A new arrival: advice on starting a new job

Make a good impression from day one in a new job, says CSP chief executive Karen Middleton.

Having previously written about looking for a new job, then about applying for one, the next step is to give you my thoughts on starting a new job.
Let’s talk about leaving your old one first. Whatever the reason for going, do so properly and mark the event. This is important, both for you and those left behind. Leaving has often been described in terms of a bereavement, and it can be very emotional.
Whatever time you to have manage your departure, you will never feel you’ve sorted everything out. I have often experienced that feeling of ‘they’ll now find out all the things I haven’t done’. I have learnt to recognise this and just do my best.
In a new job in a new organisation, remember that people will be forming their opinions from the minute you enter. Be yourself and be authentic. Err on the side of humility but don’t get sucked into such self-deprecation that people start to wonder why you were appointed.
Whether you are taking up a clinical, managerial or leadership post, I also urge you not to be naive. Find out if there were internal applicants who didn’t get the job and be sensitive to their situation. I usually approach this head on rather than avoid the subject. You may need to be sensitive to the fact the existing staff may be missing the colleague who has left. Also be very aware of people trying to curry favour with you in those first few days. It may be genuine but I have been caught out by people who have an ulterior motive.
In posts with a managerial or leadership role, the phrase ‘your first 100 days’ has become very common. This refers to making your mark quickly, especially in making changes. But making changes quickly can mean they are less well-thought through.
I usually try to maintain the status quo, unless there is something pressing, for about three months. I observe and listen but also take notes of the things I think either need changing, could be done better or simply don’t make sense. I review my notes a few months in. This way you have the benefit of ‘new eyes’ on a team, service or organisation but also the time to come to understand whether there is a good reason for things that didn’t make sense before. 
During this period, be careful not to refer back too much to where you used to work. I am guilty of this and know it can irritate the team or service you have joined. 
Do take the opportunity being new gives you to meet with other people you need to work with in other teams, key leaders in the organisation and perhaps external people like planners or commissioners. Get the right level of seniority that you need to aim for. 
You probably only get one chance to get your systems and processes right before ‘stuff’ takes over. Try to spend some time thinking about them before it’s too late. 
Don’t forget the unwritten rules that any team, service or organisation has, such as knowing, without being told, when it’s your turn to buy the biscuits for the coffee table. You may discover them by ‘breaking’ one inadvertently. This is usual organisational life.
If you are lucky, an induction programme will be planned before you arrive. But we must all take personal responsibility for our own healthy start in any new organisation.
And even if you don’t move team, service or organisation, but you have a new role, much of the above still applies. 
Starting and finishing in organisational life are so important to our health and wellbeing. Do take the time to try and get it right for you.


Got a question for Karen?

Do you have a question for Karen about applying for a job, taking on a leadership role or a management issue?

Drop her an email and she’ll try to answer your question in this column (suitably anonymised of course!)


Karen Middleton

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