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May 4, 2012
Be Smart at Your New Job
 
Congratulations! You are starting a new job. You’ve got a new outfit, a new attitude, and a new paycheck. Be sure you start smart and savvy by being conscious of your surroundings and by managing your expectations. It’s not easy being the new guy.

You’re psyched. They’re psyched. But nobody knows what’s really coming next. You gilded the lily and radiated energy and intention in all those interviews. They did too. Everyone was on their best behavior.
Now you’ll see them in their native habitat.

Some will maintain the façade longer than others, but soon you’ll get a glimpse or a massive dose of reality. Nobody ever really knows what he or she is getting into until they are in place and fully present with all political and emotional sensors on high alert.

To insure you get off to a smart, savvy, and successful start, focus on these five factors.

Expect Differences. No two organizations do things the same. You’ll see stuff that’s cool and stuff that’s nutty. Your IT and email set-up will be different. So will time sheets, reporting, status, phones, etc. Don’t be shocked. Take it all in. Maintain an even keel. Don’t make faces. Try to understand why they do it that way. If there’s no good reason, accept it.

You are not going to change attitudes, processes, or idiosyncrasies any time soon. So suck it up. Decide that whatever they do and however they do it will be okay. Go with the flow. Don’t make demands or comparisons to your old job. Don’t be a diva. Your new bosses and teammates want you to fit in. Don’t disappoint them by freaking out or by telling them how outdated, silly, or counter-productive their act is.

Get the Back Story. You’ve joined a sitcom in progress. Find out what went on before you showed up and what people think will happen next. You got hired, but you don’t really know if they think you are the Messiah or if you were the third choice. Disconnect your ego and find out as much about the context of your hiring as you can.

You might think you’re there to shake things up or to add some special measure of expertise. If you are the first new guy after a hiring freeze, expectations could be unrealistically high. You might be replacing a superstar or a screwball, either of which will prompt comparisons and early judgments.

Chances are, somebody thinks you’ve arrived to be their bitch and somebody else has already lined up all the stuff they hate to do as your first assignments. The more you understand the back story, the easier the transition.

Smile and Keep Your Mouth Shut. Smile and be happy. You have a new job. But don’t pretend you’ve joined a love cult. People work out all kinds of needs at work. You can’t effectively negotiate the currents ‘til you understand who’s who and where they are coming from. This requires considerable restraint. Everyone is curious about the new guy. Develop a simple story punctuated with some personal details and tell it. Then shut up, watch, and listen.

Identify who likes who and who has the real power or influence. Try to figure out the tribes and cliques around you. Don’t join any group ‘til you really know who’s in it and how they operate. You’re like a new prisoner in the yard. Don’t join or annoy the Crips or the Bloods.

Don’t speculate about what’s going on. Stifle the urge to dissect, psychoanalyze, explain, or describe your new insights to your new colleagues, since you’ll invariably be wrong and piss someone off. Do not become an office gossip. It’s the kiss of death. Talk to your roommate, your partner, or even your Mom, but keep mum in the office until you feel confident you have the true lay of the land. Remember, new hires can be broomed in 90–120 without much cause, so don’t make enemies unnecessarily.

Be Straight with Your Boss. Ask for clear directions, priorities, and assignments. Ask the boss what success looks like. Get agreement on your personal KPIs and understand how your work will be evaluated. Be sure to get clear direction on deadlines, reports, statuses, and how much or how little to involve him or her in each of your projects.

Some bosses are organized, self-aware, and straightforward. Others aren’t. Some are very friendly. Some are distant. You’ll know right away which one your boss is, so calibrate your response and figure out how to give them what they want or what you think they want. Be straight but don’t suck up. Don’t be bashful. Ask and ask again. Act on their feedback. Establishing a good, clear, and productive working relationship with your immediate supervisor will determine your near-term career trajectory.

Focus on Performance. You’re there to get something done. Make sure it gets done right. The fastest way to advance is to productively deliver work on time and on budget. Put all the other attractions and blandishments of the new job to the side.

The landscape, the departments, and the process will be new and probably different. Zero in on learning them. Make allies in other departments. Figure out the formal processes and the informal workarounds. Someone is counting on you to get on the scoreboard quickly. Deliver on those expectations. Figure out who can help you and who is just in the way. Find a Sherpa to guide you through the system. Play nice. Share. Document your work. Suspend judgment. Keep your eye on the prize.

When you win, don’t brag. 

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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