Starting afresh at a new job is always a challenge. You are out of your comfort zone without enough knowledge of resources and expectations, with strangers as colleagues and without an established reputation and network to fall back on. You have a brief honeymoon of a few days or months when you aren’t expected to perform miracles and will not be blamed if something goes wrong. However, you need a strategy to make the most of this time to stay ahead of expectations and succeed. Here’s how.
How to get started
Equate your new journey with running a marathon. You have the skills and practice that got you selected. Now get on to the starting block. Don’t be late to work on your first day. If there is a on-boarding process, attend it diligently. You will get the tools you need – ID card, security passes, laptop, phone, policy handbook, email id, organisation chart, seat, Internet password etc. If there is no formal process, meet your manager and HR and ask them.
How to connect
While your tools are getting sorted out, reach out to people. To succeed you need physical resources and the support of colleagues. In the first few days, introduce yourself to as many people as you can. Start with your team and move on to other functions. Connect with others who have joined the firm recently. It is easiest to make friends with newcomers. In the first couple of weeks, aim to never have coffee or lunch alone. Use work-breaks to know someone.
How to learn
While you broaden your professional circle, leverage the opportunity to gain knowledge rapidly. Overcome your awkwardness in asking questions. In the initial days, people expect to be asked and are usually happy to assist newcomers. As a junior person, keep your questions ready and look for opportunities when someone is relatively free. As a senior person, get people to brief you on what they do and then ask them to elaborate on specific matters.
How to do what matters
If your role is well defined and the same as your previous employment, you may become productive in the first week itself. In other cases, it takes between one and three months to reach peak performance. Set up a meeting with your manager to align expectations and define measurable goals and timelines. Then get organised to reduce wastage of time and establish your daily routines to eliminate unnecessary effort and decisions.
How to speed up
Make progress in the most efficient manner. Know your colleagues and managers well including their style of decision making. Who prefers one-on-one meetings vs an email for receiving information and conveying decisions? Are all internal meetings serious ones with no leeway or is there scope to reschedule, join late or leave early to meet other commitments? Figure out nuances that make extra demands on your time and learn to control your day.
How to build a reputation
Within a couple of months your professional reputation in the new workplace will start firming up. Be known for your reliability— someone who is on time for both delivery and discussions. Take initiative on matters that you are responsible for and those that affect your team. Go out of your way to help colleagues complete their tasks. Define what success means in your role and deliver on early wins.
How to insure
Get your career insured against a rainy day. Find that person in your organisation who has the knowledge or physical resources or cultural insights to solve your sticky problems at the last minute. It could be an old hand on your team or a senior manager. Establish a good relationship with this new guardian angel. Reach out to colleagues and friends from your past.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
1 Burn out
“To finish first, you must first finish”. Don’t be like a Formula 1 race car bursting a tyre in the first lap. Are you the first person at office and the last person to leave? Your unhealthy routine becomes the new normal and you have no reserves for emergencies and new projects. Your professional reputation takes a beating and you miss on promotions.
2 Office as home
Are you getting so familiar with the people and office environment that it feels like home? Take a step back before you start slipping up on professional behaviour, taking people for granted, treating deadlines casually, ignoring suggestions from your boss or spending time on personal work or social media in working hours.
3 Approval seeking
Do you always ask for permission before taking initiatives? Though avoiding responsibility for decisions sounds like insurance against failure, it harms you since it reflects a lack of ownership. Instead, take decisions and try all possibilities well before deadlines before you seek inputs or permissions from your manager.
4 Bunk company events
Do you avoid attending company social events? In your initial months at a new job, treat all company events as seriously as a client meeting or a review with your boss. These times contribute to people knowing you better, winning team respect, getting staffed on good projects and being considered for responsibilities.
5 Mis-handle criticism
It’s easy to be hyper-sensitive when you are feeling insecure in a new work environment. Thus, in a new job, early criticism can seem especially strong. Avoid taking criticism personally. Instead establish your professional maturity by listening to it actively, writing it down, analysing and making changes as you find necessary.