Starting a New Job? Set Boundaries Early to Lay the Groundwork for Success and Happiness

Professional woman starting new jobYay! You landed a new job. You finally got the hutzpah to leave the job you hate and start fresh.

But how do you know that this new job will be everything you hoped? How do you even know that it will be better?

The truth is – you don’t. And while there’s so much you can’t control about this new job, what you can take ownership of is how you show up. A new job is a great way to start fresh, develop new habits, and maybe even become the type of employee or manager you’ve always wanted to be.

Plus, not to be a buzzkill, but the only common denominator between all of your terrible jobs is you. So, you know…maybe try changing yourself a bit this time and see if this job will stick a little longer.

Before starting what you hope will be your dream job – or at least a step closer to your dream job – take some time to decide how you want to show up and set yourself up for success from day one. Here are some things to think of – if you think I’ve missed anything, please leave a comment below!

Set Expectations Early

This the one that kills me. People leave a job because they feel overworked or like their boss doesn’t respect boundaries and they start a new job and take the exact same behavior with them – checking and sending emails at all hours of the night, accepting every project that comes their way, and never taking the time to actively seek out the work they want to perform.

Remember – with every interaction you have with your boss or team, you’re training them how to interact with you. If, from day one, you answer every email within ten minutes of receiving it, they’ll expect that behavior going forward. If you’re constantly taking on projects without any regard to how they fit in with your long-term career strategy, you’ll still be at the mercy of your career instead of deliberately choosing your path.

To combat this, take time to specify what wasn’t working at your old job and how you can prevent it from happening here. If you didn’t like having to be in the office at 8am, start your next job by just showing up at 8:30 – don’t ask, just do it. If you didn’t appreciate the expectation to respond to emails immediately, stop giving in to that expectation. Make sure you always follow up on emails that require it, but if you show everyone up front that you’re not just responding to emails all day (because you’re actually working), and that people can still expect you to get back to them, they’ll adjust to your schedule.

When you do good work, which all of this assumes you do, you can get away with more leeway in how you get that work done than you might think.

And Speaking of Good Work…

Your best work should be at the beginning of a new job. Remember – beginnings are delicate times. Again, you are training people to know what to expect from you and you’re getting them used to how you work. Do your best work in the beginning, spend a little time to go the extra mile, and your team and manager will be confident they chose the right person and less likely to micromanage your work going forward.

I worked in three different work environments in my nine years as an attorney. And one thing I learned was that if I showed my team and manager that they could trust me from day one, I got more leeway when my motivation waned years down the road or I just wasn’t that into a project. I’m not saying that it means you get to do “bad” work down the road, but it does mean that people won’t expect it from you and when you are less motivated to give it 110% later down the road, you’ll be glad you earned your early reputation as a great worker to keep your credibility high at down times.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

I’m shocked at how many people try to figure things out on their own at a new company. From workflows to culture, many people feel they have to know the answers or figure it out on their own.

One of the main issues a company struggles with when they hire someone new is getting them up to speed on how the company works and incorporating them into the culture. You can fast track all of that learning and prove yourself early by reaching out to your team.

You’ll get a good feel for a team’s culture by dining with them. Outside of the office, people are more willing to let their guard down and give you important company chatter so you understand how people work. Take a couple people so you can see how they interact with each other, and observe their dynamic with each other.

Professional women learning from each other great way to fast track your transition is to ask your team for downloads on projects you’ve been placed on. If you manage a team, asking your direct reports for their perspective to get up to speed will show them that you respect and trust them and get your management relationship off on the right foot. It will give you an opportunity to learn their working style and you may even see quickly where their strengths and weaknesses lie and what value you can add.

Asking your team – whether you manage them or they are your peers – for their advice and perspective will also help focus your work on the right issues. You were hired to bring new insight, so you’ll still need to review your files or projects from your own perspective, but getting a download from others will help you understand what the current pain-points are so you don’t go too far down the wrong path from day one.

Be strategic and deliberate

When you approach your new role with a strong strategy in place for how you’d like your career to progress and are deliberate with how you behave in the first few months of a new gig, you’re much more likely to stay motivated at work and be happy with the new job you’ve chosen. Start early and be the type of employee or manager you want to be down the road and you may find out this job change was just the right move!

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