You got the job. Congratulations. Now what's your plan for the first 90 days at the new company?
Making a positive first impression is especially important in this situation. Here are a few things to consider when starting a new job outside the military…
Observe and Listen
There may be a few similarities when comparing your new company with the military (one bureaucracy is much like another), but there will be some big differences too. Try to keep in mind that you are stepping into a new organization and culture, so it is important for you to figure out how to fit in. Don't expect them to change to fit with you. And before I forget to say it, you are not "Colonel" Jones any more – you're Mr. Jones or more likely, Bob or Mary.
Keep an open mind and observe how business is done at the new company. Take notes along the way – you may be surprised to learn there are many good things the company is doing. Become familiar with company policies and procedures. Ask questions, but also learn how to find company documents, process diagrams and forms on you own.
Find your way around the building/job site and know where key offices and meeting rooms are located. Learn where to draw/order supplies, where copy machines and printers are located and other important resources. If possible, learn how to operate these systems on your own so you don't have to constantly ask your co-workers for their help (and become a pest).
Your job description is an important document summarizing your responsibilities, but it will not contain everything expected of you in the new position. It is very important to meet with your boss and understand his or her expectations. Ask questions and be sure you have a firm handle on those expectations. Any misunderstanding of the boss' expectations will work against you.
Be sure to discuss the boss' expectations during your "welcome aboard" introductory meeting with your new boss. If you were hired to address and correct an issue or problem for the company (and your boss), this is also a good time to discuss that as well.
Schedule another meeting with the boss two to four weeks after you have been in the job. During this meeting, it is important to discuss your performance goals and to gain a firm understanding of how your performance will be measured. Again, any confusion here will work against you, so you need to ensure both of you clearly understand what is expected of you.
Part of a company's culture is how communications are conducted within the company. This is another area where you need to figure out how to fit in so your communications will be more effective (or as effective as possible). Critical to you is determining how your boss prefers to communicate. If your boss likes to use e-mail, but you keep trying to call him or her on the phone, you will start to irritate your boss (and you may never find this out until it is too late). Use the boss' preferred method and then keep your boss up-to-date.
Another aspect of a company's culture involves meetings and events. Find out when recurring meetings are scheduled and add them to your calendar. It's a good idea for the first 2 to 3 meetings to listen and observe in order to get a feel for the meeting tempo and what is said or not said. This may be one of the first instances where you will notice a big difference from your time in the military. I don't mean the flow or topics – I am referring to the attendees. When you walked into the room for a military meeting you had a good idea of who was who (even if some were strangers) because most everyone wore a uniform. No one will wear a uniform at your company meeting and it is completely possible that the Senior VP shows up in casual clothes while a manager in business development wears a suit. In this case, the suit does not give an accurate indication of "rank." So listening will be important to determine who the "big dog" is in the room…
Like any new command you reported to in the military, it is important to begin building relationships at your new company in order to rapidly assimilate into the company and to be effective in your job quickly. Try to identify people you want to get to know better, but also look for opportunities to network internally and connect with those who will help you and may provide opportunities to advance within the company. Don't be the "know-it-all" as you may alienate your colleagues which will hinder your job effectiveness. And try to avoid saying, "In the Navy (or other Service), we did it like this…" This just tells your fellow employees that you're going to have a problem fitting in.
You will need to build credibility relatively quickly, so positive impressions will matter. Show enthusiasm for your new job and company. Pitch in where you can, even if it is not part of your job description. "Pay it forward" – help someone today and they will help you later.
Last, but not least… exceed the expectations of your boss.
And, an excellent opportunity to connect with your next boss is at the MOAA Career Fair October 18 at the Washington Convention Center Ballroom from 10 am to 3 pm. More details are at www.moaa.org/careerfair.