"It took me two weeks to figure out the work uniform."
- a new reader
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Gracious reader,

"Transition failures happen because new leaders either misunderstand the essential demands of the situation, or lack the skill and flexibility to adapt to them," says Michael Watkins, in a book I'll recommend below.

Starting a new job is a big transition.  The process of joining may not be very organized or structured.  Especially if you're in a smaller organization, or a startup.

Be curious:  be an armchair anthropologist.  Read as much as you can about the organization.  Presumably you read the internet about the company during your job search.  Once you've joined, ask for the archives!  You will learn a lot from documents on mission and goals, decks from recent all-hands presentations, and employee newsletters. 

Watch how people act.  Whether meetings start on time, have agendas.  How people use email and chat.  When the office is most vibrant, most quiet, and most empty.  How people interact, and who the go-to people are.  And yes, what people wear.

You're now part of something bigger than you.  This isn't always entirely comfortable -- it will take flexibility to figure out how to participate in a new culture, a new community. 

And time.  It won't happen overnight.
Cross Your Ts, Dot Every I
  • There are many "new to the job" checklists on the internet: on average, they're okay.  If your manager didn't give you a checklist, look to universities and government agencies for the better ones.  Use them to create your own checklist.
  • I prefer a dry but clear employee handbook to an "inspiring" one.  Either way, read it -- before or soon after you start.  It's a cultural artifact, and documentation of what's expected of you.  Both are important.
  • Make your HR rep happy and get all of your admin stuff done ASAP.  The sooner you enroll in all of your benefits programs, the better it is for everyone.
  • Michael Watkins originally wrote The First 90 Days (Amazon) (Library) for corporate executives who must jump into senior level jobs and show their worth, quickly.  So, it probably wasn't designed exactly for you.  Its dry, corporate tone is not terribly endearing.  That said, it's a good book to read before, or soon after, starting a new job:  it's about making plans to set and meet goals, and to find the relationships that will support and sustain you.
  • And don't forget:  know your rights.
Culture:  What Not to Wear
  • It can be tough to take, but your track record doesn't really come with you: in a new company or first job, you're starting over.  Work with your manager to make sure that you agree on your goals.  Then, communicate regularly about your status and accomplishments.  This is what will be visible to your colleagues and management:  it will become your track record.
  • Until you have that track record, it will be tough to negotiate new terms at work, like your position, schedule, or changes in comp.  The best way to earn credibility is to do what's asked of you, on time:  especially when it is made explicit.  Keeping an organization running is no easy thing.  If you've been asked to do something, assume it's important until you've become trusted to prove otherwise.
  • Sometimes, people use your presence as a proxy for your work ethic.  Or even your performance.  So lunchtime trips to the gym were ok at your last job?  They may not be now, even if you're getting your job done.  It's so key to understand how "face time" works in your organization.
  • If you're a new grad, or you've been working as a freelancer, the physical demands of a "9-to-5" situation are a big change.  It's stressful, especially if you've moved to a new city.  Be sure to eat, sleep and renew yourself.  For some, "renewal" means dialing back on social obligations.  For others, more trips to the museum, or naps on weekends.  Know yourself.
You're the Boss
  • "You should know what the first six weeks will look like before they even get there. What do you want them to accomplish in the first 90 days?"  Onboarding is more than loading your new team member up with swag:  they'll need some goals and direction.  Employee Onboarding at Startups Is Broken – Here’s How to Fix It, via First Round Review.
  • Another approach taken by an entrepreneur in my circle, Veronika Sonsev:  learn your new hire's development goals, and work with them to achieve them.  More on Veronika's method in Lightweight, at my blog.
  • "If you can't treat someone with dignity and respect, get out."  If you missed this from-the-heart talk by the United States Air Force Academy Superintendant, check it.  He gave this talk surrounded by his staff.  Given well-documented problems at the USAFA, I'd imagine that he was putting staff on notice, too.  Bravo to Lt. General Jay Silviera.
  • Whether you're a manager, or a new hire, or both:  if you're asked to break the law or your organization's policies, to violate your own values, or to endanger yourself or others, don't keep it to yourself.  When in doubt, consult someone who knows you, and whose ethics and experience you trust.  If you're a manager:  be this person for your people.
I will probably never write the blog post that's been living in my head for years, Silence of the Lambs:  (Bad) Mentor and (Evil) Sponsor.  Also, worst first day of a new job, ever. 

That said, Clarice Starling had Ardelia Mapp, a best friend at work, a person she could trust to help her navigate the workplace.  Find your Ardelia -- then, be someone else's Ardelia.

I was super-excited to get questions and suggestions last week from a new reader.  Thank you very much!

Thanks for reading,

Anne Libby

P.S.  Send me a raven, reply to this note, or I'm always open to anonymous feedback or suggestions, too.
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