by Stuart Ridgway, Original Music for Film and Television

Starting a new job is not an unusual occurrence – it’s just not.  Lots of people are changing jobs these days, but getting situated takes time.  I recently commented to my mom that it took me a year to get comfortable for each of my last two jobs.  Ugh.  A year is an awful long time to get yourself established and really start contributing to your team and leading them in your area of expertise.

We just hired a business analyst for our team and I noticed there were several expectations that I had even though we never discussed them. Beyond basic business etiquette there were a few subtle things I hoped he would do to make himself shine. I did some of these myself as a new hire so I thought he’d do them too.  He didn’t always.

I thought everyone knew that they should exhibit all the elements that your manager really wants:

  1. Capability
  2. Positivity
  3. Ownership
  4. Results Focus
  5. Improvement

But perhaps not.

So, I thought I’d write down a comprehensive list for myself to really suss out what’s reasonable and what’s not.  I also added a few tips that everyone should know going into a new job to help navigate hidden land mines.

Get the Lay of the Land

My cousin described her first six months of Peace Corps as getting the lay of the land.  Shut up.  Watch.  Learn.  Similarly, you can’t come into your new job all hard-charging looking to change this new world overnight.  Unless of course you’re the new CXO.

Barring that, you need to discover:

  • Who has the real power and influence
  • What the real (business) needs are
  • How willing people are to accept change

Take the time to get your bearings. You’re usually granted such luxuries by your team so take it. Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and shock everyone with your inability to finish an aphorism.

The (Should-Be) Obvious

Like it or not you are being assessed as you start establishing yourself in your role.  Be smart about the actions you take.

Don’t ask about flexible schedules. No manager wants to hear that you’re focused on things other than your work. Just glean what you can about flexibility and ask later when you’re more established.

Don’t be too familiar.  Get to know people before you get chummy or jokey.  Let them get to know you too so they understand that you have a dry sense of humour and aren’t just weird.

Write stuff down – especially the simple stuff.  I don’t want to have to tell you the same thing twice.

Take notes and then ask questions after.  If you keep interrupting me with questions we’re not going to get through our agenda.  Not good.

Don’t dress casual until you know when/how. I may need you for unexpected high-profile meeting or introduction.  Dress at least as good as, if not better than, your boss/client.

Don’t work from home or deviate from 9-5 until you know how.  Again, I may need you for unexpected high-profile meeting or introduction.

The Not-So Obvious

Don’t ambush me. Just because you run into me doesn’t mean I can talk right that second.  Be respectful of my time.

I Love My Job
I Love My Job

Don’t be demanding.  Yet.  This is your dream job, right?  The last new job you hope to take?  Then you’ve got lots of time to demand things. Note:  That doesn’t mean you should take the bottom of the barrel jobs either, just play your cards at the right time.

Don’t assume!  You’re allowed to not-know.  Try to figure things out then ask questions to confirm.

Don’t quibble over semantics.  Ask questions but don’t quibble.  There are subtleties that you are not aware of, even if I can’t voice them.

Don’t put anything in your calendar that you don’t want to share.  You don’t know who can see it.

Get Up to Speed

Read up on anything we talk about. Especially since you may not have a computer at first and you will have time.

Review your business unit’s org chart. It probably won’t be gospel but it will help you get familiar with the various names and positions.

More importantly, figure out who’s who and what their roles are. Don’t worry too much about their responsibilities unless you report to them. You do not want to be known as a “not-my-job” gnat.

Read through your project’s documentation. This includes:

  • Past minutes
  • Mission statement
  • Past and upcoming deliverables
  • Statement of Work
  • Upcoming agendas

Introduce yourself around. You may find yourself in a culture where people don’t know each other well. You may not be so “new” after all, so introducing yourself gives you a leg up.

Find more than one person who can paint the big picture. Each will have a different view on:

  • The real stakeholders in your work
  • Politics in play
  • Unspoken expectations.

Join the company’s Yammer-equivalent if only to read up in who’s who and what’s what.

If you don’t have computer/phone, share your personal email and mobile phone with your immediate team so you can be invited to meetings and such.

Better yet, bring your laptop and a copy of Microsoft Office if you have it so you can do some work while you’re waiting on equipment.

Best, bring a MiFi or wireless card if you have one in case you can’t get on the company intranet.

Take Care of Yourself

Possession is 9/10ths of the law.  Within reason.  So if you need a stapler grab one from an empty desk.  Have an opportunity to upgrade your chair?  Take it before someone else does!

Make nice with admin, security, parking, and IT support staff.  They work hard, know what’s really going on in the building, and can be valuable resources. Especially in your first weeks.

Learn about hotelling.  What are the bad spots?  Where would you be stuck with a screen glare, under a vent, or next to printer?

Learn about:

  • Joining the water club (if you dare)
  • Sharing someone’s MiFi
  • How to book conference rooms
  • Where a usable (cough) fax machine is
  • Where the best (cleanest?) bathrooms are
  • The rules for using the team’s microwave, coffeemaker, fridge, dishes, etc.

The more homework you can do to learn about the real goings-ons of your team and the ways to make things easier on yourself, the better you’ll shine.

Gripe and Punishment

Gripe:  Able-bodied drivers who park in handicapped spots.

Punishment:  If you see me park in a handicapped spot, you may put pictures of disabled veterans under my windshield wiper reminding me of my selfishness and narcissism. That does of course require that you keep these pictures on hand and that you touch my car.

Just so we’re clear:  Unless you are truly handicapped and cannot easily make it to the front door of a business, don’t park in handicapped spots.  Period.


Stuart Ridgway composes original music for film and television.  You can find out more about his music and the Emmy Award winning television shows he works on at Pyramid Digital Productions, Inc.

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