Maybe you got fed up with your old job and quit. Maybe your boss got fed up with you and you were fired. The bottom line is that you are now starting a new job. What’s the best way to go about doing so?
Study the industry
The days of staying on in one industry, let alone one company, are long gone. While many people in the workforce prefer to stay put within one field to build on their expertise and contacts, these days many employees move around from one industry to another. They do so either to gain a whole new set of experiences or simply out of necessity or survival. Whatever the reasons, the effect is that a lot of people are finding themselves starting jobs in new sectors.
When entering a new field, it is key to understand its greater landscape. What are the regulatory realities? What are the trends? What issues will your new company face? What restraints will be placed on your own ability to move around and grow?
You can learn the answers to most of these questions in the interview process, although a prospective employer will likely be coy in divulging the professional downsides or the red tape you may have to circumvent. That being said, trade publications and insider tales found on web logs can all be good tools to use.
Moreover, you can always try to get your hands on analyst reports. For example, if you’re going into the auto business, reading an analyst’s assessment of the macro trends in the industry might help give you a bird’s eye assessment of the challenges you will encounter.
Know the company’s history
Regardless of whether you join a start-up or a well-established corporation, there will always be a culture and history to build upon. It is thus key that you understand where your company is coming from and what it has gone through to determine the direction that it is headed in.
If you land a gig at GE, you need to understand where it was 100 years ago as well as the turns it took 10 years ago in order to understand why its new leadership is going where it is going.
Conversely, if you land a job at a start-up, you need to understand where the original idea for it emerged from to understand what market you are trying to carve out.
Even if your company needs to change strategies, you must understand its history and culture to be able to steer it in the right direction.
It’s never too early to make yourself invaluable…
Analyze your department
Every company, no matter how large or small, has a number of interdependent departments that mesh together to build value. But not all companies are broken up properly or optimally. You need to understand where your department fits, as well as its source and use of power, in order to grow its role within the company along with the leverage you wield within it.
You have to analyze the department in the larger context of the company, with an eye toward maximizing your department’s input in numerous inter-company decisions. This way, you can grow yourself in the process. The last thing you want in a corporate job is to have little control or influence on others in the firm — that is, unless you want to be both the dumping ground and the whipping boy for a company’s ills.
Accept your mandate
One of the biggest mistakes a young professional can make is to accept a job without fully understanding its mandate and performance metric. When we’re looking for work, no matter how much leverage we might have, we oftentimes overlook some painful details and try to simply get into the groove of things. This is a big-time mistake. The truth is that no job, no woman, no anything is as silky smooth and pain-free as we might think. Some problems can’t be anticipated, but many can, and they shouldn’t be ignored and swept underneath the carpet.
Once you fully understand what you are responsible for, what you will be evaluated on and what could cause your dismissal, you will have a more focused understanding of the stakes you’re undertaking.
Get to know people
So now that you know your industry inside out and your company like the back of your hand, your focus should shift to the people, egos and personal dynamics at play. Take any company and replace its people, and the culture will invariably change, as will its performance.
So before even accepting a job, you need to understand the people you will report to and work with.
Understand the politics
No matter what anyone tells you, people are inherently selfish and on the lookout for their own interests. Furthermore, people tend to have a hard time accepting others’ success. This applies both personally and professionally.
A company’s culture and climate make up its politics and account for why some places feel like better places to work than others.
E-mail of the week:
I just started working at a new company. I like some of the elements of the office but one thing stands out: there is very little in the way of socializing and fraternizing. For a young, hip place to work, how could the staff not lose its mind just staring at their computers and working away? Would I be dismissed or alienated by going against the grain and chatting it up during work hours?
Good question. As companies grow and the head count increases, it’s only normal for new people to add their own influence. Your influence seems to consist in lending a social dimension to the office. For what it’s worth, I do not think that it is your talking that will affect your employment there; it will be your performance. By the sounds of it, the company culture has focused on work and the delivery of results, so if you contribute and do not let the socializing affect your work, it should not be a problem.
What I do not advise, however, is to delve too deeply into issues that might be too personal or a bit risqu for an office that has, up until now, kept the talking to a minimum.
Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at www.CourseToSuccess.com. His new book, The Confessions of Alexander The Great: 33 Lessons in Greatness, is available at www.AlexanderTheBook.com.