Monday, August 29, 2011

Ensuring New Job Success

Ensuring New Job Success
Posted on the First 30 Days Blog

“I felt like I won the lottery,” says Melissa Luckman, a New York City public-school teacher, after landing a new job as a guidance counselor. “I applied to more than 250 jobs and only got one interview prior to this one. The interview went well. I got a call the very same day, offering me the position.”

Melissa’s excitement came with a nervousness about starting something new and unknown. “I was jumping out of my skin. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so excited,” Melissa notes. “But I was also nervous that I couldn’t live up to what they saw in the interview.”

Whether this is your first job or your tenth, starting a new job comes with many emotions, fears and questions. “It’s a whole new environment,” says John Challenger, workplace expert and CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an international outplacement consulting firm. “It’s common for people to question ‘will I last? Will I be able to fit in? Will my boss be good or bad? Will it be what I thought it was or what was promised? Am I going to be successful here?’”

Don’t let that bring you down, though. There were more than 1.3 million new jobs created in 2007 alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, 1.3 million people faced similar questions and uncertainties.

Some anxiety also comes from the pressure people put on themselves about the image they will portray. When starting a new job, it’s important to make—and continue to make—great first impressions. “Go to work everyday as if it were your first day on the job,” suggests Susan Morem, president of Premier Presentation, a training and consulting firm, and author of How to Gain the Professional Edge: Achieve the Personal and Professional Image You Want. “Really think about what you’re wearing and how you are acting. Everything that you would do on an interview still applies.”

While this doesn’t mean you need to dress in a three-piece suit everyday, you should keep your attire a notch above the rest for at least your first 30 days in a new job. And, make sure your actions show you as a professional individual ready to work with the new team. Melissa took this advice to heart and bought herself a few new outfits to go with her new job. “Having something new that I felt great in helped ease some of the anxieties I had about starting something so new,” she remembers.

Remember, it’s OK to be nervous, but focus on the exciting journey of starting a new job. The important thing is to take this time to learn all you can about your new workplace, your co-workers and your boss.

Learn Your Environment

Starting a new job is a great opportunity to absorb everything around you. Even if you held the same job at a similar company for 10 years, your new job will be different. Begin each day at your new job with an open mind ready to learn everything you can—and start with the office politics.

“You want to make sure you understand the power structure as quickly as possible,” says Sunny Bates, president and CEO of Sunny Bates Associates, an executive search firm, and author of How to Earn What You’re Worth: Leveraging Your Goals and Talents to Land Your Dream Job. “Try to be Switzerland. Listen to everyone, be pleasant and you’ll quickly be able to pull together the structure.”

Your greatest allies here are your co-workers. Go ahead and chat them up. Setting up informal meetings for lunch or coffee is a good way to get started. Understand what each person does and where he or she sits in the overall company structure. And, don’t forget to use your co-workers as a resource and find out the other key people you should meet.

“From day one, begin building 360-degree relationships. You want people to be saying ‘that was a good hire. She really fits in here,’” says Lois P. Frankel, Ph.D. Frankel is president of Corporate Coaching International, a firm specializing in executive coaching and organizational development, and author of numerous job-success books, including See Jane Lead: 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work and Stop Sabotaging Your Career: 8 Proven Strategies to Succeed—in Spite of Yourself. “Ask lots of questions related to how things are done in the company. Don’t assume how you did it in your last job is how you will do it here.”

It’s also important to get some insight from people who have worked for the company for a long time. They will have some great insights into the politics of your new office. This helped Jennifer Neilsson, who recently landed her dream job at a top-notch law firm in Boston as an associate in the tax-and-benefits group. “Both of my legal assistants have been with the firm for a long time,” she says. “It was helpful to come to them with a sense of humility because they really do know more about life at the firm than I do, even if I may know more about the tax code.”
You can also connect with people through some of the major social-networking sites, like Facebook or LinkedIn, says Challenger. But, be sure you clean up your profile before connecting. You don’t want Suzie from HR showing your boss the pictures from your trip to Cancun.

New Job, New Boss, New Rules

Seeing eye-to-eye with your boss is crucial in the first 30 days of starting a new job. You need to make sure you are both on the same page from day one, if possible.

Get off on the right foot by having a meeting with your boss to discuss his or her expectations. You want to keep your boss up on everything you are accomplishing in your first 30 days, even if you’ve simply learned a new computer program. It’s also important to connect with your boss on a personal level. Perhaps you can do this over coffee or tea.

In the first 30 days at your new job and beyond, you’ll want to exceed your boss’s expectations consistently. And, figuring out how you both like to communicate will allow you to update him or her without being a bother. “It’s important to communicate with your boss in the method the boss finds easiest,” says Pamela Mitchell, CEO and chief vision officer of The Reinvention Institute, which is dedicated to helping successful professionals and corporations transform their businesses. “Some like written reports and others like meetings. Provide what they need in the format they want.”

Ruth Roberts, a human-resources manager at the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Philadelphia, completed a lot of online training before getting started and had a feel for how to communicate with her boss. “In the first week, my boss checked in on me a couple of times,” she says. “I met with my boss once a week and called with questions, as needed. I had a three-week orientation plan. It was almost too much direction.”

Not all new job experiences go as smoothly. “I actually had very little personal communication with my boss in the first 30 days,” say Melissa. “It is very busy in our department and we only had time once to sit down for 10 minutes and talk. And, that didn’t happen until my fourth week.” She did find communicating with her boss via email to be very effective, and her office mates and the school secretaries filled in the rest.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make at a new job is not keeping your word. “Don’t be someone who over-promises and under-delivers,” says Mitchell. “If you say you are going to get a report done by Tuesday, then you get it there on Tuesday.”

Coupled with that, though, is managing your boss’s expectations. You have be honest with what you can do in a given time period. Jennifer admits that it took some time to manage her bosses’ expectations. “I needed to be quicker to say that I would not be able to get something done that day or even that week because another attorney had given me an assignment that for whatever reason was going to take precedence,” she recalls. “There are, after all, only 24 hours in a day.”

Everyone Makes Mistakes

It’s inevitable. You will make a mistake at your new job, and chances are it will occur in your first 30 days.

Instead of waiting around to make a mistake, admit that you don’t understand things as they come up. “If your boss asked you to do something and you make a mistake, it’s OK,” says Mitchell. “Tell your boss and restate the fact that you have the capabilities, but you are learning. Ask him or her to please have patience. It gives people a lot of wiggle room when going through the first stage of a new job.”

And, if you do make a mistake, admit it. After all, no one is perfect and you will get more understanding if you just admit something went wrong instead of trying to hide it, which only makes things worse.

“For the first couple of weeks, I felt overwhelmed. Thankfully there’s a learning curve involved with most jobs,” says John Daley*, a marketing coordinator for an up-and-coming test-preparation company in South Carolina. He recalls being overly stressed out in his first 30 days because he was afraid to make a mistake. To ease the anxiety, John learned as much as he could about the position and marketing in general. “I even practiced Microsoft Office applications in my off time,” John recalls. “If you focus too much on trying to get everything right and remembering everything, you’ll only open yourself up to increased anxiety and possible errors.”

Also, be aware of any slights you might make on your co-workers. “If you realize you didn’t make the impression you wanted, it’s important to acknowledge that,” says Morem. Try to reach out to people and reconnect. Take responsibility for those relationships and first impressions. If they don’t go well, it’s your responsibility to regroup and reconnect.”

Onward and Upward

While the first 30 days on your new job sets the stage for your career with the company, the fun really begins post-30 days when you are given more opportunities to really shine.

“Continue to dive in and immerse yourself,” advises Bates. As you begin to see what success at your company looks like, strive for that. Remember that will differ for each job.

And, don’t forget to have patience as you continue to learn the inner workings of your new employer. “It will take you a year to figure out all the landmines and another year to understand the ins and outs of the corporate culture,” says Mitchell. “You have to live through things and see cycles in an organization. Until you’ve observed and lived through them, you don’t have the knowledge. ”

John admits to feeling he'd gotten in over his head, because he didn’t pace himself. “My advice to someone starting a new job would be to ask a lot questions, be confident and willing to learn,” he says. “And, remember they hired you for the position because they had confidence in you.”

* name changed

Friday, August 19, 2011

Your Job Is A Gift - Act Accordingly


Posted by Chris on the Smart Path to Happiness blog

The US was built on strength, courage, and a lot of sweat. Somewhere between our remarkable beginnings and today, all of that has changed. Rewind to the 20′s and you’ll find countless people who had a job and were proud to be employed. These people poured out their souls for their employer. One could argue that these folks gave too much with the frequently dangerous jobs (coal mining, logging, etc..) without OSHA to keep them safe. Why was it so so common to work that hard in those days? There was a better work ethic; people took pride in delivering stellar results regardless of their job function. We even had folks like Henry Ford whose main goal was to provide greater service to his employees, community, and country. Becoming wealthy was the gift he received for helping everyone else first. You can read more about Ford in an attachment on Brigadier General Greg Zanetti’s blog.

Fast forward to today. You’ll find kids straight out of college demanding higher salaries just because they have some degree. You’ll find people who only give 10% of their effort to their job; they feel their boss is lucky to get that much. People are showing up later, taking longer lunches, browsing the internet more, and leaving earlier. There is a new mentality where employees feel they are owed something just for showing up. Even personal appearance is an afterthought.

Unfortunate Truths

I hate to think about it, but we’re all replaceable. Even me, the guy who makes it a point to work a little harder than everyone else can get replaced. I just started a new job. I like to think my old colleagues were sad to see me leave, but they’re getting along just fine without me.

Believe it or not, most of us are paid what we are owed and we probably don’t deserve a giant raise. There seems to be an expectation that a raise is warranted just because a year has passed. While a small raise is necessary because of inflation, most people expect to beat inflation. Next time someone complains that their company is underpaying them, remind this person that they are free to leave at any time. If there are other companies out there that pay more for the same service, then he or she should change jobs. If all of the other companies have similar benefits for that same position, then unfortunately that person is probably earning a fair wage.

A job is more like a symbiotic relationship. Employees are supposed to provide value to a company and get rewarded for it. Employees receive a fair and steady paycheck for honest effort. It is a company’s responsibility to honor their side; unfortunately their job is not to make you rich. If you want to be rich, you’re going to have to do more than work a job…but that’s a story for another day.

Continuing about salaries, the value of your reward will be lower than the value you provide. It stinks to know you may provide your company with $60,000 in value but you’ll only get $40,000. It seems unfair but that’s why we have companies in the first place. People usually start businesses with the hope of making lots of money; and unfortunately, tools you use eat into that money. The bathroom around the corner, the light over your desk, and the pens your coworker took home are all a drain on a company’s revenue. In the end, if you’re not giving $60,000 in value to your company then you’re costing them when you show up. You’re shifting the burden to your coworkers who now support you.

Be Grateful

If you act as though you are happy to have your job, you will be surprised how much you can accomplish. You will get more done in one day than your peers and your boss will notice. Eventually you should expect a raise or certainly have some irrefutable evidence when asking for one. When you go to your next job interview, you’ll be able to talk about all of the extra things you accomplished or the awards you have received which will make it more likely for you to get hired and paid even more.

Above all, remember that if entrepreneurs didn’t take chances to start companies then we would never have job opportunities in the first place. Working hard is how we tell the owners of our company, “thank you for putting your money, time, and future on the line to start your company so I can have a consistent income to feed my family.” If the consistent salary isn’t enough, we’re free to quit our job and start our own company. Sound too scary? Appreciate the sacrifices others have made.

When you shift your priority from saying, “when I get more, I’ll do more” to “I’ll do more now because I know I’ll get a lot more later”, you’ll notice much faster results. The first option is a passive approach and basically means you’re waiting for someone to take a chance on you and say, “if I pay this person a little more, I bet he/she would be grateful and work a little extra.” Just like everything else in life, if you take the initiative and show your boss why you’re worth more than everyone else, your chance of getting that raise just went up. As you gain a proven track record of keeping your boss happy, he or she will start to go out of their way to make sure you are happy. Good employees are hard to find after all. Developing a group of folks who have the mission to keep you happy (because they want to, not have to) is another step towards infinite happiness.