When starting out in a new job, it's wise to go in with a plan for navigating the first weeks. Whether you are joining a different company or changing slots in the same outfit, consider these tips for starting out on the right foot.
1. Learn what your boss wants.
Initially, your manager may be vague about what she wants you to do. Of course, you should ask about your expected deliverables and the best way to report on your progress. But don't count on clear, complete answers. Be prepared to do some detective work. Observe how your boss interacts with her other direct reports, what she typically wants to know and how she sends information up the line. Notice her schedule, like when she seems to catch up on email or which days she tends to work late. Get a sense of what she must do in order to be successful, and look for ways to help. Study the organization's mission and consider how your contribution — and hers — fit within the big picture.
2. Get to know people.
When managers and professionals run into trouble with new positions or projects, it's typically not because they don't have the technical skills. Rather, they are more likely to fail because they misunderstand the culture or don't establish working relationships with the right people. During your first months be methodical as you reach out to teammates and others who seem to have information to share. Email them, saying, "Since I'm new to this role, I'd like to set up a little time to hear your perspective and learn more about your projects and background."
3. Listen and learn.
When you meet your new colleagues, ask questions and really listen to what everyone says. Resist the urge to talk about yourself and your successes in the old job. Keep an open mind, avoid offering criticism before you understand the history, and be cautious about choosing sides among warring factions.
4. Set short-term goals.
As you start to feel that your feet are on the ground, create realistic objectives for your first few months, then for the first year. Reconfirm your understanding of your boss's expectations, focus on areas that seem to be high priority, and identify some relatively easy near-term achievements. Don't try to do everything at once, but identify specific preliminary steps — like introductory meetings — to move you in the right direction.
5. Do what you say you will.
One of the worst ways to start out is to create a trail of broken promises. Deliver on every commitment you make, no matter how small. For example, if you offer to make a phone call or send along information, do so immediately.
6. Be on time.
A simple way to demonstrate respect and enthusiasm is to meet all deadlines and show up on time for every meeting and appointment. This can be more challenging than usual if you're following a different schedule and you're operating in an unfamiliar environment. But it's worth the extra effort.
7. Adjust your attitude.
It's not unusual to experience a letdown soon after you start your job. Once you're beyond the excitement of the move, you may realize that not everything is meeting your expectations. If you start to feel that the honeymoon is over, it will be time to make an important choice. You can give in to your disappointment and become preoccupied with how they've let you down. Or you can choose to focus on the positive aspects of your situation and commit yourself to doing what it takes to reach your goals. This is a good time to remember that you're the CEO of your career, and it's your job to navigate the bumps and barriers.
This excerpt was adapted from Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO, by Beverly Jones.
© 2016 Beverly E. Jones. Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO published by Career Press. All rights reserved.
Beverly E. Jones is president of Clearways Consulting, an executive coaching business based in Washington, D.C.