Build Relationships Early for Job Success
Job No. 1 at your new workplace: Identify the ”go-to” people in your new company, and listen to their guidance.
By Debra Donston-Miller
After the very big job of finding a new job is complete, it’s time to relax, right? Wrong. Your first 90 days in a new position are critical, especially when it comes to relationship building. What you do or overlook during this time can color your entire tenure with a company — or even cut it short, if missteps during this period are big enough.
After you have waded through all the forms and orientation materials, you’ll likely want to roll up your sleeves and jump immediately into your work. While the sentiment is admirable (especially if the managers you interviewed with wanted someone who could “hit the ground running”), you’ll be doing yourself and your new employer a disservice if you start making moves at the expense of establishing effective relationships. Experts told Ladders that early work to establish relationships will pay off handsomely down the line.
The first few days on the job are no time to be a shrinking violet. “My advice to new employees is first and foremost to get in there and start meeting people,” said TyAnn Osborn, director of human resources at the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. “Don’t just show up and sit in your cube.”
Go to the go-to people
While you’re doing all that meeting and greeting, be on the lookout for the “go-to” people — the ones who know how to get certain jobs done, no matter where those people fit on the org chart. How do you find them? Osborn recommends asking the following leading question after meeting any new person: “Whom do you recommend I speak to now and get to know?” You’ll know you’ve hit on a go-to person when several new acquaintances answer with the same name and say, “Oh, you have to speak with … !”
Now that you’ve identified the go-to people, go to them. Dr. Kevin D. Gazzara, who took early retirement from chip giant Intel and now runs leadership-consulting firm Magna Leadership Solutions, said you should begin cultivating relationships with those go-to people early on. During his early days at Intel, Gazzara said, he made it a point to understand the structure of the division in which he worked and set up meetings with the people who seemed to be setting the tone. “This allowed me to develop a relationship with them, and I could also do a bit of selling of my talents, interests and do some positive internal marketing of the organization I had joined,” he said.
It is also helpful if you can get your hands on an org chart. Most org charts are fuzzy outlines at best, but it’s important to get a sense of who works with whom, who manages whom, who has a dotted line to whom, and so on. Deciphering these relationships early on will help you better understand and more effectively work within the organization.
Of course, the relationship you want built on the strongest foundation possible is your relationship with your boss. Experts recommend putting the shoe on the other foot and ” interviewing ” your manager — on Day One, if possible. ” Find out what makes them tick , why they joined in the first place and, most importantly, what their priorities are so these become your priorities too,” said Osborn.
Experts also recommend that early conversations with your manager involve the development of a 30/60/90-day plan that clearly states what you intend to accomplish in your first three months. While this is a common best practice, you can show your manager — and your colleagues — your focus on collaboration and your ability and willingness to tap others’ expertise by incorporating ideas and suggestions (with appropriate credit) from the meetings you set up during your first days and months on the job.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice for your first 90 days is to establish yourself as a team player by doing more listening than speaking, said Deirdre McEachern, a certified career coach at VIPCoaching . “Too many new employees fall into the trap of trying to prove their worth by offering unsolicited opinions or making odious comparisons to ‘how we did it at my last job,’ ” she said. “Employers and fellow employees want to know you are on their team now and that you are 100 percent committed. The best way to prove your worth is to be a focused listener to your teammates around you. “
Debra Donston-Miller covers work-life issues and difficult job-search situations for Ladders.