Congratulations! You’ve landed that exciting next role on your career path. But now elation is giving way to nerves and self-doubt might be kicking in. And no wonder - whether it’s a step up the ladder, your first role as a boss, or a stretching sideways move, the first few months in a new job can be a rollercoaster of emotions.
You might have a great new boss who guides you through those early days with crystal clarity. Or you may feel cast adrift, unsure of which direction you’re supposed to be rowing in. In either scenario, the key, says everywoman Associate Pippa Isbell in her webinar What Changes As You Get Promoted?, is to paddle your own canoe. “Your new mantra needs to be: ‘Trust thyself’,” she says. “Self-reliance becomes increasingly important as you climb the corporate ladder.”
To enable you to stay on track in those whirlwind first months, we’ve put together a checklist of the questions you should be asking – of yourself and others - and the information you should be gathering at each stage of the way.
BEFORE YOUR FIRST DAY
Be clear why you got the job
In an ideal world, your hiring manager will have given you specific feedback about the skills, qualities, knowledge and experience you demonstrated which got you picked for the role over every other qualified candidate. Write a list and stick it on the mirror or somewhere you’ll see it every day. Come back to it in your moments of self-doubt.
If you haven’t been given feedback, think back over the interviews you’ve attended, studying the line of questioning for clues about what your boss is looking for and why he or she found it in you. If you can’t arrive at a tangible list then make it your priority in the first week of your new role to ask. Frame the question around wanting to ensure that the strengths you were hired for are the ones that you bring to action immediately.
Be prepared for stressful times to come
The first few months in your new position can overwhelm the senses and lead to tiredness and stress. Expect it, and make a wellness plan to support you through it, involving lots of restful weekends, early nights, dinners with the most supportive people in your life, drinking lots of water and getting gentle exercise.
Know that you can’t be perfect from day one – you’ll make mistakes and come across entirely new ideas or processes that might leave you feeling inexperienced or out of your depth. Ensure you count all the good things – the foundations you’re building for strong relationships, the new ideas that get people excited, how much new information you’ve managed to digest in a short space of time, and any good feedback you elicit.
DURING WEEK ONE
Take power into your own hands
Wouldn’t it be great if we arrived at our new desk to a carefully crafted induction plan and a calendar full of coffees with our most important new stakeholders? If that doesn’t happen, don’t wait around – organise your own plan. In those early weeks you’ve a free pass to ask as many questions as you want. Figure out who you should be meeting and get introduced; even if you’ve been promoted from within the same team or department there’ll be new people to meet or new dynamics to existing relationships to get your head around.
Consider the first impressions you’re making
Opinions will no doubt be forming after your first week on the job. Consider what they might be and what assumptions, preconceptions and concerns people might have about you which you might need to address. If you’re a team leader, consider how your new employees are managing the transition, particularly if one of them is disappointed at losing out on getting your job. Your ability to influence opinion in those early days can be a critical factor in your on-going success. Think about who you need to influence and what techniques might be best applied.
Examine what you’ve learned
Document all the information that you’re holding in your head at the end of week one: New processes, new names and faces, ideas that have been suggested to you - whether you agree with them or not. It’s crucial to keep an open mind in those early days, particularly if you’re coming from a role in the same team or organisation. Try looking at things with fresh eyes. If something isn’t clear, try ‘the five whys’ approach to brainstorming – questioning why something is the way it is a minimum of five times until you hit on an original idea.
Reflect on your culture and physical environment
After five days in your new set up you might have some concerns about how it’s working for you. If your role means a longer commute, can you use part of it for useful preparation? If it means a shorter commute and you’re losing valuable email time, can you build time into your day for dealing with correspondence? If you’re on the road more often how will you regularly check in with stakeholders? If you’re in an open plan office how will you avoid distractions? If you’re more isolated how will you remain accessible? The earlier you deal with any potential problems the better.
AFTER ONE MONTH
Know what you need to achieve
Seize the initiative if you don’t work for the kind of boss who creates short terms goals and diarises regular catch-ups. Do your own due diligence around what needs to happen and when. Ask your new stakeholders to plug gaps in your knowledge and seek out all the information you need to create a plan that combines realism with ambition before you present it to your manager for discussion and sign off. Once you have your rubber-stamped plan of action, communicate it clearly to your team and key stakeholders. Then just get on with delivering it, without hesitation of overthinking.
Know your key stakeholders and your allies
Look back over everyone you’ve met with an identify which individuals are most important to the success of your role. You may have bonded or clicked with others whose roles aren’t going to be so significant in your activities, but they’ll be useful allies – for information, feeling your way through the new culture, and for support and guidance.
Consider where you’re falling short – without beating yourself up
If you already possessed every skill and piece of knowledge your new role required, the position wouldn’t be a stretch and you’d be bored within a month. Instead of worrying about where you might be lacking, make a plan for how you’ll plug any skills gaps – maybe through mentoring, observing others, specific professional training, speaking with your allies and stakeholders, or on-the-job learning.
AFTER THREE MONTHS
Review and revise your original plan
Book in some time with your manager to look over that early plan you agreed. Congratulate yourself on your achievements and consider whether any areas that have fallen by the wayside are no longer relevant or whether you need to build in time for them.
Come up for air
As your period of intense learning segues into intense action, you’ll no doubt discover that your workload is increasing at a rapid rate. Stand back and take an honest assessment of whether you’re getting too involved in the detail. “If you’re a manager,” says Pippa Isbell, “You don’t need to know how to drive the train; just where it’s going and how to get there.” Leaders are there to lead, not to do, and they must delegate if they’re to be effective. Trust in your new team to deliver, only getting involved if something’s going off course.
Ask for feedback
In your early career you might have received a lot of feedback on your development. As you grow, the opportunities for receiving feedback become less frequent. A great boss might continue to give openly, but you may have to take responsibility for discovering how you’re doing from an outside perspective. Luckily it’s as simple as just asking the question.
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