Steps to Start a New Job on the Right Foot
Lucille teaches in the Management and Leadership curriculums at Rutgers Executive Education.
By Lucille Maddalena
Are you preparing to start a new job, perhaps as a result of a promotion, internal change, relocation or beginning with a new company? The manner in which you position yourself on those first few days will carry with you for a long time, so be smart and plan ahead.
Everyone knows that we make snap judgments of people at the initial encounter. Studies continue to confirm that the impression made during the first few minutes tend to remain as the dominant view until something drastic changes that image. Here are a few steps you can take to begin your new role in a way that clearly presents your strengths, commitment and drive.
1. Learn the "Lay of the Land"
The process to assimilate with your new team and department begins before you have actually set foot in your new work area. It begins with the rapport you develop during the job interviews, when you have the opportunity to meet people you may not be working with closely once you are on-staff. This is not to say that you must strive to befriend everyone who interviews you.
For example, if you seem to strike up a mutually comfortable relationship during the process, consider asking that individual for a tour of their department or the company’s building and grounds should you be hired. Once you have received confirmation of your start date, send an email asking if they would be willing to take you on that tour during your first week on the job. Not only will you be able to see the facility, others will observe you speaking in a relaxed manner with an established member of the firm and you gain that person’s perspective of the site.
Whether you are working with a recruiter or a member of the department during the interview process, once you have secured the job offer you can request some information to prepare for the first day. The following three items are the most common information new hires reported receiving as a result of their request the week before they started their new job:
- A list of department staff. Often a simple telephone list, this information will help you identify names with job titles, making the initial introductions much easier for you. If possible, try to review the list with someone in the department to learn to pronounce everyone’s name correctly.
- Current projects. Outlines of goals, steps in progress and benchmarks will not only provide some idea of the work undertaken, it will help you learn the abbreviations and internal language that are the short-cuts in team conversations.
- Quarterly schedules. Studying team assignments and long-term projects will give you an overview of the work in progress. Prepare a list of questions to ask once you are on-board, as you learn more about the planning and assignment process.
2. Prepare for Introductions
We all learned early in our careers to write our “Elevator Speech”, that short statement we have ready to describe who we are should we meet an influential executive in the elevator. When you begin a new job, you must be prepared to share more than a short speech, as these are people you will be working with closely, hopefully for a number of years.
It is critical that a new team member prepare to meet your associates, learn what is important to them, and position yourself as a valuable new team member. When coaching a new hire, I describe the process of creating a ‘Thesis Statement’: a 60-100 word description of your commitment, drive and history. Your statement must be tailored to the individuals you will meet and presented with genuine interest in the needs of the other person. It will be interactive, so you will be sharing information and asking questions to gain insight and build rapport.
To build your Thesis Statement, first learn the language of your new peers by reviewing your job description, any department documents available such as team descriptions, and by speaking with your new boss. Select words your audience will recognize, using terms that indicate how your involvement will add value. Clearly draw a correlation between your experience and aspirations and the team’s goals and objectives. Reveal your enthusiasm as you state how you seek to become part of the new team, and look forward to learn how you can best contribute to the team’s success.
If you have not participated in a Personality Assessment or any type of behavior evaluation, it might be useful for you to gain this type of personal insight before beginning a new job. Learn your strengths and weaknesses, what you do well naturally and where you need to improve. The Meyers-Briggs Instrument or Hogan Values Assessment are two popular tools for this purpose. In addition to these evaluations, I often recommend STRENGTHFINDERS, an inexpensive assessment that you can easily complete on-line working from the book of the same name, as it will help you determine key words to describe yourself.
3. Plan Your First Day
The biggest mistake new managers make is to have a team meeting the first day to announce new goals and objectives. Whether you are assuming a new role on the team or as manager of the department, take the time to meet your new team before making any decisions, decrees or judgments.
Here are two key steps others have found most effective:
- Get introduced. Be certain your boss or someone in authority is present to introduce you to your team the first morning. Bring muffins or bagels and invite everyone to an informal chat.
- Meet with each person privately. Invest an hour in each person, asking them for their personal goals, where they see the team evolving and what they want to accomplish. Depending on the size of your team, this may take one day or one week.
For new managers you are now ready to begin to draft the team/department goals. As you work, invite comments from every member of your team on sections of the plan, checking terminology, history and current plans. Remember, you are only as successful as the members of your team.
For new team members, you have laid the foundation for a strong working relationship. Be open, honest and genuine – gain the respect of others by showing your respect for the contribution of others.