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Stay calm, learn expectations and culture in a new job

Coach's Corner--May 4, 2009

The Client
Name: Alyson
Age: 34
Title: Customer service manager
Industry:  Insurance agency 
Issue: Starting a new job
Q. I just landed a new position after being laid off, and I want to get off to a good start. I’ll be managing an existing team and working in a much smaller company than before. What suggestions do you have for me?

A. To get a smooth start, learn the company’s culture, take your time and demonstrate your value.

The inner game
Stay calm. It’s easy to become overeager when you’re going into a new role and want to prove that they made a good hiring decision. Don’t worry — they know that, because you were selected from a large pool of candidates. It may help to remind yourself of the reasons you were chosen and the assets that you bring.

Get closure. You may have some baggage from your layoff, perhaps some anger or a lingering sense of loss. Take some time to get it out of your system. Tap into the emotional side of your experience by writing, talking, or using art or music to express it. Consciously let go of the painful parts of the experience, and anchor the positives in your memory.

Get ready. Think about the balance you’d like between work and other aspects of life. Consider the contributions you’d like to make and the ways you’d like to grow. Also consider what might make you unhappy in your new job, so you can avoid pitfalls and stay on track. 

The outer game
Clarify expectations. Make sure you get enough time with your boss to know what you are expected to achieve. Don’t settle for ambiguity; if you don’t get sufficient clarity, writing up your understanding and using it to guide conversations will help.

Get acquainted. Get to know your new co-workers, both on your team and in other departments. The personal connection among people is important in any organization, and it can be even more so in a smaller firm. Be friendly and open, but also impartial. Remember that some people try to get new employees into their alliances, so remain neutral while you are getting the lay of the land.

Ask questions. Then listen — and listen well — to the answers. Ask about the company’s goals, products, services, challenges, and, especially, your co-workers’ contributions. This approach conveys respect, and will help you build support among co-workers, especially if you decide some changes are needed. Learn who does what, and what you have to do yourself, especially if you had extensive support services in your previous job.

Learn the unwritten rules. Find out how change really happens, focusing on what works and what hasn’t worked. Do a “power analysis,” noting people who may have great influence that relies on factors other than their title or position.

Get to work. First impressions make a powerful impact, so get yours right. Show your work ethic, while also setting clear priorities. Lay the groundwork for achieving your work-life balance goals and helping to create or maintain a healthy workplace for others in the company.

The last word
Focus on relationships and introduce change in a measured way. This will build confidence among your team and your peers, and position you for a successful new role.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted May 3, 2009
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