How To Make A Fast Start On A New Job
2.) Avoid cranial-rectal inversion
3.) Understand Management’s expectations
4.) It’s different here, learn the new code
5.) There’s often method to this madness
Your boss expects the same person who interviewed for the job to show up for work. Get clear direction on the responsibilities of your job, their deliverables, and the role your job plays as a cog in the wheel of the department’s smooth running machinery. Understand and show respect for the roles of other team members and you are on the way to the acceptance that is foundational to making the job a success.
All too often we join a new company and in an effort to make a good impression, we achieve the opposite. How you behave when you first start work will determine your acceptance by management and by the team, your tenure, and your ultimate success with the company.
I recently spoke to a highly motivated marketing professional who was frustrated in his new job, “They hired me to innovate, and now I’m getting yessed to death, but there’s no action!” The problem? Trying to do too much too soon.
Here are some strategies that will help you avoid giving the impression of suffering from cranial-rectal inversion on your new job, and get this next step in your career off to a fast start.
Do you know exactly what expectations they have of you? Do you know how your performance is being measured? Do you understand the performance criteria that will result in a hire or fire decision during your probationary period? You need to learn.
Every week for the first month, maybe on Friday afternoon, informally ask your boss for feedback on how you are doing, and how you can do better. Every manager in the world appreciates a report that makes constructive input painless, and then uses the feedback to improve performance.
The following week, start with updating your boss on how you have implemented prior advice, and then ask for further guidance based on your growing understanding of the way your job is done in this company.
In your second month, pursue these informal evaluations every other week. If there are performance or acceptance issues, be open to the input and clarify the steps you should take to improve. Developing good
relationships and teamwork with others are almost as critical as delivering expected results, and it will be noticed that you are making a sincere effort.
Never assume anything on a new job, and especially don’t try to change the world before you know the way to the restroom. Your first task is to get to grips with executing your responsibilities efficiently and with due respect for the people who must in turn deal with your work product.
Take time to get to know others who do this same job and the people whose work is affected by your work; ask for advice and say thank you for any guidance offered – if you question that advice in anyway, quietly clear it with your boss, without mentioning names.
As you settle in, watch the flow of work and how things are done. Whatever apparent madness you see in the early days at a new company, don’t rush to judgment, there is usually some very sound method behind it. After all, the paychecks don’t bounce, so they must be doing something right. With this in mind, don’t make comments about how things should be done, because no one will listen and some will take offense that the “newbie is a know-it- all.” This will just encourages some wise-ass to put you in your place.
Notice everyone’s immediate work environment, because in some companies a messy desk signifies an industrious and creative genius at work. In others it signifies a messy slob who’s an embarrassment to the profession. In your probationary period over the first 90 days, you watch, listen and learn. You were given two eyes and one mouth; use them in the correct proportion.
Learn people’s names, and go out of your way to smile and introduce yourself to everyone. Don’t overlook clerical staff—it isn’t courteous and allies here will repay your respect and cordiality down the line.
Just as you need time to get to know the company, its services, and its people, they need time to get to know you.
Learn the job, and how it’s role plays into the goals of the department. Work extra hours as necessary without complaint, and if you see something that needs doing then volunteer to do it, or just step up and get it done. If you see a colleague that needs a hand, step up and help. As you get to know the
people around you and the informal positions of authority and respect they have earned, you are beginning to understand the real power structure of your new world.
Form good relationships inside and outside your department, and whatever you do, never gossip or speak ill of any person or directive. In every department there is an inner circle and an outer circle, the inner circle gets things done while the outer circle does what it takes to get by, enjoys finding fault but rarely contributes to solutions. Loose lips in the early days can quickly get you assigned to the outer circle, because any unguarded critical, dismissive and derisive comments you make will be used against you.
At the same time as you are settling in and learning the ropes, management and your coworkers are looking carefully at how you function and informally accrediting you a status within the group. Their considerations evaluate:
- How well you know your job
- Whether you can be relied on to execute your duties in a professional way that is respectful of the work and responsibilities of others
- Whether you shoulder your share of the responsibility for a friendly, positive workplace
- How you make decisions, and whether they respect professional protocols and the common good
- How you treat other people
- Whether you recognize others’ contributions and give credit where it’s due
- Whether you respect the existing hierarchy within the team
First meetings are especially tricky. You’ll be introduced and encouraged to speak up. By all means say that you’re new and excited to join the team, that you have a lot to learn and hope you can ask for help as you learn your way around; beyond this say nothing.
Take notes, make others feel what they say is important enough to write down. Say thank you to anyone who assists you, be appreciative of his or her time and input.
It’s all about communication doofus!
Failure to communicate is the major reason why things “don’t work out” with a new job. Communication means watching, listening, and understanding.
Take the time to get your feet on the ground, learn your way around, get to know your colleagues, and absorb the culture. As you do this you’ll see plenty of opportunities to make a difference with your presence. Prioritize them and start small, with each project meticulously conceived, planned, and implemented.
The inner circle
The inner circle that exists within every department is the place where job security, plum assignments, raises and promotions live.
You don’t succeed alone, no one does. You succeed with the support, encouragement, and camaraderie of similarly committed professionals, and you grow together. That’s why the people at the top of every profession all know each other and have done so for years.
Take it slow
Taking it slowly in the first ninety days will speed your acceptance by the group as a whole and allow you the time to recognize the inner circle players amongst your peers. When it comes to establishing your credibility and visibility, the good news travels more slowly than the bad, but it does travel. No one likes to be overwhelmed with genius, and the better you are, the more you have to work at humility and a low profile until you have been accepted.
Teams accept you when you take time to learn what makes this new team successful, and when you are seen to learn from them.
Don’t make the new team feel like you were hired because they weren’t doing anything right and you’re there to fix it. Teams reject a newcomer with a condescending attitude.
If you arrive and immediately begin reinventing the company, it will be seen as arrogance and is going to be taken as an insult. No one wants to hear your ideas or advice until they know your real value.
So take it slow, and as you learn the players and gain acceptance you’ll also
begin to notice opportunities for making contribution. If you have ideas, the time to start introducing them is some time after the ninety-day probationary period, when you know how to:
- Nail proficiency in your job first
- Help pick up slack on necessary but unpopular tasks
- Do enough homework to ask intelligent questions
- The names of everyone in the department
- How the department works and why it works that way
- Who’s trustworthy and who isn’t
- Management and other power players holding titles at least one and ideally two levels above you
- Make suggestions and recommendations that help move projects forward rather than attacking bedrock assumptions
When you have nailed job proficiency and the time is right to start making contributions above and beyond your job description, start with smaller projects— they are easier to sell, and help you build a foundation of credibility.
Working on smaller projects first also helps you recognize and learn to finesse the hidden hierarchies that can torpedo any initiative.
When you do introduce ideas, it doesn’t hurt for them to be seen as part of a team effort. Consequently their initial introduction will carry more weight when a member of the inner circle shares ownership. You don’t lose credibility with their endorsement; you gain it.
Move forward with intent
Take the time to start your new job on the right foot and you’ll get off to a fast start, which will lead to your acceptance by the team and especially the inner circle – where your future lies.