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chapter 13
the first 30 days

Make the first 30 days of your new job count. Don’t miss any opportunities to make a positive first impression on your co-workers, your supervisor and the other members of your organization.
To ensure your career has a strong launch, take this approach with your new job:
  • Recognize that every newcomer to a job has to go through a process of proving oneself and will initially likely be given the least interesting and lowest-value tasks to perform. Treat this as a learning experience and opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to meet deadlines and handle greater responsibility.
  • From the beginning, establish a practice of under-promising and over-delivering on any assigned tasks and projects. Early on, you need to establish a reputation that you can be depended upon to do what you say you are going to do, including meeting deadlines and being punctual at work and meetings. Your punctuality will signal your dependability.
  • It pays to adopt a sense of urgency in pursuing your tasks. Procrastination is definitely a vice. As the author Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Be action oriented. Avoid distractions such as surfing the Internet, checking your social media sites and wasting time in excessive social chatting at the office.
  • Get into a productive daily work routine. Use a print or electronic diary to plan your future work, listing the calls, principal tasks, meetings and deadlines you have to attend to on a daily basis. Also, record your future travel dates and plans in this diary. For this purpose, I prefer to use an annual bound print diary that allots one page for each day of the year.
  • Develop your own system for keeping on track in planning and scheduling what you need to accomplish each day, week and month. Consider adopting the practice of taking time at the end of each day to review your “to-do list” for the next day. Do the same at the end of each week and month in order to plan the following week or month. Allow for interruptions, unanticipated demands and review times. Remember the rule of 5 P’s — “prior planning prevents poor performance”.
  • Establish priorities for the major issues and opportunities that you have to concentrate your attention on. Keep them limited to a maximum of three to five. You cannot attack everything at the same time. Break up big challenges and projects into smaller, more manageable pieces to avoid getting snowed under. If it helps to do so, make written to-do lists for each of your principal tasks. Often, what you need to do first is what you most want to postpone doing.
  • Be friendly and collegial with all work colleagues, especially during lunch and other breaks. Make an effort to learn about their families and non-work passions. Remember and use their names as much as you can. People always respond more positively if you use their names in talking to them. When you go to a meeting, map out the table or meeting area and put down the names of everyone in the correct place.
  • Your best orientation to your job and organization will come from asking a few of the right questions of co-workers, other employees, customers and suppliers and then demonstrating your skills as a “great listener”. Do not assume you know what is truly important to your supervisor, co-workers and organization. Often, things are different from what you were initially told to expect or how they appear on the surface. Size up how the organization really operates and decisions are made. Become aware of the conflicts and tensions that may exist in different parts of the organization.
  • Find out which parts of your job your predecessor did really well and “go to school” with that person on how he or she did them.
  • As soon as you can, spend time out of the office visiting the field operations of your organization, especially at the level where customers and clients are served. Become customer-grounded. This is a vital part of your company orientation. If you are in a support function, spend some time working with those you are supporting. Put yourself in their shoes. For example, if you are working in the head office of a retailer, ask to be able to work in the stores for at least two weeks before you assume your office responsibilities. When you do so, dress for working in the store, not as you do for the office.
Keep these other points in mind as you start your new position:
  • Go above and beyond your job description. Take the initiative to improve the practices of your job and the performance of your department. Adopt a thrifty mindset. Always be watchful for ways to save money and time. In the end, the lowest-cost operators in an industry are invariably the most successful.
  • Try to keep calm and cool when you are under pressure. Avoid becoming burdened with feelings of fear and frustration. Never, never allow yourself to lose your temper regardless of the provocation. If necessary, count to ten and unplug, even if it is only to go for a walk around the block. Such negative emotions only serve to sap your energy level.
  • Keep track of the names of other people’s secretaries or assistants inside and outside the organization. Often, these individuals can be extremely helpful in arranging appointments and telling you when is the best time to meet their boss. Like everyone else, they will always be more receptive to doing so when you use their names in talking to them.
  • Do not be a totally “open book” for everyone at work. Preserve some mystic about yourself and what makes you tick. Do not confide in anyone at work, including the human resources department, about your personal problems or social life. Be especially careful about not including any such information in e-mails sent by you from the office. Just because you ask someone to keep what you say confidential does not mean he or she will do so.
  • Keep your opinions about others at work or what the organization is doing to yourself. Both inside and outside the organization, never express critical views about your superiors or co-workers to anyone, no matter how strong your feelings are in this regard. Refrain from saying anything about someone that you would not say if that person was in the room.
  • Treat all sensitive information about your organization and its customers and suppliers as being totally confidential. Never discuss such information with anyone outside of your organization. Be extremely discreet regarding what you say on elevators, escalators, planes and public transportation. Remember the World War II dictum: “Loose lips sink ships.”
  • Be on guard against engaging in any company gossip or politics. Lou Gerstner, when CEO of IBM, said it best: “I can’t stand politics in an institution. I will not tolerate people who criticize others at their own game, who’ll say, ‘This person’s not doing his or her job,’ or, ‘That part of our company isn’t performing well.’ If we want to criticize, let’s go beat up on our competitors. But we’re all in it together, and that teamwork was important to IBM.”
  • Do not become part of a clique at work. Be friendly to everyone but do not rush into friendships there. Avoid excessive socializing after hours with work associates, especially if it involves drinking alcohol. Although this is a common practice in some countries, I regard frequent after-work drinking as a huge waste of time and money.
  • Assess the education requirements for doing your job superbly. Find out which are the best trade journals, blogs and business publications for keeping on top of what is going on in your industry and related fields. Start reading them on a regular basis after work. Attend trade shows. Consider enrolling in some online or night courses at local educational institutions to shortcut your learning process work-wise.
After the first 30 days, ask to meet with your supervisor to get some feedback on how he or she thinks you are performing your job and obtain some suggestions for improving your work. Listen, do not argue.


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