Wise Guidance for Company Newcomers
If you’ve just started a new job at a new company, how can you make the transition as smooth as possible and ensure your future success? In a Q&A feature article in The New York Times, careers columnist Eileen Zimmerman offered the following insight and guidance for employees to consider as they navigate a new corporate culture:
What are some key points to keep in mind when starting a new job?
Come to your new office armed with as much information about your employer as possible, said Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer at Adeco, a staffing company based in Melville, N.Y. Use the corporate Web site and other online resources to learn more about the organization and members of its management team. Once you start, do more listening than talking, career experts advise. Observe how others do their jobs, and see how decisions are made. Then identify colleagues who know the ropes and start asking questions.
What kind of questions should you ask?
Questions can be anything from “Where do I get my office supplies?” and “How do people do lunch here?” to “Who are the key people on that project?” said Keith Rollag, an associate professor of management at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., who studies newcomer socialization.
When colleagues offer their insights, pay close attention. “Be interested in every individual you interact with and keep yourself engaged in the conversation,” said Darelyn J. Mitsch, president of the Pyramid Resource Group, an executive coaching firm in Cary, N.C. At the same time, though, be wary of office grumblers, who will also want to talk, added Gary Rich, of career coaching firm Rich Leadership in Pound Ridge, N.Y. “They will find subtle ways to test the water with you, saying negative things and complaining in a friendly way.”
How do you get up to speed on continuing projects without wasting the team’s time?
Arrange to meet with the team leader, said Shawn Desgrosellier, a partner at the executive recruiting firm Kaye/Bassman International in Dallas, who consults with companies and job candidates on assimilation and transition. Ask about discussions that have already taken place, decisions that have been made, and the project’s timetable.
How do you introduce yourself to co-workers?
Don’t just stop by; get on their calendars to meet briefly with them, advised Lisa Mackenzie, marketing director at CareerExposure.com, a job search site that offers advice for success on the job. MacKenzie suggested assembling a list of those you will be working with most often and arranging to have a cup of coffee with each. If you’re a manager, schedule a breakfast or lunch with your group soon after you arrive. Building relationships at a new company is crucial, Professor Rollag said. “What you need to understand to be successful in an organization is usually locked in the heads of other people, not in a handbook or policy manual,” he added.
How can you show your new co-workers and boss that you are a team player?
Find out which professional associations your colleagues belong to and the kinds of philanthropic activities the company supports and consider joining in, Kenny advised. Volunteer to help colleagues who seem to be under stress, asking what you can take off their plate, MacKenzie said. And if there is a project or assignment that no one else wants, consider taking it. It shows you’re willing to do the hard work.
How can you make sure that you and your new boss have the same expectations about your performance?
New employees need to have five conversations with their boss within their first three months, said Michael Watkins, author of “The First 90 Days” and a co-founder of Genesis Advisors, a consulting firm in Newton, Mass., that specializes in career transitions. These five talks, he said, should cover the following: the best way to work with and communicate with your boss; what your boss is responsible for and what his or her – and therefore your – priorities are; what is expected of you and how your success will be measured; what resources are at your disposal; and, a few months into the job; how your performance will be evaluated.
What else can you do to make a positive impression at your new workplace?
Colleen Rickenbacher, a business etiquette expert and author of “Be on Your Best Business Behavior,” offered these tips: Be early for work and dress a notch above the norm. When you meet people in your office, stand up and walk around to the front of the desk – or to wherever they are – look them in the eye and give them a firm handshake. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 50 and the person you’re meeting is 19 years old,” Rickenbacher said. “You want them to know how pleased you are to meet them.”
And never walk into someone’s office without a notepad, especially in those first few weeks. “You don’t want to be asking people to repeat themselves the next time you see them,” she added. “So take notes.”