Landing a new job is a great feeling; however, it’s only the beginning. The real job interview begins when you start working and offers the true test of aligning your profile to the employer’s requirements and culture. The pressure of “drinking from the firehouse” can be daunting, but you can follow a few steps to ensure you lay the right foundation for you exciting new opportunity.
- have a plan
- identify the “success profile”
- set realistic goals
- listen and learn
- maintain an expanded network
- communicate regularly with your manager
- thank people
- expect to know everything
- get distracted
- be the “expert”
- be negative
- not gossip
- forget to evaluate your progress
In addition to the usual onboarding process you’ll receive as a new hire, build your personal strategy of how you will get productivity faster. That plan includes conducting more detailed research of your position and internal company workings, meetings with key champions who might not be the same people you are asked to meet with initially, and quickly translating cultural norms of conduct into your day-to-day interactions. Your personal plan enhances your first impression with others. First impressions solidify how people view you and often the reactions you get seed how your work environment will unfold in the future. By planning your performance and conduct strategically, instead of tactically, you demonstrate to your manager and your peers that you’re an asset instead of liability.
As you navigate through the cultural norms as well as the stated expectations of your job, move closer to people who are either excelling in the role you have or seem to be successful and well-connected in the company in general. You can usually spot these people on the multiple email threads, personal references or interactions they are included on. Find out from them what it’s really like to be successful at the company. This is often the “how” part of the job. Regardless of your smarts or how critical your skills are, how you get the job done is very important.
When you and your manager review your initial objectives keep goals short, achievable, and tethered to what is reasonable for a new person to handle. Don’t set the bar too low that your manager and peers can’t tell if you are truly capable, or too high that you fail. The goal mix should include straightforward items (meet people, understand the products, etc) and slightly moderate to complex goals related to your job duties. How you construct the framework of your goals and discuss the path to achieving them is equally important. Doing this conveys to others your sense of planning and that you take measured steps to success.
As you get more comfortable and gain credibility in your role, start to introduce approaches or directions on modifying existing practices or planning for future needs. Show that you understand why practices are done a certain way and that those practices are sound. Listen for cues related to ownership, territory, or politics related to current practices. The better you can blend partnership with being a student, the faster you can gain supporters for your ideas down the road.
You would be surprised who the true information and legacy gatekeepers are in companies. Sometimes title and role limits the visibility of a person’s real influence in the company hierarchy. Treat people with respect wherever you go and take an interest in what they do. As you build your network, take the initiative in helping with projects when needed and be willing to help even if you don’t have all the answers or know where to go.
Most managers want people to be resourceful and find out what to do and who to ask. In the first phase of a new job, you have a wider window to ask questions in conjunction with your ability to figure things out. Prepare insightful questions or specific tactical ones as a group, rather than asking a question every moment. Offer to have weekly check ins with your manager as needed.
Saying “I’m new here” lasts a very short time. New job honeymoon periods fade quickly and offer you a limited amount of time to get to the information and people you need to build your long term place amongst the ranks. Every opportunity you have in email or in person to thank someone for helping you, spending time with you, or giving you the inside scoop should be thanked with sincerity. Constantly reinforce with people why you are a great hire by being friendly and appreciative of the job you have with the company.
Every new environment has challenges requiring you to adapt your experience to the situation. Be patient and observant and methodically absorb each learning experience you get. Process the information quickly so you can be productive, but don’t get overwhelmed if you can’t nail everything down after the first week.
Sometimes as the new person you can get pulled into several non-essential projects, meetings, or other concerns that have nothing to do with your job and can set the stage for conflict you don’t want to be in the middle of. The hard part is, in the spirit of being friendly and accommodating, you may feel obligated to get involved. Check with your manager if a request seems outside of the bounds of your duties. Better to get clarity up front rather than getting pulled into a situation that could have negative consequences for you in the future.
It seems logical that when you were hired, the desire was to have you be a fresh set of eyes on existing challenges and that you would come up with great ideas to address opportunities. In the beginning part of your job that is not the case. Until you have established yourself with people through success on more manageable projects, talking about your accomplishments at other companies in the past comes off to insiders as a lack of maturity. You need to respect others who are more knowledgeable about practices in the company and the struggles they have made to get things where they are today. That doesn’t mean you will like what you see, or that you are given a task of a major initiative right away. Stay humble to the team you are working with, ask questions, and influence others with your thoughts until your expertise is sought out.
This guidance applies to new and post job integration. Even in a casual setting, never disparage your former company or employer. Also, don’t show your frustration about why the new company does something a certain way. Always approach difficult people or situations, past, and present objectively. In other words, state that you see not only the challenges, but the opportunities as well. Regarding your past, simply state you always evaluate your personal needs and make decisions accordingly including finding new employment.
As the shiny new hire, you might find “friends” wanting to include you in office gossip and rumor mills. On one hand, it’s great to be included, even if the information is bias. On the other hand, you should maintain a professional decorum. In this case, it's best to politely acknowledge you don’t know about the situation and play dumb without taking a side, so that you can listen but not participate. Depending on what you hear, talk to your manager about it, but never say who the person was who told you.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the things you have to do to showthe company you were a good hire. But if you don’t evaluate what you have learned, where the open gaps are, and where you are headed, you might get frustrated down the road. When you set monthly check-ins for yourself, you can decide if the job is what you thought it would be or not. If not, then you need to evaluate your next move in terms of making repairs or moving on. If everything is working out great, then an ongoing evaluation of your job and work environment becomes a normal aspect of staying on track with your career growth and development.
A new job is both thrilling and intimidating at the same time. You want to prove to those you work with that you were the right choice. If you remain observant, listen, evaluate, and then execute while maintaining a positive attitude, your role and place in the company will get clearer. Planning correctly at the start will position you for future growth opportunities and puts you on the path to being viewed as a key contributor.