You put lots of energy into getting the right job. You created a job search marketing plan with a solid process. You found the right company. They love you. You are ready to start the job.
Really? Are you really ready to jump in and make an impression just because you successfully interviewed? Does a successful job search guarantee that you will be successful on the job?
The process of successfully integrating new employees into a company is called “Onboarding.” The company has an incentive to ensure new employees understand company values, priorities, and initiatives. Onboarding can also include simple activities like supplying your business tools, meeting co-workers and finding the bathroom.
Successful integration (onboarding) increases employee retention – an important measure of company productivity and stability. The problem is many (most?) companies do a terrible job onboarding employees. Do you want to rely on the company to prepare you for success? Or do you want to take your future in your own hands?
Recently I visited my alma mater, Northwestern University, to give a talk to a class of fourth year Industrial Engineering students. The professor, Bill White, is an old boss of mine. Bill cares very much that his students, both undergrad and graduate, successfully transition to the working world.
Why do we care? According to White, research indicates “high performing transitioning leaders will hit a high level of performance more than nine months before average transitioning leaders.”i Putting in the advanced time to prepare yourself to join an organization makes you more successful faster than the average colleague.
Bill wrote a wonderful book, Get Ready, Get Set, Go!, divided into three parts with great tips and worksheets to help you organize your transition into a new role. I’d like to share a few ideas and encourage you to pick up this handy book for your own transition.
Get Ready. Understand your strengths, what you have to offer, and what you want. Self-assessment is crucial to organizing your job search and preparing to start a new job. You should have already prepared this information with that wonderful job search marketing plan you organized to get the job in the first place. If you haven’t, this book offers a wonderful template.
I particularly like the emphasis on emotional intelligence. We can’t really adjust our IQs but we can grow our emotional intelligence (EQ) with some attention. Put some energy into nurturing your emotional intelligence before you start the next adventure. You will reduce conflict and increase chances for success.
Get Set. Understand the company and job you just accepted. How will you work with your boss and your new team? What are their styles and strengths / weaknesses? How do they like to communicate? Nothing undermines a new job than stepping in a pothole because you didn’t have those conversations in advance. Talk to your new co-workers and boss in advance. Research the company in with an eye towards working there. How can you be successful?
Part of getting set is confirming logistics. Do you have the right clothing? Know the way to get to work? Imagine your first days. Pack a lunch or eat out? How will you manage first impressions?
Go! Develop an action plan for your first three months. Based on your research, what is your vision for the future? Go in with an idea then observe and learn to confirm and adjust.
But “Go!” is more than having a plan, it is how you behave to make the best first impression. Smile, be warm and approachable. Make eye contact. I like Bill’s description of being “humbly competent.” Imagine how nice it would be to work with folks who are humbly competent! Be that person!
Your plan must include building relationships inside the company. Network even before arriving by connecting with new colleagues on LinkedIn, having coffee if you can. You did it while looking for a job. Now you do it to establish relationships before you get there. While networking look for possible mentors.
Whether you are just starting out of school or making your fourth career transition, joining a new company is an opportunity to start with a definite plan for success. Creating your onboarding plan like this increases the chances you make a contribution quickly by being aware of group dynamics and issues.
After investing so much time and energy into your job search, why wouldn’t you want to be more successful faster by investing in your own personal onboarding process? Pick up Bill White’s wonderful book, Get Ready, Get Set, Go! and give yourself an onboarding advantage.
iWhite, William. Get Ready, Get Set, Go! WhiteStar Enterprises, 2018. Page 21 Citing CEB, Leadership Transition Series – Volume III, Arlinton, CA 2005, page 93.