ICE BREAKER

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.

India Today - - WORKPLACE WOES - By KRUTTIKA KALLURY AND OLINA BAN­ERJI

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.

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