New job? Communication might be your key skill

Find out how to fit in, work well with others to make your career take off

By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

NancyGoingProHere’s what getting a new job looks like these days: bosses are working in different time zones so communication is challenging, departments are being down-sized so the workload is twice what it was, and everyone is talking about being a team player. It’s no wonder people are so worried about having to fit in and thrive at their new job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that men and women change jobs an average of every 4.6 years. So, no matter your age, here are some tips that may help you get through this exciting, albeit nerve-wracking transition of being the new kid in the workplace.

Tip #1: Listen. Yes, this is the most important secret to success in your new job, yet unfortunately, most people don’t seem to remember it. Take the time to figure out the landscape and culture before being too assertive. No one wants to hear too much from the newcomer, no matter how much you think you can add to the team.  Learn with your eyes and ears and keep your comments to a minimum, and If you do have something to say, say something complementary.

Tip #2: Be on time. That’s right – it’s the number one thing bosses complain about. Being on time doesn’t mean walking in at 8:59am when the expectation is for you to be there by 9am. In fact, a friend of mine who has worked at the same insurance company for the last 25 years, rose from a receptionist to a partner, and the main comment from all her colleagues as she was rising up through the ranks was that she was the first person in the office. It makes a difference.

Tip #3: Remember names. I’m not very good at this either, but I do make a solid effort to remember everyone I meet and say their names out loud. It means a lot to people to hear you say their names. Don’t be shy about asking people how to pronounce their name; they’d rather you ask, then for you to say it wrong. To help yourself remember your colleagues names, either look on the company’s website for an organizational chart or create your own upon meeting new people.

Tip #4: Be excellent at your job. There is too much competition out there to just be “good” at your job, and the best way to get job security is to do your job better than anyone else. Go in with a thorough understanding of what is expected of you at your job, and make sure you get it in writing. Review weekly for yourself how you are managing the company’s expectations. If you need more guidance or support, don’t hesitate to ask for it. If you need to stay late to get all the work done, do so without a complaint.  In addition, if you know you need more education of any sort to be successful, just do it. In other words, do what it takes to be great and don’t settle for ok. However, that is not to say to boast about your successes to your colleagues. Stay focused on the prize; the accolades, promotions, and/or bonuses will come soon enough.

Tip #5: Be a team player.  You’ve all heard the buzz – everyone in the workplace wants the new hire to be likeable, cooperative, and a team player. In addition, with so many demands and so much stress in the workplace, everyone wants a new hire to be helpful. So, while you are learning about the culture, try asking if any of your colleagues could use a little help. Don’t be upset if and when they give you some menial work; it’s work someone has to do. I’m confident that if you humbly do a great job for them with something simple, they’ll sooner than later be asking you for help with more important work. In fact, my husband still believes his career skyrocketed so quickly when he first entered the workplace because he was always offering his bosses to do their job and look good. He was wise enough to know that the better they looked, the sooner they were promoted and thus so was he.

Good luck!


Nancy Plummer is Founder of the Elite Empowerment & Education Council, empowering individuals and groups to transform their personal and professional lives.

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