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8 Ways to Start a New Job Really Well

Several people I have been coaching through career transition in my day job at Right Management have recently landed great new roles, so we have been looking closely at how they can make sure they settle in well and build a solid foundation for success in their new situation. Here are some of the ideas that they have found helpful in managing their own ‘onboarding’.

Many of these points deserve an article all to themselves, so this post is intended simply to prompt your thinking about what you may need to put in place, rather than give you all the “how to” steps.

Go in with a plan (week 1, first month, 90 days, 6 months, 1 year). You have put in a huge effort to land this new role, and you wouldn’t start any project or task you normally do in your job without a decent plan. So it makes sense to have at least an outline plan for how you are going to manage your own pathway to success. Don’t wait around for your new employer to take care of this for you. Set some clear goals that are realistic to each time-frame and work out how you will track and measure your progress.

Listen and learn – don’t try to change the world in a day. They weren’t doing too badly before you got there so there is probably quite a lot that doesn’t need to be changed or fixed. Make sure you understand clearly what your new manager’s key expectations are, who the other key stakeholders are and whether their expectations align with what your manager wants you to focus on. Set up regular meetings, initiated by you if necessary.Your manager’s busy, hired you because you are fantastic and may not realise the input and support you may need to get going well.

Look for ways to add value quickly. In his book The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins talks about identifying and acting on opportunities for achieving “early wins”. I think this is a great idea – especially if you make sure that what you choose is aligned with your manager’s expectations, adds real measurable value, preferably beyond the strict confines of your role, and doesn’t mess with anyone else’s plans and priorities!

Identify the influencers. Many people don’t want to ‘play the political game’ and that’s fair enough. However, we all know that in addition to the people with formal authority by virtue of their positions, and sometimes instead of them, there are people in the organisation whose opinions carry real weight. They can and do influence the way the formal leaders think and act. Watch carefully, look at how other people react, figure out who the real influencers are, so that you can decide whether and in what ways to align yourself with them.

Review the plan at the end of month 1. Be prepared to change the plan once you are clearer about the reality you find around you. Review and adjust at each of your goal-setting intervals.

Invest time in building relationships, especially with the people you don’t click with immediately. One of my clients (we’ll call him Mike, not his real name of course), who recently started a new senior management role in a large global company, found it really hard to connect with one particular executive. Turned out much of Mike’s new role overlapped with this executive’s areas of responsibility so he was naturally somewhat defensive and suspicious. So Mike took time to listen and once he had realised what was driving the executive’s unwillingness to collaborate, he was able to address the issues directly and clear the air. Ironically, and not unusually, this executive is now one of the most vocal advocates for what Mike is trying to achieve in the business.

Create a personal career management system and use it. Write up achievements regularly and use this data in your performance reviews and to update your resume regularly, at the very least, annually. Do a periodic market check and salary bench-marking exercise to make sure you are staying current and know your market value. Do your own half-year and annual review and goal-setting so that you can make sure you stay on track and don’t find you have been drifting for a couple of years. Plan your own development activities so that you can stay “ahead of the game”, even if the organisation you work for doesn’t help with this.

Maintain your external network. Naturally you will want to focus on your new role, put your head down and do a great job. That is all very important. But when you get busy doing this, and you will, it is really easy to get isolated within your role and company over a year or two and find yourself disconnected from people outside. One simple strategy a lot of my clients have found to be both useful and practicable is to deliberately schedule a brief catch-up meeting with someone outside the company, and preferably outside the  industry once a month. Most of us can find 30 minutes once a month for an interesting business conversation. Early morning coffee or a quick breakfast seems to work well.

If you are interested in Michael Watkins’ book you can check it out here. I do not have any affiliate relationship and will not earn any income if you click here and/or purchase any of his products.

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2 thoughts on “8 Ways to Start a New Job Really Well

  1. flagondry on said:

    I like the bit about “write up achievements regularly” – I find it difficult to remember, a while later, what I have achieved, so I’ll make a habit of paging through my diary once a week and noting highlights for reference at performance review time.

    • Thanks for your comment – great idea to diarise a regular weekly time to keep track – those are often the things you do well that you manager isn’t there to see and you may have forgotten by the time your next performance review comes around.

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