I can clearly recall my first day at work just like yesterday, although it’s been over 10 years now!
I was very excited, although I was posted to a town I hadn’t been to before. That excitement quickly faded into anxiety and stress. Nothing prepared me for that day. The banking hall was full and crammed, my colleagues and I were assigned to departments on the spot and we were met with team leads who didn’t have the time to start explaining anything to us, what with the ‘stream’ of both patient and impatient customers demanding attention. It was expected that we knew what to do coming fresh from training school. Little did we know that training school was different from ‘real life’. To top it all, no one told me I would be closing by 11pm that day, and the day after for the whole week.
This scenario might not play out exactly the same for everyone but you must admit that starting a new job is a mix of excitement and fear and anxiety. The excitement stems from the new environment, new challenges, fresh pay, new opportunities, new networks, everything new. However, several thoughts slowly creep in as you enter your new environment and meet people who have obviously mastered the organization, its culture, the way of doing things, everyone already has their clique etc. Anxiety not only stems from wondering whether you will be able to meet and exceed the expectations on the job, but it also comes from wondering if you will fit in right with the organization. No matter how we try to downplay it, you can be skilled and experienced enough to deliver on your job but find yourself under-performing or failing to catch on quickly the first few weeks or even months on the job.
Navigating the waters
This is not peculiar to fresh graduates. I dare say that the higher you go, the tougher the situations you may meet in trying to settle into your new job. If you are brought in at mid-management or senior management level, the pressure to perform and show results immediately is high. You have subordinates who are waiting and watching and are like ‘let’s see what he/she has got’, ‘I wonder why they brought her/him instead of promoting me’ etc. Then you have your immediate bosses to impress because you ‘bamboozled’ them at the interview, saying you are the best the organization has even seen. And don’t get me wrong – you may actually be the best but your first few months are crucial to your performance. This is why most effective HRs would plan and develop a solid on-boarding process that should enable a new staff settle in quickly and get with the flow.
Most employees feel that the ability to settle in quickly rests in the hands of the management through the HR. You owe it to you to take that ability into your own hands and devise means of ensuring that you are not floating in the organization 3 months later.
A few things you can do to smoothen your on-boarding process
- Create goals for the next 3 months, and another 3 months after that and so on. The goals should be centered on what you want to achieve on the job and personal milestones. Set targets for yourself out of the targets/KPIs you have been given. Have a realistic wok plan on how to achieve those goals.Be quick and smart enough to do your own self-evaluation before the formal self-evaluation comes.
- Always move around with a journal/jotter and pen. Ask questions. Assume that you don’t know. Absorb. Learn.
- Be friendly and make friends quickly. If you have a team under you, get familiar with them quickly. Hold personal briefings with each of them to try to understand their individual peculiarities.
- Identify the different groups of people or office cliques very early:
- The bitter and always criticizing: They never have anything good to say about the organization. They are full of criticisms on how the organization never does anything right and how everyone is incompetent except them.
- The office gossip: They always have the scoop on everyone. They have the history of the organization. They can be useful in understanding why things are done the way they are in the organization, the history of certain policies and how the culture of the organization has evolved over time. But you must be careful or else your mind will be poisoned about people before relating with them. Relate with people on their own merit and draw your own conclusions without bias.
- The nonchalant and indifferent: These ones are there for the pay and do not care much about the organization or you. They can douse your ideas and creativity very quickly.
- The positive, upbeat ones:Your potential mentors, whether high in rank or low in rank. These are the ones that can see the beauty out of any flaws the organization may have and are always positive and forward-looking.
- It is important to identify these categories so that you can clearly chart a course for your career in the organization. If you are serious about growth, you should know the group to align with most. Spend less time with those that have nothing good to say about management and are full of complains. They never grow. There is no perfect organization. Take what’s good and maximize it. Now that doesn’t mean have a clique or form a clique. Be friendly to all but focus and remove distractions.
- Be interested in every business unit and what they do and how they do what they do. Do not isolate yourself or restrict yourself to your unit alone. I dare say that Admins are quite susceptible to this ‘isolation’ behavior. The more you learn about other units, the more knowledge you possess to do your job better.
There is no perfect organization. It is entirely up to you how much value to bring to an organization and how much knowledge, skill and experience you want to glean out. Make the most of every opportunity.
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