I changed jobs, companies and industries in April, moving from the world of semiconductors to cleaner and cheaper energy.
Transitions are opportunities for change, and so recently I’ve been reflecting on lessons learned from my previous position as well as the range of possibilities in my new role. Accordingly, I offer the list below as a catalyst to your thinking in connection with any transitions that you make or create.
Get the Word Out. It is not enough to just update your LinkedIn profile and Facebook page. Should you take a new position, remember to notify people outside of your work environment who are expecting time-dependent deliverables from you in advance. This will prevent panic when the editor of the magazine for which you write a column e-mails a deadline reminder to you, which triggers an auto-response saying, effectively, “No one with that name works here anymore, and we can’t tell you where he’s gone.”
More seriously, use transitions to update your networks. Be mindful of implied, or actual, preening. Consider saying “thanks” to those who put you on the path to where you are, including the teachers who got you through sentence diagramming or the periodic table.
Grace and self-knowledge are scarce commodities. Transitions provide a great opportunity to add to the supply.
Use Your Honeymoon. Whether you are changing industries, companies or merely office locations, create and use a honeymoon period.
Announce that you initially want to just listen and learn. Survey your new clients about what they liked and disliked about your predecessor’s approach. If the position is new, ask how you can make your clients’ and co-workers’ lives easier. Remember, however, to simultaneously manage their expectations.
The important point here is to make clear to everyone, including your boss, that you’re taking stock and that all parties can expect concrete actions to follow in due course. Many management books talk about how to use your first 90 days; read them, or at the very least scan the reviews on Amazon.com. Don’t just roll up your sleeves and dive in. Transitions–whether a new job or a new year–are precious; use them to your advantage.
No Dilbertian Edicts. Do you ever read the Dilbert comic strip and get the feeling that it’s mocking a practice that is eerily close to home? Thank goodness Catbert is the evil human resources director; he could easily have been the general counsel.
Particularly in a new role, try to avoid creating new comic content. Do you really need to update the text of your predecessor’s boilerplate quarterly company-wide e-mail? It can be hard to resist marking your territory by marking up a policy. But if it’s only bugging you, consider leaving it alone. Being judicious is probably the hallmark of being an attorney.
No Al Haig Moments. The obituaries that noted General Haig’s recent passing catalogued an impressive list of his accomplishments. And yet what most people will remember is his breathless declaration that he was in control, particularly because, on many levels, he was not.
In fairness, the president had just been shot; your initial tests are unlikely to be that dramatic. In any new role, however, your colleagues will be looking to see what you’re made of. At the right time, you may well need to indicate that you’re in charge, and that your constituents are going to have to live with your calls.
But as Robert Rubin once said, never make a decision until you have to. As I reflect on my own lessons learned, one of them is to be patient. In corporate life, you generally have more time to take a position than you think. I tend to be more “Ready, Shoot, Aim.” In my new role I’m going to try to tweak that a bit.
And as the old tagline goes, never let them see you sweat.