While I spent more than half a decade at my first bout in Corporate America, the last couple of years have allowed me to be the new guy at work a couple of times. What I’ve found is that there is a lot more to figuring out the new job than what you’ll be working on and even more importantly, where the bathrooms are located. It’s with that in mind that I’d like to share my survival guide to being the new guy (or, girl…person) at work.
DON’T Make Everything Be About What it was Like at Your Old Job
Now obviously, as everyone can tell from your LinkedIn, you have a work history. It most likely helped you to get your current position. However, starting every piece of input with “at my last job ‘WE’ only used SAP, got unlimited vacation, and used Microsoft Outlook” will start to create more than a healthy distance between you and your new co-workers. Keep in mind that this works both ways, making your old job seem like a beacon in the sky is almost just as bad as talking it down at every opportunity. At some point, people will start to ask, could it have been that bad or…was it just you?
DO Find Thoughtful Ways to Leverage Your Previous Experience
On the other hand, of course, you were hired because of your experience and what your new manager believes you’ll bring to the table. And, a part of that is what you’ve learned and accomplished at your past places of employment. The trick is to understand where the company, team, project is currently at before starting to implement changes. A great way to make suggestions as well as ascertain current progress is through questions that show that you acknowledge the great minds before you, but that you’re also a proactive thinker.
So, “have ‘WE’ ever tried using XYZ approach, it sounds like it would address the current problem?”
“What was the benefit of going with X software when Y offers more?”
“Is this the first time the problem is being tackled, what happened the last time?”
DON’T Criticize Anything…Anything
This goes double especially when coworkers are offering up their critiques. Whether it’s the email manager, vacation system, staff meeting protocols, vendor contracts, office paintings…nothing is fair game. Why? Because you’re probably going to offend someone who worked diligently to implement whatever it is you’re criticizing and the poor first impression is not worth the momentary satisfaction. Also, always keep in mind that even though everyone complains about the things they dislike in their jobs until your coworkers truly feel like you are apart of the team, your complaints will feel foreign and overly familiar.
DO Take the Time to Understand the Culture
First off, I’m not recommending conforming to the point that you become a robot that can’t be your authentic self. What I am recommending is that you take the time to understand the culture, the unwritten but very real rules, regulations, and behaviors that occupy the space that you are now inhabiting. Are emails answered 24/7? Is it common for others to go straight to your manager on your objective items? Does the CEO have personal 1 on 1’s with everyone monthly? Be open and in tune with everything that is happening around you, so that you can make an informed decision on what things are worth conforming to, what things are non-negotiable, and problems that are not worth having.
DON’T Over Think It
Chances are, as a new hire, your manager, the company, the CEO are all happy that you are joining the team. They just spent money recruiting you, loss of talent is expensive and you were the best talent that they could secure. They want you there; they want you to succeed. Your success equals theirs. That’s a great foot to start any relationship off on. Be competent. Show that you are open to learning. Show your adaptability. Show that you are just as invested in those that are invested in you. Barring a few toxic environments, you’re most likely fine. Take this time to learn and network as much as you can before the real work begins!