Starting a new job is exciting! You get a blank slate, new friends, challenges that hopefully fit your experience, among many other perks that come with the new digs. The start of the year is high time for people taking new jobs so I thought of a few things that will hopefully be of some use to you along the way. There’s no doubt that your first days and months on the new job are important and will make a lasting impact for the good or the not so good. Below are some helpful tips to get you going in the first year.
1. There is value in going back a year or two and reading content created, whether that is from the website, newsletters, social media, etc. Finding out what you can about the company’s history is not only helpful, it shows your overseers your interest in what they’ve invested so much in. This is especially true of nonprofits, churches, and startups.
2. Introduce yourself to everyone without seeming to forward or over-eager. If it’s a place with multiple departments make your way around to each one even if it’s just a drive by or swoop over. This makes you human and approachable.
First 3 – 6 Months
3. Survey the situation. Certain procedures may be in place because of unique situations. It’s easy to come in as the expert on everything the company needs to change, but this will get you no where and nothing but contempt from fellow coworkers and bosses. There’s wisdom in coming in with humility. Heck, there’s wisdom in staying humble!
4. Proceed with caution when considering making major changes. Making major changes in the first year is usually frowned upon unless you were hired to overhaul a broken system or clean up someone else’s mess. It’s not that you won’t be able to change things in the future, but unless the company is hemorrhaging in some way resist any major changes in the first year. Upgrading something too early can hurt you and others involved. Think of it this way – YOU are the upgrade. They hired you for you and I assure you that your supervisor thinks of you as the upgrade. You need to save up social equity with those you work with, which just takes time.
Trust is the only currency in the economy of relationships.
5. Be known for your optimism and overall pleasant attitude. This may stretch you if you have what I’ve heard as a transactional personality as opposed to a relationships-first disposition. This will only go in your favor. You don’t have to turn into Ned Flanders or Bob Ross, but it won’t hurt to be polite.
6. DON’T chase after people that left. This is especially true for ministries and non-profits. Many people left over situations that you will never understand. Just because you may be good at convincing people that left to come back, the situation that made them leave in the first place will likely happen again – with you. Let the naysayers alone. Pour your energy into those that believe in you and your style of leadership. Look at this helpful chart below that explains how people respond to you as a person and leader.
High and to the left is the most ideal place to be but people migrate to the other categories based on some things that are beyond your control. The two yellow quadrants represent temporary holding cells where minds are not yet made up. Low and to the right is the waste basket. If someone is in this quadrant the likelihood of winning them back is low. Counsel them out if they can’t be won back. Letting them stay without attempting to fix the issue means everyone involved loses.
7. Evaluate your first year’s increase or decrease with wisdom. Anyone can have a good first year, but that doesn’t erase the potential sophomore slump. You might get lucky and have an incredible year right out of the gate, but this may be because of something set in motion before you came. On the other hand, it’s very possible to have a crappy first year, especially if you inherited your predecessor’s dumpster fire. Hold whatever increase or decrease loosely. Easy come, easy go.
**Startup footnotes** If you’re parachute dropping in with your own company, it will take the community a good five years to make up their mind about you. It’s not that the first five years don’t count. It just takes that long to pour the concrete footers on the riverbed before they ever appear above the water.
8. Be cautious with “first year friends”. There will no doubt be some great people you meet right off the bat, but be mindful of people that want to establish close friendships too early. People form tribes, alliances, and cliques, which is normal but can be tricky depending on who you get identified with. First-year-friends usually want something from you, not unlike a senator befriending other newly elected senators to cosign on a bill their pushing. The friendship landscape will look different in the second year. There are exceptions of course, but it usually takes a bit longer for the real friends to emerge.
**A word to nonprofits and churches** – Be cautious in selecting volunteer leaders in the first year. Many have ideas that have never gotten traction with previous leaders and they can’t wait to pitch it to you to get your buy in. They’re what I like to call idea fairies. These people are usually power hungry or looking to advance their own agenda and are typically NOT team players. They may not appear to be bad people and truthfully they may not be. Don’t give your influence out to someone or a group who could derail the train with you and the rest of the organization on board.
9. Every organization has some individual who has influence and sways opinion. When this person speaks publicly or privately, people listen, and so should you! John Maxwell calls this the law of E. F. Hutton. Edward F. Hutton was a very successful stockbroker and co founder of the brokerage firm E. F. Hutton & Co. The firm was known for its TV commercials in the 1970’s and 1980’s based on the phrase, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”. Find the E. F. Hutton in the group and get to know him or her. They are not the enemy but you can become everyone’s enemy based on how you handle this one person.
10. Lastly, you will have to listen to people talk about the previous person you replaced. This will not all be favorable and can perhaps even be inflated praise. Be careful not to weigh in. Listen, but say very little. Everything you say will fall on ears wide open and will be assessed through the filter of the hearers.
**A word to young leaders** – You don’t have to try and fool anyone by making them believe you know everything. Be okay with not knowing some things, but be persistent on learning all you can in the process. I’ve been at my current place of employment for two years now and I sound like a completely different person now when I go back and read emails from my first few months.
If you’re starting a new job soon I wish you the best of luck! It’s an exciting time and I don’t want to take all the magic out of your new venture, but I believe that these tips will help you to be more wise and discerning in the weeks and months to come – Good luck!