John Langhorne/Tree Full of Owls

When the economy turns around, there will be a burst of hiring as companies scramble to replace job reductions and hiring freezes in their workforces. If you want to make a job change, now is the time to begin thinking about such a move.

The opportunity in a new job is that you can set aside baggage and make a fresh start. How you make this start is fairly important to your success. (see http://langhorne.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/mary-poppins-1)

Some years ago I worked with a young professional who wanted to move into the technology industry. After she began the new job, she shared the “on-boarding” materials with me, I was impressed. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onboarding)

There was an explicit plan for what she needed to learn, thus how she could maximize the honeymoon period in her new job. The unit titles were:

What you should know at the end of:

the first day

the first week

the second week

etc. out to three months

Virtually all of this was about the substance of the job, not the usual orientation materials from the human resources department. At the end of each time frame, a meeting was scheduled with her onboarding coach to review her progress and assist her in any way to come up to maximum performance ASAP.

The company you join probably won’t have such a plan, but you can develop your own version to help you make a successful start in your new job.

Understanding and appreciating the key relationships in your workspace is probably the best approach for you. The key to this is your new manager. Your relationship with your immediate manager is absolutely critical to your success, and most companies are far too casual about using this relationship to get the new guy off to a good start. This is the person who can help you succeed or, if she chooses, make you fail. The key here is to understand that your manager is very busy and it is up to you to take responsibility for this relationship. For a more in-depth review, the Harvard Business Review has an outstanding article entitled “Managing Your Boss.”

This excellent article (found at http://hbr.org/2005/01/managing-your-boss/ar/1) elucidates the issue in-depth. To tweak your interest, here are some of the things they recommend:

Make sure you understand your boss and her context.

Assess yourself and your needs.

Develop and maintain a relationship that:

Fits the needs and styles of both parties

Is defined by mutual expectations

Keeps the boss informed

Is based on dependability and honesty

Selectively uses your boss’s time and resources

The Gallup Corp. has an employee satisfaction survey call the Q12. Based on more than a million cases, these 12 questions are the very best statistical measure of job satisfaction. Interestingly, the very best predictor of the 12 is the response to “I have a best friend at work.”

This demonstrates the importance of developing effective, respectful working relationships with your new co-workers. When I was a manager, we once hired a very capable young woman for a key position. Unfortunately, she was one of those people who know everything and are quick to make it known. Fortunately we had a probationary period of 90 days, so she was soon gone. Her closest co-workers threw a party celebrating her departure. We told her she was a bad fit – no kidding.

Here are some things you should keep in mind when you start a new job. Watch and listen; you are learning a new culture, so make it an exploration not an attack. Ask good questions because you’re likely to learn faster this way. Don’t blather on about meaningless trivia. Don’t make suggestions for improvements until you have blended into the culture; never say, “Well, at my old job, we did it this way.” Don’t jump to quick conclusions about your co-workers because first impressions are notoriously unreliable. Build you personal-development plan by reviewing and saving notes to yourself on key “take-aways,” using the previous format.

For a discussion of the characteristics of the best employee and co-worker go to: www.corridorbiznews.com/aspx/NewsDetail.aspx?ItemID=1283

Good luck on your new job.

John Langhorne is with Langhorne Associates. He can be reached at www.langhorneassociates.com. His new book, Beyond Luck: Practical Steps to Navigate the Path from Manager to Leader, is available at www.beyondluck.net.