Everyone is aware that we live in a generation that is very different from our predecessors.  Our parents and grandparents may have gotten a job straight out of college and stuck to the same career and company for the duration of their working life.  While some did change organizations, few explored possibilities outside their chosen career path.

These days it is indeed not that unusual for people to change jobs and companies every few years.  A couple of my friends change jobs every year and the amazing thing is that this “jumping” has not seemed to hurt their career.  Interestingly enough in addition to changing jobs professionals these days will change careers two, three, maybe every four times throughout their working life. In the world of project management I can share that most people I’ve run into during my term of service on the PMI Board are individuals who did not start out in the profession but rather jumped into it after a solid technical career elsewhere.

In my own career I have changed jobs a half a dozen times and one thing that I have learned is that the change in responsibilities, jobs, companies, or even careers has to be accompanied with a strong approach to ensure success.  Often times professionals (especially ones without a job) are so focused on their job search that they almost forget what needs to be done once they’ve landed it.  Some get into the position and are not quite sure what needs to be done.  As I said, if the aim is to retain that job once the person has been hired and establish a successful track record, individuals would be wise to consider some of the following points as they start their time in that dream job and/or career:

  • Identify Your Mission. Be clear with yourself as to why you’re in the new organization and what you plan to accomplish.  Is this a life time career type of choice or a few months/years of transition.  Make sure that this matches the expectations of the organization.
  • Do Your Homework.  Just as we might do when we are preparing for an interview with a company by studying about the industry and perhaps the products/services of the organization, once we’ve landed that job we need to do research on the company from an insider perspective.  We have to learn about the influences, the culture, the unique challenges that people are facing.  Understand them will help position us for success.
  • Plan Your Attack.  One of the best practices that I’ve seen executives adopt is developing an agenda for their first 90 days “in office.”  This helps focus their energy and provides for a blueprint to planning their activities and priorities.  This is something that professionals at various levels can benefit from doing. A plan can be established by the new hire and signed off on by the manager to help level-set expectations.
  • Avoid the Tourist Trap.  For those who travel for a living, we know that the information that we receive about the location we are visiting or temporarily working in tends to be distorted.  For example, think of going to a foreign country and attempting to ask your concierge to arrange for a trip for you.  The concierge orders a limo instead of a taxi because “someone of your status” should have the luxury.  What you discover is the price of this limo is the tourist price and multiples more expensive than a regular taxi.  When we are new to an organization we have to quickly shift our perceived status from the new comer or tourist so as not to keep getting blind-sided by the information we receive.  This requires also figuring out who can be trusted as a source of information and who can not.
  • Validate Your Assumptions. Even though you may be starting your new job with a clear job description that does not always translate to the same set of assumptions that your manager and second/third/fourth line executives may have for you.  Once you’ve gotten a sense of who the players are make sure to spend time validating the assumptions regarding the role you’ll be performing and ensure that this view is aligned to what is on paper so as to be rewarded/measured properly.
  • Pace Yourself.  Enthusiasm is great and needed to infuse the kind of energy for a new job however what we have to recognize is that starting a new job is like running a marathon.  If we treat it line a 100 meter dash we’ll run out of steam and end up isolating ourselves from the rest of the organization.  While everyone is anxious to act quickly, and that often is needed, we also need to couple that with listening and ensuring that our actions are purposeful rather than foolhardy.  We don’t want to constantly hear “oh tried this 5 years ago and it did not work.”
  • Reach Out.  It is important to build a network within your new organization.  This will be your first line of defense when you might encountered push-back.  These are your allies that will help you with your budgets and overcoming barriers to change.
  • Take Initiative, Not Stupid Gambles.  Sometimes you have to be willing to stick your neck on the line to make a name for yourself in the new organization.  Taking initiative comes with certain risks but the key is to make sure that there is alignment with the organization.
  • Quick Wins.  Even though the new job is like a marathon there has the new hire has to be able to show progress.  As such, there is nothing better than a constant stream of small successes to ensure that the person’s contribution is seen as a value add.
  • Build Up the Team.  Great leaders distinguish themselves from mediocre employees because they are able to build up the leadership skills of their employees.  Mediocre managers are scared of this because they believe that if lower level employees develop skills they might threaten their position.  Succession planning is one of the best ways to ensure that the person gets a promotion in the future.  That way the management chain feels comfortable that things will not fall apart if the employee is promoted.

Getting off on the right foot in the new job is as complicated, if not more complicate as the job search itself.  It would be wise to approach it much like one would approach starting a new project.  There has to be a plan along with an understanding of the stages that we go through from initiation all the way to closing out that project.