The first month of a new job can be a stressful time, it’s easy to take on too much or perhaps focus on the wrong things. It is also true that when you join an organisation, you have a short window of time to adapt to the culture and build a positive momentum. Early mistakes can be difficult to rectify later.
At Halliday Marx, we like to consult with our candidates and help them navigate their first few weeks at a new company. We offer advice on cultural rules, how you will be measured, information regarding why you were hired, what made you stand out from the other candidates, and all the key areas that will play a big role in your initial success. In this guide, we share our top tips for a successful foundation with your new employer.
You have undoubtedly been hired because you have the necessary skills and experience that your new company are looking for, and we would absolutely encourage you to use them. However, to avoid severely damaging your reputation and risk alienating yourself from co-workers, you must understand the difference between confidence and arrogance.
Before making any strategic suggestions, it is wise to spend time understanding how things work and the history behind current processes and policies, soak up as much information as you can. Keep a note of everything, and slowly introduce your ideas in a way that is respectful and sympathetic. Dismissing ways of working too soon will come across as arrogant and belittling.
John Marx, Director, Halliday Marx, advises candidates to ask as many questions as possible during the first few weeks. “Asking questions at this early stage will come across as enthusiastic, and the more knowledge you gather means you will be more likely to succeed. The important thing is not to interrupt or make any negative comments, and please do not use the words in my last company we……”.
If something seems trivial or wrong, leave it for a few days before making suggestions. Perhaps have a quiet word with your line manager rather than make recommendations in front of an entire department. They can provide you with the background information you need to proceed sensitively, and without offending any key stakeholders who may be responsible for the way business is currently performed.
“We are not suggesting you can’t show off your stuff, just be extremely mindful in the first few weeks. Pay particular attention to co-workers body language and reactions during this early phase”, added Andy Halliday, Director, Halliday Marx.
It is vital that you book time with your line manager, preferably in the first few days, to understand exactly what you are responsible for, what is expected of you and how your performance will be measured. In addition, ask about your line manager’s key objectives – make them look good and you will look good too. You should also attend team, department and company meetings where possible. Read relevant project charters and company papers, absorb as much information as you can get your hands on. This will help you build a picture of how to create value in your new organisation and recognise which stakeholders you need to satisfy. It may also assist you in achieving some early wins – are there any quick, tangible improvements you could make? Perhaps it’s as simple as stopping a process that is no longer needed? This sort of win will free up time, save cost and buy you some early kudos.
Inability to read company culture can leave you feeling isolated, and this is not a recipe for success.
John Marx describes company culture as the cornerstone of the company ‘it defines the atmosphere, ethics, traditions, mission, objectives and expectations of a business. It also determines how decisions are made and how promotions happen, so appreciating these elements early on is absolutely vital’.
Pay attention to how outcomes are finalised; in meetings or over coffee? Does communication tend to happen face to face, via email or over the telephone? Who are the major influencers? This is often people you have no control over but you will need their approval if you are to do well. Observe interactions and behaviour, understand the drivers for decision making – customer voice, data, innovation? These are all products of company culture.
In addition to asking your line manager, Halliday Marx have long-standing, trusted relationships with their clients, and can provide candidates with this essential advice. We can also assist with practical tips such as what to wear and the protocol regarding team drinks and social events.
Make as many connections as possible, network up, down and across the business. Memorise the organisational chart and introduce yourself whenever the opportunity arises. Ask to be introduced during team and department meetings. This might seem unnerving at first, but prepare your introduction and practise it. Just remember not to dominate meetings or speak too loudly – confidence not arrogance!
Spend time with your immediate team and especially any direct reports, take note of any major annoyances and look for ways to resolve them. Early triumphs will buy you respect. If someone has a good idea, support them and make sure they are recognised appropriately – be careful not to take credit for work that isn’t yours. If your team are happy, they will be willing to support you in succeeding.
Halliday Marx advise all new starters to get themselves a mentor, someone not directly connected to their performance review, but with good connections and influence in the company. Many of our candidates have found it really helpful to have this impartial support system in place, and it has really boosted their confidence.
At this early stage your line manager is still trying to assess if you are the right person for the job – you need to prove you can do it. Build a reputation of trust by treating fellow co-workers and managers with respect, observe and adhere to company culture, make introductions and use any opportunity to network.
The first few weeks of a new job are exhausting as you try to find your feet, make sure you get enough sleep and plan relaxing activities for your days off with good friends and family so you can really utilise your time out.
Well done and good luck!
If you’re considering your next career move, or just looking for some advice, call us on 020 7096 8200, or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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