Getting New Job? Getting Off to a Good Start

Starting a new job can be stressful. You’ve gone from working with familiar coworkers to working with people you don’t know and who are unfamiliar with your capabilities. You’ve gone from being an expert in how to get things accomplished in the workplace to a novice who needs to learn your new employer’s workplace procedures.

However, there are strategies you can use to establish credibility with your new boss and coworkers and learn how to get things done in your workplace.

Strategies you can use include:

  • Implement a self-improvement plan when starting your new job
  • Try to look back on your previous job objectively. Figure out what you could have done better.
  • Socializing on the job with your new coworkers in an appropriate way.

Let’s look at how you might employ each of these strategies.

Implementing a self-improvement plan

Learn what your new manager expects you to know. Use this information to design a self-improvement plan. Your list can include technology, particularly your new employer’s technology. For example, I worked on development of new plastic resins for a chemical manufacturer. Then I changed jobs and learned my new managers expected that I know a lot about water-soluble polymers because another department of my previous employer was a major manufacturer of some of these polymers. I had never worked in this area and knew little about it. However, I made it my business to rapidly learn about this area of chemistry because my new job responsibilities included developing water-soluble polymers for oilfield applications. By the time I had been in my new job a month I was getting introduced as their new water-soluble polymers expert and holding my own in discussions with customers and water-soluble polymer suppliers.

Equally important can be learning procedures on how to get things accomplished in your new workplace. Such procedures can include everything from how to get office supplies to submitting samples for analysis. Don’t be afraid to ask your new coworkers questions. Be sure to remember the answers. Because you are a new employee they won’t mind answering your questions once. However, make sure you remember their answers. Otherwise they may lose patience with you if they find themselves answering the same questions repeatedly. I have found that the real experts in helping you learn workplace procedures are often the laboratory technicians, secretaries and administrative assistants.

As part of your work, you may also need to develop contacts at your new employer’s suppliers and customers. Do this as appropriate in the course of your job. Another way to do this is to meet people at conferences and tradeshows. One way I did this was to volunteer to help my new employer’s sales personnel in staffing our firm’s tradeshow booth at a major oilfield industry conference. The sales staff was dubious at first because they didn’t know me well. By observing me working in the booth, they soon realized that I had learned the technology and interacted well with our firm’s customers and potential customers.

Review your performance in your previous job

Review your performance in your previous job. Determine what you could have done differently or better to improve your productivity and working relationships with your managers and coworkers. Make these lessons part of your self-improvement plant and apply them when and where you can in your new job.

Socialize with your new coworkers in an appropriate way

Company cultures differ in important ways. Learn your new workplace culture and modify your behavior accordingly to be compatible with it. In particular, socialize with your new coworkers appropriately. For example, the custom at your previous employer might have been for chemists to eat lunch alone at their desks. However, at your new employer chemists may go to lunch together and discuss common problems or current situations in the workplace. If your coworkers go out Friday after work for a beer, join them at least occasionally. You don’t have to practice your new behaviors 100% of the time. However, you don’t want to develop a reputation of being “stand-offish” from the group.  Be patient. Soon you’ll be even more comfortable and productive in your new job as you were in your former one.

John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.

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