Approach new job opportunities with a willingness to learn

Dear Joan,
Recently, I left a job after 12 years. It was the hardest decision of my life, to end a work relationship that was enjoyable and lucrative. I literally grew up there. However, in spite of my absolute comfort, I was offered an even better position with another firm and I took it.

Leaving friends and a very sure thing was hard, but I am convinced that it has done more for me than just getting a new job. I feel more confident and valued, as it was my professionalism that landed the job. Thanks for all the advice you’ve given over the years and now I wonder if you’d have any tips on starting a new job off on the right foot.

Congratulations! It takes guts to leave a sure thing and push yourself to take a new opportunity. It’s not surprising that you’re feeling more confident and valued. When people stay in a job with the same company for a long period of time, it tends to make them insecure about their value in the job market. By overcoming this psychological inertia, other challenges won’t seem quite so daunting. I find that people who make a move such as yours are so invigorated, they wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.

Now, on to the new job. Here are some tips that will give you a jump-start:

Learn what is expected of you and produce results fast.
All eyes will be watching you, to see if you are everything that they hoped you’d be. Rather than rushing off to do what you think is expected, impress them by asking some specific questions before you begin.

§      What are the most important one or two things I should be doing in the next three months?

§      What would it look like if I did these things very well?

§      What is the history on these issues?

§      Who are the key people I need to work with on these things? Can you introduce me?

§      Are there problems or risks I need to know about before I begin? What advice do you have?

§      How do I get the resources I need? Who do I go to with questions?

§      How often would you like me to check in with you?

§      What kind of communication do you prefer (face-to-face, e-mail, voice mail, notes, etc.)?

Connect with people around you but tread lightly.
People will be watching you to see if you’ll fit in. They want to know what kind of colleague you will be. They are wondering if they will be able to depend on you, trust you, have fun with you, and benefit by having you as a co-worker. They will also be alert to any signs that you could be trouble. Try these tips:

§      Introduce yourself to your co-workers and ask them questions to get them talking about themselves and their jobs, "Tell me about what you do on your job." "What do you enjoy most?" "What gives you the biggest challenge?" "What are you hoping I can help you with?"

§      Don’t be shy about asking questions but try to batch them, rather than interrupt colleagues too often.

§      Be friendly, but spend more time listening than talking. You need to get a feel for what is accepted behavior in this new group.

§      Don’t be too quick to make judgments about people or take sides on issues. Sometimes, the co-worker who is a little too friendly can turn out to be the person you most want to distance yourself from later.

Explore your new environment to discover the unspoken expectations in this new organization. Every organization has it’s own personality. You can learn through watching and trial and error, but why not shave time off the learning curve by tapping the experiences of others? Approach co-workers and other people you get to know in the company with questions such as these:

§      How would you describe what it’s like to work here to your best friend?

§      What is your opinion about what it takes to be successful here?

§      Can you give me any advice about things to be aware of, so I don’t hurt my career here?

§      Who are the people you most admire and trust? Why?

§      If you could start over in this company, are there any things you would do differently?

Quickly establish a reputation as someone who has good work habits.
Although this should be obvious, it’s amazing how many people carelessly shoot themselves in the foot on these basic expectations:

§      Show up on time in the morning, after lunch and for meetings.

§      Take notes and refer to them as you’re learning.

§      Be willing to help out a co-worker or stay late to finish something, if necessary.

§      Keep your desk organized and leave personal items (like that teddy bear that sits on your computer) at home until you get a feel for what is considered appropriate and professional.

Good luck! With this proactive approach and your positive attitude, you will be able to make your mark quickly, while building a whole new set of wonderful relationships.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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