How to succeed in a new role in the first 6 weeks

A new role is an opportunity to shine, you've won the application race and now you can enjoy the journey of getting to know the role, the people and the environment. This is a guide to your success in the first 6 weeks.

How to succeed in a new role in the first 6 weeks

A new role is an opportunity to shine, you've won the application race and now you can enjoy the journey of getting to know the role, the people and the environment. This is a guide to your success in the first 6 weeks.

Success in a new role – the first 6 weeks

Whether you have been promoted within a company or moved to a new company, a new role is a huge opportunity. An opportunity to bring your backpack of knowledge and experience to shine. The hard process of applying and getting the role is over, now you have a probationary term to prove you were worth it.

Whilst this period will be longer than the first 6 weeks, 6 weeks is usually enough time for you to get a feel for the role, know if it was the right move for you and where you can help.  It is also enough time for most of the team to get a good impression of you. 

Feelings and emotions

However you arrived into the role, you may well have emotional baggage or feelings that came from the previous roles, as well as new ones for the new role.  It is important to remember the positive reasons for the change, the fact that you made it through the application process and THEY CHOSE YOU.

Often at the start of a new role, and particularly in the first 6 weeks, things can be overwhelming.  There will be a whole new internal language to learn (most organisations have their own plethora of three letter acronyms to master) and terminology to adjust to. Forgive yourself here if you mix old role and new role terminology and remember to ask forgiveness from others while you adjust.

Newbie Licence

As well as your own emotional adjustment, there may well be a lot of physical adjustments too. A new office, new equipment, new software / processes / tools. Even the basics of getting set up on the company HR systems can take time and if you haven’t changed roles / companies for a while it can seem like a mammoth task!

A Newbie Licence is therefore the imaginary card you can carry with you that is like a ‘get out of jail free’ card. The one that enables you to ask every question, even more than once, to enjoy a few weeks of getting to know your new surroundings and meeting lots of people. I love a Newbie Licence! 

Remember to use it to its full potential within the early stages. Try not to let any unfamiliar term pass by without qualifying the meaning. It is hard to pipe up in a conversation with ‘can you tell me what that means please’ in fear of halting a discussion, but, your Newbie Licence gives you free reign to do so – OR – keep a note of the term and ask later. But make sure you do!

Experience and knowledge

We all have a backpack full of experience and knowledge we bring with us to a new role. And these things are both very different. Knowledge is something we know, but may not have had the opportunity to apply in practice. Experience is the application of something to gain an appreciation of it. I learned recently that Experience is key.

Therefore, whenever you are in a situation with new colleagues, be totally honest as to your level of knowledge vs experience with particular processes / tools, etc. This will prevent you being thrown into the fire and losing that much required respect from your new organisation.

Along with your Newbie Licence, being open, honest, friendly and helpful are some of the keys to success.

Meeting the Team

As you progress through the first 6 weeks, there will be opportunities to speak to people on a 1-2-1 basis to gain an acquaintance. Your manager and the immediate team may have suggestions as to whom you should meet and what knowledge you should be gaining. I have found it is particularly effective to have a list of things to ask individuals to help gain an overall picture of what you have walked into.

There will always be the ‘who they are and where they came from’ element, with any new introduction, I have also asked questions related to their challenges / pain points, the things they love about working in the company and any key hints / tips they would share with someone coming to their role. 

Other knowledge to glean from this round of introductions (sometimes called a ‘Listening Tour’), is the key saved links / bookmarks these individuals have and their ‘go to’ gurus for particular things. This can help you shortcut fixes / queries you have in the future.

Whilst this is an intro round, you are in research mode, so even if things seem unimportant to remember or keep at the time, they may become like gold dust as you move further into the role. Keep it all!

Keep notes / definitions / terms

Note everything down. Save those links / bookmarks, the lists of people, the challenges, the gurus, the terminology. Not only does this form into your ‘manual’ of knowledge for your role as you settle in, but it can be invaluable if/when you leave your role as something to pass on to the next person. Trust me, these forms of notes can win you huge brownie points from your successor.

In actual fact if you handover in such a detailed and organised manner, there may be less need for others to contact you when you move on.  This is of particular use if you have an inter-company move, where people can still contact you! A golden tip in this situation is to set an automatic email reply that will run for at least a month after your move to explain to any ‘ex-colleagues’ from the previous role, that you have moved on and who the new contact is.  

You can also consider, if you move to a new company, adding an auto response or a line to your email footer that you are new in role and for individuals to have patience with you as you settle in. Managing expectations in those first 6 weeks or more is paramount.

Success in a new role - the Caterpillar to Butterfly journey

Be patient

In most cases, your first 6 weeks or more will be your caterpillar phase in your job learning and development cycle. Even the most experienced of individuals will have to learn to crawl before they can walk / run when switching roles.

It is important to remember that and use your Newbie Licence to give yourself permission to take it all in. Remember that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth – use them in that ratio. There is plenty of time to establish your imprint on the organisation, so build up to it.

As the weeks progress you will pass the caterpillar phase, you will start to get projects to work on, tasks to perform, which will enable you to take all of the knowledge you have gained, use your own experience and metamorphosize into the successful butterfly you are seeking to become.

Remote onboarding

Both the Harvard Business Review team and I will agree, one of the hardest ways to join a new company / new role is remotely. You will spend a longer time getting to feel the culture and values that the company lives by and how work is done. A lot of your activities will be self driven and many of the calls initially will be 1-2-1. 

In as many cases as possible, use your camera on the first call. Some will be comfortable to do this in every call, others may not. Be comfortable however the other party receives you. There may be network bandwidth issues that prevent the camera being used, there could have been a high pressure week prior to your conversation that has them arriving frazzled, or there may be ‘more important things’ they need to give their attention to. 

Never assume that the way someone initially joins a call is due to you. They may not know what your role is, why you are asking to speak with them or even what the point of the conversation is. Try to include as much of that in your invitation as you can, but also forgive them if they have not read it. 

Whatever happens, ensure your immediate boss is happy with the way you are settling in and always confide in them when you have issues or need help. That Newbie Licence is your protection!

Enjoy the journey

It is hugely important that the first 6 weeks are exciting, positive and fun. You want to look for all the positives, make brilliant connections and feel like you can help. Use your Newbie Licence as a ticket to ask anything, learn, develop ideas and get to know your environment. This phase is only a short period and it should be enjoyed. 

Like a honeymoon after a wedding, when the rose-tinted glasses are on, you should enjoy the end of the application process, the newness of the situation and the joy of being welcomed.

Conclusion

A new role is a gift, an opportunity. You won the application process, you are the chosen one, it is now time to enjoy that fact and use that to settle you into the role. That caterpillar phase will be over soon enough. Given the right opportunities you can start to make an impact and flourish into that beautiful butterfly stage, where your contributions are noticeable. 

I have made this kind of move 4 times in the last 6 years, through promotions and restructuring. If you are facing this situation and want support, contact me here and I’ll jump into the passenger seat to help navigate. 

Your butterfly stage awaits!

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