NEW JOB? START OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT.

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The new year has brought new job opportunities for many professionals, particularly in light of continued low unemployment levels. Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, a nationwide temporary staffing service for accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals, and author of Job Hunting for Dummies, offers the following tips to help you clear the hurdles:

* Study the firm's culture. Beginning a new job is not unlike meeting future in-laws--first impressions count. Be attuned to the subtleties of the company's business environment, including everything from department policies and procedures to how people interact with one another.

* Reduce the learning curve. Master the position's responsibilities as quickly as possible by asking questions and seeking out unofficial "mentors" who can show you the ropes. Many firms now have formal mentoring programs for this purpose, but in those companies that don't, it pays to be resourceful.

* Be a team player. In your eagerness to hit the ground running, don't become overly concerned with your specific portion of a given project. Look at the big picture and volunteer for assignments, even if they fall outside your immediate job description. This will allow you to learn about new areas of operations while demonstrating your sense of team play.

* Become indispensable. From the outset, take steps to make yourself an invaluable resource to your new employer by exceeding his or her expectations. Arrive early to the office and, whenever necessary, stay as late as it takes to see a project through to completion.

* Practice diplomacy. Tread lightly when offering opinions for improving a particular process or procedure, especially in your first few weeks. While your ideas may be sound, as a new employee you risk alienating veteran workers for whom existing operations function well...

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