Starting Strong: How to Make an Impact as a New Executive in a New Industry

Starting Strong: How to Make an Impact as a New Executive in a New Industry was originally published on uConnect External Content.

When you’re starting out as a new executive in a new industry, you may feel slightly intimidated.

While you have the senior-level skills that landed you the role, you lack the field knowledge you had in previous positions. 

New challenges are enough to make anybody nervous. However, this mindset that you have to start from scratch in your new role isn’t accurate either. 

“When professionals reinvent themselves, they often feel they have to start from scratch and that their previous connections and experience don’t count in their new realm. Your skills and your network are probably more transferable than you think,” said marketing strategist Dorie Clark.

So, how can you make an impact in a new field from the start? 


👉 Take the initiative to develop in your new role.

Many career coaches suggest that your path to success (or failure) in a new field is predicted by your first 90 to a hundred days on the job.

So, to make these first three months as fruitful as possible, you want to map out your roadmap at the organization as well. How do you want to be perceived? Who are your allies? What is your niche? 

New executives can fall into two traps: taking on too many diffuse responsibilities or not volunteering for enough opportunities. 

Clark says most executives don’t simply have “a steep and semi-guaranteed ascent in one narrow area.” Instead, they have to make “many more lateral moves (to new geographies, functional roles, and more)” that help them build their career. 

So, in your early months at the company, figure out the niche you want to carve for yourself. How do you want to be known? For which tasks do you want to be found essential? 

“As a new entrant in a field, you’ll be ahead of the competition if you recognize from the outset that you’ll have to plan for, and work for, your advancement, rather than having things proceed in lockstep without your active participation,” said Clark.


👉 Connect broadly with colleagues across sectors and departments.

There is also tremendous pressure to quickly make an impact in your new role. 40 to 50 percent of new leaders fail within the first 18 months, McKinsey notes.

In an extensive study, Harvard Business Review explored why these once-successful executives did not excel in their new roles. What differentiated high-achieving transitioners from those who struggled? Internal networks. 

“The people who are the most productive, innovative, and engaged in new roles—the ‘fast movers’—are those who establish extremely broad, mutually beneficial, uplifting connections from the start. Specifically, they surge rapidly into a broad network; generate pull; identify how they add value, where they fall short, and who can fill the gaps; create scale; and shape their networks for maximum thriving,” reported the study’s authors Rob Cross, Greg Pryor, and David Sylvester.

Most companies don’t help new executives make these connections, however. So, if you want to reap the benefits of a robust internal network, you need to develop it yourself. 

The authors discussed how to become “a fast mover” quickly after landing a new role. Some ideas they proposed: 

  • Build authentic relationships without business objectives in mind. 
  • Ask questions to your peers and those you manage about company processes and procedures. 
  • Listen to your colleagues’ ideas and implement them when appropriate. 
  • Demonstrate that you care about others’ contributions. 
  • Offer to “re-pay” your colleagues with reciprocal favors whenever possible. 


👉 Make sure you understand the organization before making significant changes.

Some new executives feel like they have to prove their worth as quickly as possible. So, they’ll roll out initiatives or suggest changes far too soon. 

Before you can make your mark as an executive, you first have to understand your company, its culture, and your team members. This certainly takes time. 

What’s more, you need to build connections with your team members so they’re willing to listen to you. So, spend time taking suggestions rather than implementing top-down solutions. After all, they are the experts in the field and industry; you are not. 

“Take in as much information as possible before you start airing your own opinions. This is especially important if you’re stepping into a leadership position. You can’t start raising a ruckus and disrupting the culture until you’ve proven that you’re worth following. As the old saying goes: ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,’” said Ramsey Solutions’ Ken Coleman.


Making an Impact in a New Field


Your first months as a new executive often determine whether or not you’ll make an impact in a new field.

Use those first months to plan how you’ll contribute to the organization, make connections with your team and cross-departmental colleagues, and understand the organization. The better you understand these components of your new workplace and team, the more successful you’ll be in your leadership role long-term. 

Also, keep your intimidation in check by remembering why you were hired in the first place. 

“Whenever I ask CEOs of any size firm what they most look for in their employees, they agree that they want “hardworking, loyal, dependable, conscientious employees who show great initiative’. They will also say these employees are rare and very hard to find,” said Forbes contributor Joyce E. A. Russell.

So, you shouldn’t let your fears about switching fields stop you from pursuing exciting opportunities. If you’re considering shifting fields, start with our guide “Ready For a New Job? Start Here.”