you will probably be boss.


Article by John Bittleston, executive chairman and founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International, a group of skilled mentors with significant management experience. For more information, visit