How to prepare for a new job?
This summer I started a brand new job, in a brand new company, and naturally in a new corporate culture. People have asked me what it took to successfully switch careers and navigate new organisational cultures. The short answer is experience. Time. Learnings. Mistakes. Advices. So if you’re new to a company, new to a team or prepping for your first ever job, here are my 5 tips to help you navigate your first weeks and score some early wins. These tips are non-industry specific and apply to most career changes. Every situation will be unique, and your personal style will and should play a big part on how you will enter a new job and adapt. I hope you find some nuggets for yourself, I am surely revising as we speak!
#1 Be likeable but don’t be desperate
Smile, take the team lunch, be kind, joke if appropriate, socialize. You need to belong and people need to relate to you at some level right from the start. In short, be likeable. That does not mean be too personal and certainly not too desperate. Some house keeping rules to keep in mind: do not ask more than 2 questions in a group meeting. Introductions and 101 are obviously a different animal. Wait at least 10min before asking questions if you are late to a group meeting. People will read right through it if you jump right in. Remember, people don’t care that this may be your new big gig. They just don’t care. And what they really don’t want to see, is someone being bossy, obnoxious and over confident trying to prove themselves. Take the time to understand the dynamics from a slight outsider perspective. People will have known each other for a longer period of time, and without necessarily meaning it, they will be questioning your incoming position. Be nice, smile but stay put. Be in and yet stay observant.
#2 Get over yourself
When we start a job, all we want is to do well. To convince, to wow, to prove ourselves. All we think about, all we worry about is and revolves around ourselves. Our lacks, our progression, our projects, our needs. But focusing too much on the ‘me’ can really be the most crippling thing when starting a new job. I have learnt tremendously from colleagues (often male ones!) who cared so little about promotions and raises and yet, naturally moved up. They just weren´t constrained to the limits of their own ambitions. When I started my last 'new job', I spent a lot of energy trying to be perfect in everything I said, wrote or did, hoping to sway opinions fast, and to score some early wins to gain respect. All I obsessed about was what people thought of me. I stressed, and obsessed and second guessed myself with every decision I had to make. Now listen to the most powerful tip ever: no one does really give a sh*t about you. Comes the evening, your colleagues get back to their lives, to their very own relationships issues and to their egos to cajole. No one realistically has room to overthink about you. So forget about opinions, you can't control them anyways, be yourself and just work hard. Don’t think of what people think about you, they simply probably aren't.
#3 Dress for (your) success
Not just for the quarterly review, not just for that important presentation. Everyday. Even when all you want is to be invisible. And from experience, especially on these early days. This might sound like the most trivial advice ever, but believe me, dressing the part will help you feel the part. When you feel lost and lack confidence, clothes will make you feel empowered. Their power lies in how they makes you feel, not so much on how they look. On my toughest days at work, I thanked God for the clothes. They helped me faking it and helped me showcasing another, more confident version of myself. They got me out of my own head. Style won’t make you more clever, nor will it make-up for lack of hard work, but it is a pretty good starter to make you feel more capable and more confident.
#4 Go around the block
You know that pressing presentation you have two hours left to finish and your slides are far from looking sleek? Emails came in, last minute meetings, and your system has already past the point of overcaffeneination, your heart is beating and stress is screwing you down unto your chair. Well. Now would be a good time to be wise. Pick up your coat, take your headphones and leave. Go around the block. Give yourself a shot of oxygen and look up. Take 10min. Just put on your favourite song, or feel-good podcast or be present to the street noises. Look up and breathe. Breathe. And once again. And now come back. Tell yourself it is all worth it. The hard work will pay off. I find these short power walks extremely effective. They bring a sense of perspective to the actual stakes of the day.
#5 Work harder than the rest
When you start afresh, you need to catch-up on the organisation or on the new team fast. Read, ask, take notes, review your notes, create cheat notes, map stakeholders, map your peers. Be on top of your industry knowledge, prepare your calls, prepare your presentations (that sound obvious, but I'm still amazed at the number of people throwing a couple of slides together and hoping for the best). In short: be ready. Monday to Friday: be on point. When you are new, there is a short window of opportunity to make your mark, to make a good impression and stamp your professional self with a label. You will have to create impact fast. So be ready to work harder to catch up and when you're at it, make it graceful.
If you want to read more on this topic, I can only recommend enough these 2 fantastic books. They made me think, and they made me laugh. A lot.
- Works well with Others, An Outsider's Guide to Shaking Hands, Shutting Up, Handling Jerks, and Other Crucial Skills in Business That No One Ever Teaches You, Ross McCammon
- The First 90 Days, by Michael D. Watkins, by Michael D. Watkins
Now we'd love to know what you found useful when you started your last new gig? Hit us in the comments!