Recently changed careers? Now that you have the job — and have figured out how to change careers — here’s what you need to do to keep that new position.
You’ve done it. You’ve pushed past the fear of change, the anxiety of the unknown and made the leap: a major career change.
First of all, congratulations. I know it’s been hard work leaving your comfort zone to actively pursue what could be.
Now that you have the job, let’s focus on what you need to do to keep it. While more people are making big career changes than ever before, it still comes with its own set of unique challenges.
In particular, the one-year mark. This seems to be when everyone starts to get a bit antsy. You’ll start reflecting upon whether you made the right choice, and the organization may have second thoughts about its decision to hire you. On both sides, there can be disconcerting thoughts.
For the individual, it can be: I’m not sure if I fit in here. Is really the right place for me? I’m not sure I’m adding any value.
For the organization, the concern could be: They aren’t exactly who we thought they would be. I expected someone who was completely self-sufficient, would create relationships quickly, and make an impact early.
It’s important to try to make that first year as successful as possible. Here are four ways to help do that:
1. Take someone to coffee every day
Start a streak of asking someone to coffee every day and don’t stop for 60 days.
Inviting someone to coffee can be straightforward. “Jim, I’m new to the organization and I’d love to take you to coffee. Do you have some time this week?”
Then design the conversation with three parts in mind:
- Start with broad questions that will give you a better idea of who they are and what work they do. Please tell me about your career. I’d love to hear about what you are working on. How did you get into this industry?
- Plan to share a couple of points that you hope to take away from the conversation. This will honor both the person and the conversation.
- Think about a request you’d like to make. The simplest would be permission to call on them in the future if a question or need arises. Another is to ask for names of other colleagues they feel you should get to know.
2. Ask for a set of agreements with your supervisor
Agreements set up permission to have frequent discussion about progress and growth. These are my favorites for a supervisor and subordinate:
- “If you have any concern about my performance, please tell me within a week. Anything at all, not matter how small, I would like to know.”
- “I would like to be able to ask about things I find myself wondering, anxious, or concerned; may I do that?”
- “Let’s always be clear about goals and expectations—and if we’re not, let’s talk.”
To keep these agreements alive, ask for a “clearing conversation” once per week for two months, and then every other week for the next four months. This is a simple 15-20 minute conversation each week to clear out any questions or concerns that might arise for either supervisor or employee. The purpose is to not allow anything to build up over time that might interfere with performance or job satisfaction. Everything can be dealt with easily if you discuss it early – left unresolved it can become a big deal that threatens your success long term.
3. Ask for mentoring or coaching
Hiring managers expect that experienced hires should be self-starters who require little supervision. They don’t like to micromanage their staffers, either. A newly hired employee who is also new to an industry or job role may worry that asking for help or mentorship is a sign of weakness.
But people are simply better if they talk, on a regular basis, about how best to maximize their performance. Asking for help in a responsible way — not when you’ve already missed deadlines — will be interpreted as confidence.
4. Aim to be remarkable
This is not as difficult as it seems. If you treat everything you do like it matters, you will be remarkable. (Click here to tweet this quote.) Every conversation, every person, and every moment matters. Prepare for and participate in meetings. Take on work and deliver. Look out for others and offer help. Minimize the distractions in life and concentrate on being present.
Being remarkable is first an attitude before then doing the common things in an uncommon way, day after day. If you work to be at your best, you’ll not only be better. Other people will appreciate working with you.
You made this career change because you imagined a certain future for yourself. Now that you’ve started, keep your eyes on the horizon.
Paul Axtell has spent the last 15 years designing and leading programs that enhance individual and group performance within large organizations. He is also the author of the new book Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversation.