New job? Why the First Few Months Are Critical

Congratulations! After great effort and focused energy, you’ve finally landed a fabulous new position—one that is sure to advance your career and meet your work and personal goals in a way your old position never could.

But don’t stop there. Getting hired is just the first step.

You’ll need to spend as much effort and energy—and maybe more—preparing for and making the transition. This is where it really counts. For the first 3-6 months in any new position, you are in a period of extreme vulnerability.

During this transitional period, everyone in your new company—boss, direct reports, other employees—and even suppliers and customers, are all forming initial impressions of you that will shape their expectations and actions. This dynamic is exacerbated when people in your new company expect you to bring about change within the organization.

This transitional period might even be riskier today than in years past. Shrinking budgets mean less training, reduced staff support, increased workloads and, perhaps most of all, increased expectations for newly hired managers and executives. Should you end up leaving after a short stint, doing so can leave a black mark on your resume, raising questions for future employers about your judgment and ability to assess opportunities before making a career commitment.

So what can you do to assure that your transition is smooth and productive? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask your new company if it will commit to transition support by hiring a coach to work with you. Be bold in your request; you may even choose to make it a point of negotiation. If possible, look to your search firm for coaching support.
  • Use the period before you actually start at your new position to learn as much as you can about the company, its vision, strategies and the industry.
  • Examine the challenges and opportunities of the company, and identify the barriers to success.
  • Talk to people at the new company. What is the culture, and what are the processes? What kind of a team will you have to work with, and who will you be able to depend on?
  • Assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and identify personal vulnerabilities that could come into play in your new position.

Experts agree – failure to create momentum during the first few months virtually guarantees an uphill battle for the rest of your tenure in the job. Building credibility and securing some early wins lay a firm foundation for longer-term success.

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