Hitting the ground running in the New Job

March 21, 2013 | Hamilton, Ontario
Contributed by Jim Matthews
Jim Matthews

Jim Matthews is a principal with the consulting firm Oliver Wight Americas.

You’ve got the job. Now what do you do? As the spring season approaches, many students will be graduating and moving into the full time work force. Learning how to navigate these first steps and get off to a good start will be important. The skill set that you acquired at the DeGroote School of Business will be an indispensable tool, used many times throughout your career.

After 27 years in the workforce, I have now worked for 8 companies, 31 managers and held just about as many jobs. This will represent a very typical work history in the coming years. Learning to transition effectively into new roles and companies will be a crucial dependency in your successful career. Although written for an executive, The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins is the best source I have found to prepare you for entry into a new company. Watkins stresses the importance of assessing which of 4 environments you are entering. The political realities and business needs of each environment will be very different. You will be able to align much more quickly if you have accurately defined which one you are moving in to.

In the early days of your new job remember you have two ears, two eyes and one mouth. Listen, watch, learn and speak in a 4 to 1 ratio and give yourself a chance to understand the culture and get up to speed on your new job. If you are lucky, your company will have a formal mentoring program. If yours doesn’t, look for a coach or a person you can trust, who can accelerate your understanding and help you avoid unnecessary missteps. Choose this person wisely!

Other suggestions:

  • Learn every possible thing you can about your company, industry, customers and competitors before you start.
  • Be punctual and dress professionally. Be particularly careful of casual Friday.
  • Establish rapport and trust with your manager. Take personal responsibility for this, even if is challenging. Try to find an early way to be valuable to him or her.
  • Make a positive first impression, but keep the focus on the business and team. Don’t make it about you.
  • Work hard at all of this, but have some fun and be yourself.
  • Remember they hired you because they believed you could do the job, you wanted to be there and that you would fit in and be a positive addition to the team. Work to ensure that this is all true and you will be sprinting before you know it.

Jim Matthews is a principal with the consulting firm Oliver Wight Americas.

Jim Matthews B.Com’91, MBA ’96, is a graduate of McMaster University and continues to donate his time to the institution. Jim has written several articles for the DeGroote School of Business website.

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