Contributor: Charles Carnall, Managing Director, Hays Poland
Starting a new role can be daunting for some, as you are faced with unfamiliar surroundings and new colleagues, and there is a lot of information to be taking on board. What would your advice be to those feeling anxious about starting a new job?
- I think any new job can be daunting, whether it is a senior role or a more junior position. Even the most confident people can get thrown off course, by feeling that new job anxiety. This is completely normal, and would be very odd not to have a sense of anxiety, even outside of work that is completely new to you. In many ways you are taking a leap of faith, because until you are sat at your desk in your new job you don’t ever have a full understanding of what it is going to be like.
- Having said that, you really shouldn’t let these nerves get the best of you. My advice is to keep things into perspective and understand that it is absolutely natural to be nervous. You can fight those elements of anxiety, by doing research and preparation before that very first day.
Do you have any examples of what our listeners should be preparing for before they start their new job?
There are some basic practicalities that you should consider before your first day:
- One of the most simple things that might be causing this anxiety is the new commute. It is highly unlikely that your new role will be right next door to your existing business. So, most people experience a new journey to work on their first day. My advice would be to do a trial run, not just at the weekend, but maybe during the rush hour, so there are no unexpected concerns or nervousness about turning up late on your first day. Give yourself plenty of time and turn up early.
- Consider what you’re going to wear on your first day. In my opinion, it is always best to be cautious, and wear formal business dress. It’s much easier to take a tie off than put one on during your first hour. But, if you went there for your interview be observant about what people are wearing and make sure that you don’t look out of place.
- During the period of having accepted the role and starting your new job there may be a long period, from 1 month to 3 months in some cases. So, continue your research of the business. Keep an eye on LinkedIn, and market trends. Look for any changes in the business environment, in the business sector you’ve entered. Depending on the seniority of your position you are going into, try and have a hand in planning your first week. Pick up the phone to HR, or your line manager before you start and get an idea of what to expect in those first few weeks.
- Many companies have very clear on-boarding structures when taking on new employees, find out what that is beforehand so that you know what to expect. I always think it is exciting to start a new position, because it gives you an opportunity to start a new challenge, and a chance to lose the bad habits you may have picked up during your current employment. Treat this as a new start and an opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
What do you think are the key things to remember on your first day?
- People’s names are always key. I meet people every day and I often have to meet them a few times before I remember their names. So I always make a real effort to take notes during meetings to make sure I remember who I’ve sat down with and who I’ve met with. There’s nothing more embarrassing than meeting someone on their second day and feeling that you’ve forgotten their name. Always try to remember the names of the people you met, it makes them feel good about themselves and it makes you feel more confident. Don’t be afraid to ask if you really can’t remember people. Ask who they are and what their role is in the company.
- First impressions count. So ask questions of new people that you meet. Show a genuine interest in them and find out what their role is in the organisation, take notes and ask about their key challenges. It shows that you are considering them to be a positive colleague. Showing genuine interest is really key to gaining confidence from them and in your new role as well.
- Remember not to pass judgements on first meetings, they are probably as nervous as you are. So it is possible that your new colleagues say something they don’t mean to purely out of nerves. I think that it is important that you make a conscious effort to not pass judgement quickly.
- At the same time remain positive. I’ve had calls from people who have come out on the first day saying they really don’t like it and that they have made a mistake. I think this is completely the wrong thing to do. Take a few weeks, really delve into the business; find out as much as you can; get to know your new colleagues. At this point you can start making some decisions, but just enjoy your first few days, be positive and tell people you have enjoyed it. This can really break down barriers.
You mentioned that you should use the names of your colleagues in your conversations with them as a way to build rapport. Is there anything else that can help you settle into a new team?
- I think it’s coming out of your comfort zone, and making an effort to connect with people. This isn’t just about face-to-face meetings, if you’re going to make a coffee in the kitchen, strike up a conversation with people that you don’t know or have met only once and that really breaks down barriers to getting to know somebody on a more personal level and getting to understand their personality in a less formal environment.
- Also, get to know processes of that business, even simple things like booking meeting rooms with reception, getting to know when people take lunch and where they go to take lunch. Be proactive in getting involved in social events, find out what people do after work, find out if there are company events that you can attend, whether it is Friday drinks, or a company 5-aside team. It shows genuine interest in the business itself rather than just the role you are involved in.
After the first few days, the role can often begin to pick up pace. What advice would you give in order to keep the momentum going during these weeks and to continue to make that good impression?
- After those first few weeks when you have likely had your various induction meetings and gotten to know the wider business, work on booking slots in your diary, maybe with your direct reports – as this shows commitment to them and the business – on a regular basis. Booking these meeting blocks will show that you are intending to give everybody time, are interested in what they do and that you want to support them. For example, I have regular meetings with everyone on my team, and it lets everyone know when they are going to have time with me, to not only talk about the positives but to also talk about the negatives that they may need assistance with. It can be difficult for your new subordinates to know when they are going to have exposure with you. By putting these in your diary they know when they’re going to get the opportunity to engage with you.
- After the first few weeks, you’ll be gradually getting involved with more tasks and projects. During this time you might become aware of how much you still don’t know about your current role, tasks and responsibilities. This is what is called the “conscious incompetence” stage. At this stage people find out what they don’t know and it’s really important that you don’t panic about what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask questions that you may feel are simplistic because it is an essential part of the learning process. Most importantly, remember to keep listening and learning, and identify early successes that you may have had.
- Again don’t make quick judgements about people or processes. There has been a reason for these processes to be put in place, and you may not understand why but you will do in time. On the other hand, they are sometimes in place because they always have been and nobody has challenged the status quo, sometimes challenging this is important to do. People welcome the fact that processes get changed because they don’t really understand why they are happening, they just always have happened. So it is important to keep listening and learning during those first few weeks and months.
It’s been really interesting to hear your thoughts on how to ensure that the first 90 days in a new job are a success. But what should you do once the honeymoon period is over?
- I think that it’s important to have regular review meetings with everybody, and I think that it is important that you sit down with your direct manager to communicate what you’ve learnt about the business and also to find out what the expectations are of your role. Your manager might have expectations of what they want to achieve. It’s important to talk about how you will fulfil those expectations based on what you have learnt. I think open communication is something that you should always have available to you, whether it’s up or down.
- Once the honeymoon period is over, it’s putting together a business plan and looking at any changes that you deem necessary. When I first started in this current role, I was introduced to my team before I actually started. One of the key questions that kept coming up was ‘What changes are you going to make?’ because they’re as nervous as you are. I made it very clear that I would not be making any changes straight away because I don’t understand the business and the structure. I think it is important to make any changes or tweaks after those 90 days when you are fully informed.
- A lot of people start jobs and want to make an impact immediately, this is something that you shouldn’t do, unless there is something incredibly obvious that needs changing it is important that you are fully informed before you make any decisions.
And for our last question; if you had one piece of advice for our listeners, what would it be?
- Be confident, even if you don’t feel confident in the situation that you are in – appear confident. I think people take confidence from you, especially in a managerial role.
- If they believe what you believe is the right thing to do, they will follow. If you want to make a change or a decision, make sure you have some justification to do it, so they understand exactly why any process changes are going to happen. The worst thing you could do is to make changes on a gut feeling without any ability to communicate why you are making those changes.
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