How to start a new job

By | January 7, 2017

A lot of people I know are changing jobs in the new year. For good or bad, I have also worked at 5 Fortunate 500 companies over the last 25 years, so I know what it is like to have a new job. Some transitions were smoother than others, but here are some of the tips that I have gleaned.

1. Start early. Provided you are not forced out – walked to the front door with a brown box – then you have 2 weeks to prepare your things, files, mindset, and attitude. BCG advises new CEOs to get started on their new job 100 days early. If possible, start before your first day. There is so much to do once you join – so any advance work will be a gift to yourself. (Confession: I am not good at this).

2. Be clear with yourself. As we all are closer to mid-career decisions, we need to be honest with ourselves and our employers. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What is a stretch goal and what is unrealistic. Don’t fall victim to the Peter Principle – where you talk your way into a job you cannot succeed at. Push yourself when the odds are in your favor. New job = more variables.

3. Be clear with your boss. During the interview and negotiations period, find out what the expectations are. Be authentic and make sure it is the right job + right culture + right job for you. Need a 7 min video refresher on how to be happy at work? Watch this video from the Workplace Therapist here and/or download the eBooks at the bottom of his website.

4. Understand the culture. Reach out to your network inside the company (and those who have left recently) and learn about the way the organization works. As Michael Watkins (author of The First 90 days. (affiliate link)) says, put on your “historian hat.”

  • How does this job fit within the overall organizational strategy ?
  • Do you have the potential to be a linchpin, or is this role for a support person?
  • Are you the appetizer or the main dish?

Find out who the key stakeholders are. You don’t need to make a full RACI diagram, but know who the influential people are and why. There are best practices to being successful in any organization, and you might as well learn them sooner than later.

5. Be likable. You are the new kid on the block. No one knows you. It is your job to build a network of friendlies, and adapt to the prevailing culture and flow. Yes, I know this part sounds timid, weak, overly deferential, and old-school – but honestly – you are not entitled to much when you start. You need to build relational equity before you start using it. This sounds basic, yet many people fail at this. They want to only take before giving. Bad.

6. Build rapport. You need to get on people’s good side. Yes, we can quote the theory of reciprocity – but more directly: 1) people like to work with people they like 2) you cannot help someone without knowing  what they like/need/want 3) they can’t help you if you are a mystery box. Be available, be empathetic, listen. Just doing those things will set you apart from the large % of self-absorbed people.

7. Get smart. For those switching to a new industry or new function. It’s (kind of) okay to be ignorant on your first day, but NOT OKAY after three months. Do the research, and get smart quickly.

  • For B2B marketing, get this book. Nut, Bults, and Magnetrons (affiliate link) – it’s a lifesaver (hat tip: MWK). Buy it used.
  • Don’t be afraid to by DUMMIES books – just keep them at home (heh, heh)
  • Don’t ask anyone a question you could find out on Google. Please. . . .

8. Get some quick wins for your “boss”. I always tell people that the quickest path for promotion is getting your boss promoted. Make her priorities your priorities. Yes, that is a very old-school hierarchical idea, but it still works for 80% of Fortune 500 land.  Find out what needs to get done and do it.  As BCG reminds new CEOs, get some quick wins to “fund” the journey. Wins for your network = wins for you (usually).

9. Think strategically. Moving to a new company and/or new role is freedom. You have the chance to jump to a new S-curve in your career. You are shedding the old routines which may have held you back. It’s a fresh slate. Right time to breathe some mental fresh air and ask yourself:

  • What kind of work do I want to be known for?
  • Who are my ideal, target customers I would like to serve?
  • What should I do, so that 10 years later I can say, “that was a smart company move”?
  • What capabilities (big consulting word, I know), do I want that takes 2-3 years to build, so I should start today?

Want some kindling for your creative brain and heart? Read Seth Godin’s blog here.

10. Find the white space. One of my mentor’s favorite career books is How to be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed, (affiliate link). The author argues that superstars find the “white space” in the organization where critical things are not getting done. Then they apply ambition,  hard word, and political-savvy to get something stuck, moving again. That is you.

11. Temper your enthusiasm. We always think the grass is greener on the other side, and often find out that – well, grass is grass.

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6 thoughts on “How to start a new job

  1. EmoryGrad

    Great post! How do you know BMSmith (the workplace therapist)? He was at Emory when I studied there and a great guy!

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Hello – yes, Brandon and I went to school together at GBS – Emory.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Thanks – I have “started” a new job a few times in my life – so with experience. . . comes some wisdom. . heh heh.

    1. consultantsmindadmin Post author

      Keep doing great work.

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