No matter how prepared you may be for the opportunity, entering a new job can be overwhelming. Kesner Dufresne Jr., a certified financial planner with Morgan Stanley in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, had that feeling when he was figuring out how to fit into his new organization-even after sitting through training and orientation. He understood that he had to be more than capable; he’d have to be a creative, forward-thinking, solid team player even as he worked to stand out among his peers. “Not everyone will warm up to you,” he says. So how would he gain the confidence of potential clients, colleagues, and managers?
Penda Aiken, founder and owner of the Brooklyn, New York-based human resources firm that bears her name, suggests three strategies: Learn the corporate culture; get to know colleagues and managers as people, not just what their titles mean; and organize your work space.
Culture is critical. Before you can begin to set goals, know the organization in which you’re working. Learn how employees conduct business and view success, and how the company rewards achievement. An organization’s culture defines its management and business guidelines. Figuring out its ethos will be a major determinant of success.
Build your network. Get to know the influencers within your company-immediately. They’re the ones who can help you decipher the firm’s idiosyncrasies and inner workings. Ask a senior manager to lunch. Join several associates for drinks after work. Use this time to ask specific questions about the work environment.
As you build your network, start developing your reputation. Delores Dean, Ph.D., director of the Florida A&M University Career Center, says, “Make a first impression that is professional and [lasting].” Be clear about performance expectations from managers. Establish a work ethic that builds your personal brand within your organization.
Organize your work space. “Pace yourself so that you are not overwhelmed in the newness [of the position]; at the same time have a plan,” offers Aiken. Communicate your eagerness to be a contributing member of the team, but always remain focused on your overall professional development. “A lot of people wind up selling themselves short and are not able to go to the next level, go to the promotion, go to making more money,” Aiken says.
Employees tend to seek further development for their job, not their careers. Aiken’s advice: Think of your new job as an assignment during which you’re being paid to learn a new task and increase your experience level in case you must leave your job. “You’ve got to go in knowing there are things that you are working toward,” says Dean. Your goals should include more education, additional training, and attending conferences. “When you start the job, there’s a learning curve,” explains Aiken. “So, a lot of it is taking the initiative. That’s what separates the person who excels from the person who winds up being stagnant.”