A new job? Scared whether you’ll fit the bill? Two experts give insight on how to crack the new workplace and make your presence felt.
One of the toughest parts of a success story at work is managing a good beginning. Entering a new work environment is often accompanied by nervouse jitters about your ability to adjust. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith into what can possibly be an upward learning curve in your career graph. While getting a new job boosts your pride, it also makes you fear the unknown. It requires a level of confidence that you may have forgotten you possess. All you need to do to overcome the stress is to understand the reasons for your anxiety and look for ways to dissolve each one. While the reasons for a shift in industry or just between organisations may vary at an individual level, the solutions are usually common to all. This month, two HR professionals— Ashwin Shirali, head, human resource, Accor India, and Bhawana Pandey, head, human resource, Protiviti Consulting give— expert advice on managing a new workplace while two women share with us their experience of breaking the ice.
The basic mantra to begin conquering a new office space is keen observation. “From your boss’ behaviour to the kind of relationship shared between your new teammates, it is important for one to gauge the new environment through observation,” says Shirali. To understand the environmental DNA of the new organisation, it’s essential to realise that you will have to be the one making adjustments more than your new colleagues. Before you can decide what exactly your contribution is going to be, act like a sponge and soak in as much of the culture as possible. “Be receptive to the hierarchies in the organisation and the mode of communication between workmates,” adds Shirali.
First impressions last the longest. It’s essential thus to
pay attention to the finer details like dress codes and office protocol with regard to addressing seniors. Divya Khare, 26, a corporate communications manager, found this to be one of the biggest challenges when joining a new office.“I came from an advertising background where the environment was far more casual. With a corporate set- up, everything was not ‘ cool’ anymore. I had to adjust to a more formal manner of dressing, as well as interacting with my colleagues,” she says. Building a good professional relationship with your colleagues is of utmost importance. Don’t get too personal from the very beginning, since work relations established in the initial stage are not easy to backtrack on. “If you’re joining at a junior level, give yourself time to determine who you want to share a more personal rapport with,” explains Shirali. This is especially true if you’re transitioning from being a student to a professional which, often, “requires a change in mindset. The candidate needs to understand that expectations will be drastically different when they step into the corporate world,” says Pandey.
Next in the line of lessons is what we learnt in school— do your homework well. When all the information you need is a mere click away, it should be your priority to study your future role thoroughly. Even if it means updating yourself by way of taking a crash course on the latest technologies you may have to use, it will be well worth the investment. “You might even want to approach your future manager about homework you could do before joining,” says Pandey. For Lavanya Tagra, 29, a client services professional in an advertising firm, it was the prior research that helped her blend into her new profile, “My previous job was that of a programmer in an IT firm. But my goal was ultimately to be a part of the client servicing industry. The only way I could achieve that was through extensive research,” she says. Despite all the theoretical research, a few things are meant to be learnt on the job. Your research is only a way to arm yourself for facing practical realities.
While being appointed for a new position is exciting, one of the first concerns you face in a new workplace is the ability to deliver. “It wasn’t so much the environment that bothered me. I questioned myself about my capacity to cope with the new profile. It was self- created pressure,” says
Khare. More often than not, it is this anxiety mixed with the ‘ last hired, first fired’ phenomenon that makes you inflict stress upon yourself. To deal with this, one needs to initially focus on understanding one’s role completely before stressing over performance levels.
These performance indicators are even more relevant for those who join at a senior level. The expectations are higher and the time to adjust is shorter. “Fulfilling responsibilities of the role must run parallel to the process of blending in,” says Shirali. A simple yet effective way to understand the team you’re expected to run is to start by having lunch or taking coffee breaks together. It helps you gauge the kind of individuals they are and the relationship they share with each other. On a more professional level, “driving initiatives along with the team or using a participatory approach is important to ward off professional insecurities,” suggests Pandey. An important aspect to bear in mind is also how you integrate your personal working style with the existing ethic of the new company. “Asking relevant questions during the interview can you help you assess the work ethic of the organisation and make the necessary changes in your own style of work. As long as the environment is ethical, the adjustment is easy,” says Pandey. Sometimes, the clash of styles is so dramatic that the fine- tuning on your part becomes too stressful. At times like these, it is best to move on to an organisation that is more suited to your personality.
Usually, these extreme differences in working styles are magnified in a new cultural set- up. Getting a job in another country or city can take your anxiety to a whole new level. When the basic markers of your life such as language and food change, the efforts to adapt will have to be just as drastic as the shift you are expected to make. “In such cases, one should not carry their home around with them. It’s important to engage with the local population and understand basic socio- economic dynamics,” says Shirali. The approach towards work is often different in new cultures. To understand them is the first step. “Being aware of the cultural differences can work to your advantage and help you assimilate better,” says Pandey.
Getting a new job is one of the many firsts in your life. And the only way to conquer your fears is by facing them head-on. No matter how awkward and painful the shift may be, it’s important to keep reinventing your skill- set and learning from greater challenges.