Shelley asked about tips for young people just starting out - a great topic! I’ll start the ball rolling here, and then you can add your own thoughts to mine.
First off, whether or not you admire your boss, you can learn a lot from him or her. Observe what your boss does well, and what you think could be done better. I learned a lot from my early bosses about management, often as reverse role models showing me things I resolved never to do myself when I was a manager.
Watch carefully how different people operate at all different levels in the organization - your co-workers, peers in other departments, your superiors, senior people not in your chain of command, etc. Watch for communication styles, how they conduct or participate in meetings, ways they write memos and emails, how they direct others, etc. Look for the best (and the worst) of those, and examine in what ways those differ from your own style. Figure out what you can do to emulate the best behaviors.
Pay particularly close attention to the next level up in the chain of command - the level to which you would next aspire. One of the best ways to position yourself for promotion is to model the behavior of those at that level.
Get to know the people around you. Don’t get sucked into the circles of those who are negative - you become negative by association. Seek out mentors.
Have deep conversations with your boss. Find out what your boss is most concerned about, what keeps him up at night, what goals are most important to her. People often forget that their boss has goals, just as they do. You have a great opportunity to build influence with your boss if you get to know his priorities, and can then find ways to approach your own work to better align with those.
Think about where you want to be in 5 years, and what skills and experience you need to develop to get there. Then think about what projects you could take on to develop those. Make your boss an ally in doing that. Have career discussions regularly with her to focus on the long term, and options for how you can get the types of experience that will foster your development.
And don’t forget to work on your own personal development. Take courses. Seek out opportunities to run meetings, and to make presentations. Put special emphasis on communication skills, both written and oral. Those are going to make a huge difference in your career. Consider joining a Toastmasters club or similar organization.
OK, I’ll stop there for now. What suggestions do you have to add into the mix?
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OK, so now you’ve actually started the job. Look around you. You are embarking on a seemingly endless series of first impressions - and those can have a lasting impact on your career at your new company.
People are making snap judgements about you:
Once made, those impressions are very hard to undo, so go about making the best ones you can up front. In fact, one of the first impressions people will have of you is beyond your control - the memo or email your boss sends out announcing your hire, or what he or she says about you in advance of you getting a chance to meet those people. And what message does it send to people if no announcement is made, and you are basically a surprise on your first day?
Ths provides another reason to reach out to your boss in advance of your start date, as I mentioned in the previous entry. Perhaps you can influence what is sent out, or even whether something is sent out - and at the very least you could get a copy of the announcement.
So what do you want to do to make strong impressions?
Think of this as your chance to go out on a series of mini interviews. Yes, I know, you thought you were done with interviews when you landed this job! But here the intent is a bit different.
When you are interviewing prior to landing the job, it is never in the company’s best interest to air all of their dirty laundry. After all, if you are a good candidate, they want to attract you! That doesn’t mean they are actively trying to hide things from you, just that they aren’t going to make a point of telling you every detail of the negative side of things.
Now that you’re an insider, that dirty laundry can be aired. Your job is now to uncover it so it doesn’t trip you up later. Make a plan to:
This will at least get you started on the road to creating the best first impressions you can…
OK, you’ve let everyone know about your success, your new contact information, and generally ensured that they will continue to be valued members of your network going forward. What’s next?
Now you want to start making the best possible impression at the new job. One way to do that even before you start is to reach out to your new boss and ask about coming in to meet key members of your new work group BEFORE your first day on the job.
Think about it. Most candidates relax once they accept an offer, and use the time until their start date getting everything else in their lives in order. You have a clear opportunity to stand out just by going in to visit during that period.
Imagine the signal this sends to your new employer! You are showing yourself to be particularly eager to get to work, to meet everyone, and to start making a real contribution to the operations. Even if your boss turns down the opportunity, just the fact that you reached out this way starts him or her thinking that you are a real go-getter.
When you talk to your boss, you can ask about information you could read to get a head start on integrating into the new operation:
Think of it this way: Once you start the job, you are going to be making a long series of first impressions with people at your new job. What better way is there to enable you to make the most of those than by jumping in ahead of time (or at least offering to) and showing what a self-starter you are?
Over the next few weeks, let’s explore some of the ways you can make the most of your new job…
Before you even start your new job, you need to think about the networking you’ve done and the contacts you’ve made during your search. Hopefully you’ve kept careful records of who you’ve met along the way, and what advice, leads, introductions or other assistance they provided. If not, then sit down right now and pull out your calendar, cell phone, phone book and email history to reproduce the list as best you can.
I’m assuming you’ve also made a point of thanking all of those people as you went along - dropping them thank you notes or emails after your meeting, and keeping them informed as to any positive developments from whatever advice or contacts they provided you.
Now’s the time to let them all know about the results of your search. Don’t leave them wondering what happened to you! Don’t make the mistake of allowing the network you built up lapse into disuse - after all, the insights, perspectives and resources of your network add to the value you bring to your new employer, and will be critical to your future career development.
Split your list up into at least 3 groups:
If you don’t have your new business contact information yet, you might also do this in 2 steps (a mini-keep-in-touch campaign!). First, send your notes / make your calls to everyone in groups 1 & 2, letting them know that you value them as a professional contact, and that you will forward your new contact information once you start at the new job. Then, after you start, you can send them a second email or letter to let them know the new contact info . If you like, you can hold the #3 list for this second round, when you can include the contact info.
And here’s an article I contributed to that includes a number of nuggets for the new employee: