September 30th, 2009 | 6:00 am

Ask-A-Career Coach: How To Handle The First Days On The Job

filed under Ask A Career Coach

jobsearchContributed by Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart

I am starting a bigger role in a new company. How do I handle messaging, managing my team and the first days on the job in general?

Congratulations on the new role! Even more congratulations are due for recognizing that getting the job is just the first step. Any time there is a big change, be deliberate about how you will handle your first quarter, first half, and first year. Here are some tips for that first quarter:

Listen more. More than what? More than expected. More than you normally do. More than you act and speak. Especially if you are moving into a management role, you may feel a need to jump in and take charge. However, try to avoid quick judgments and use your first quarter to get to know the new landscape. The junior person may have an uncanny sense of how things really work. That long-distance manager may have the influence to derail projects. Take the time to find out who is who and who does and knows what.

Match your short-term objectives with management short-term objectives. I always coach my clients to ask for 30-day, 90-day and annual goals during the interview process. This way, you position yourself better and if you get the job you’re already in a better position. Related to the above point, don’t assume that the 30-day goals haven’t changed but they are a good guidepost for immediate priorities. Keep those in mind and look for ways to move towards these objectives with minimal disruption.

Set your boundaries. As much as I favor using the first quarter to feel your way around before making big moves, this is the time when people get strong signals about what you will and will not do. So while you are likely to work harder during the early days as you get up to speed, if work/life balance is a priority (perhaps even a reason for making this job move) then you need to resist the temptation to work 16-hour days because it sets the bar going forward. If your team had been loosely managed prior to your arrival, start implementing a weekly meeting or other information sharing so they are put on notice that your style is different. If you were promised a certain scope of responsibilities and these seem to be outside your role when you get there, get a clear timetable for when that transition will happen.

By the way, a strategy for the first days is necessary, not just for new jobs but for promotions, new assignments and new supervisors. You need to be deliberate about how you will manage the newness of the environment and role, the uncertainty of the agenda and the new relationships. This is not just another day in the office. This is a new beginning and sets the stage for a new phase in your career.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc. and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others. Caroline is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and a life coach.

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