4 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success in a New Job

“To be successful, you need to mobilize the energy of many others in your organization. If you do the right things, then your vision, your expertise, and your drive can propel you forward and serve as seed crystals.” — Michael D. Watkins

I recently re-booted my career, taking a delivery management position with a growing, thriving software company. Before I started, I knew I needed to prepare to be successful. I started reading books, re-evaluating my leadership approach and focusing on winning small battles each day. The difficulty of succeeding in a new job is overcoming the overwhelming amount to learn in the first 90 days.

A friend of mine recommended the book, “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins. I’ve found it very valuable as a reference guide to help me navigate the waters of my new job. It made me compare notes with what I believe to be the most important keys to success in a new job. Success is defined by how well you adapt to change — then, how you adjust and keep moving forward.

As Watkins writes,

“Joining a new company is akin to an organ transplant — and you’re the new organ. If you’re not thoughtful in adapting to the new situation, you could end up being attacked by the organizational immune system and rejected.”

I’ve listed four rock-solid ways to set yourself up for success in a new organization. The more I realize it, the more these traits and activities translate over to reinventing yourself in your current job. Good luck, wherever you are in your career. There’s always time to reinvent, rebuild and master who you are — whether in your professional or personal life.

1. Build Relationships

I wrote recently about the right time to build a great business relationship — how that time is always now. I know this because I’ve done it both in my current position, as well as in past positions, even several years in. Relationships are all about value. You demonstrate your value to someone else, they demonstrate their value to you.

A prime example of this is taking inventory of your skills. You may be the best web developer at your company, but you could be lost when it comes to writing. Why not find someone whose skills fit your needs, while you can offer them help with a side project or primary focus in return?

What I lack in technical knowledge, I make up for in soft skills, project management and organizational leadership.

I encourage you to get to know as many people as you can across your organization. Focus on learning how to do your job, but also concern yourself with learning the business of the organization. Know the org. chart, internal politics and key business drivers that affect company performance. The place to begin is in the “relationship” department.

2. Know Your Role — COLD

You were hired for a reason. That reason is not to surf the Internet, guzzle free coffee and organize happy hours. Well, probably not! Those are more ancillary benefits. You might be a marketer, software designer, ad guru or sales manager. You might think you can just rely on your past experience, that you know exactly what you’re doing, and you’ll be just fine.

BIG mistake.

Times change. Organizations vary significantly by titles, processes and expectations for roles. Identify what the exact requirements are of your position, then become an architect — draft a game plan that doesn’t just meet expectations — but shatters them. Go above and beyond. Show a willingness to learn. And nail down the job requirements for your role.

3. Be a Sponge (shadow, observe)

In a similar vein, you’re best suited in your new job — and in life — to be a voracious learner. “Shadow” your colleagues, learn their job duties and ask as many questions as you can. When I was younger, I used to think asking too many questions was the sign of an amateur. What I learned is that asking lots of questions is actually the mark of a true professional.

Socratic method, baby!

Asking questions is a fundamental part of how we learn. Find time to observe co-workers who perform the same job tasks that you do. Then, observe other people in your organization who do different job tasks. Who knows? It could be a senior leader whose footsteps you’d like to walk in. Keep learning.

4. “How Can I Help You”

Take on new responsibilities with excitement. The best thing you can do is show an eagerness to want to get the job done. That’s called initiative. That’s being proactive and demonstrating confidence. The worst thing you can do is fear mistakes, fear failure and think you need to stay in your own bubble.

One thing I’ve learned about myself as I’ve matured, is that I’ve become more introverted. It’s more of a battle for me to put myself out there and introduce myself to new people. It’s hard to embrace challenges when we don’t feel completely confident in what we’re about to do.

I’ve simply learned that the way to learn, the way to grow and become an expert is to take a dip into the big pond, without always knowing the depth of where you plunk your feet. Ask others how you can help them. Want to make a difference? Turn this into a mindset — an attitude. “How can I help you?” can become the way you view your world in a new role.

You’ll earn friends, gain the respect of organizational influencers and learn more about your craft. You’ll instantly shatter the shackles of fear, growing more confident by the day. Take that first step. Good luck and please feel free to share your stories below!

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