Sharpen up social skills to fit well into a new role

Landing a new job can bring mixed feelings.

It’s time to meet the new team, shake lots of hands, be shown your new desk, and admire the swish new surroundings.

But it soon dawns on you that you have to start making progress – whatever that progress is.

According to a report in HRM magazine, 22 per cent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment. Thirty-three per cent of new hires look for a job within their first six months.

Mastering Coaching: Practical Insights for Developing High Performance author Max Landsberg says up to half of newly hired executives fail in their new roles, and leave within 18 months of joining.

There are two journeys, he says, whenever changing jobs.

The first is intellectual and the second is social. The intellectual path is straightforward, but the social one is more challenging. New friends and allies are made, and the employee is trying to navigate the political environment.

He says many stumble within the first 10 months.

Michael Watkins, the author of The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, says moving into a new role is one of the biggest challenges.

“While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make needed changes, they also place you in a position of acute vulnerability,” he said.

Here are 10 things to do to successfully transition into a new role:

Understand how your manager’s success is measured. Your job is to make your manager successful as much as it is to become effective yourself. Ensure your goals are aligned with your manager’s interests.

Learn the names of key people. Refer to an organisational chart, and write the names of people you meet, including their job titles and know what they do and where they belong.

Reach out to other people outside your direct team. You will learn an astonishing amount by striking up conversations with people you would not normally interact with, and uncover collective knowledge that “everyone” knows.

Offer to become part of a working group. These could be a workplace health and safety committee or a social club where you can form wider connections.

Read and familiarise yourself with the company website. Understand the policies and procedures. Be across the main areas and ask the right questions. Having background before you ask will show others you are proactive.

Learn the workplace cultural norms. Observe what people do regarding starting times, lunch breaks, and what conversations happen. It is important to assimilate into the culture of the organisation and gently make a list of the things you could challenge to change later.

Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. If you are taking on too much too early, you will set up an unrealistic expectation of what you are able to deliver. It is better to talk with your manager and be upfront about realistic time frames before there are unpleasant surprises later.

Treat everyone you meet with respect. It doesn’t matter what level in the company the person is, you must treat everyone you meet with respect. By treating the cleaner and the CEO in the same manner, you demonstrate your mature and trustworthy nature. You never know who is connected to who, so ensure you watch what you say.

Be yourself. During on-boarding, people often “act” nice and friendly, pretending to be someone they are not. It is important to be authentic and behave with integrity. Don’t assume that what worked well in your last job will necessarily work in your new job. While your background is recognised, understand that you have a new context, and not everything you propose will actually fit into the new environment. Always be prepared to put forward a new idea by asking lots of questions and see what will work.

This is a lifelong career skill, and one that will make you more effective in becoming a successful team member in your new workplace.

Warren Frehse is a career transition coach and workplace behavioural consultant. He is author of Manage Your Own Career: Reinvent Your Job; Reinvent Yourself.

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