Coping with job transition can be a challenge. I recently had a call from a client who had just been offered a job based on a CV that I had written for him. He was excited about the job offer however he knew that the person who he was replacing was very popular, had the full support from his team and produced outstanding results; unfortunately he had to stop working for health reasons. My client was really concerned about how he could fill this man’s shoes and get the team on his side!
After reminding my client that he was more than capable of doing the job and the company obviously realise this or they would not have appointed him, we began to look at his other concerns. After chatting for a while, we came up with an action plan for him. As soon as possible after starting the new job, he would call a meeting with his team and ensure them that he had a lot of respect for their old boss, that he was aware of what they had achieved under his management and that he was not there to ‘replace’ him. The aim of this was to re-assure the existing team that he was being brought in to do a job and that the continued success of the team depended on him getting their support to get up to speed as fast as possible and that any changes would be clearly explained and discussed with the whole team.
While this approach may not work in every case, it proved to be the right approach for this particular company.
What this shows is that a job transition; whether starting a new role, moving to a more senior position or just taking on more responsibilities at work, requires you to take time to plan ahead in order to ensure that you make a positive impact when you start.
This can be difficult especially if you do not know exactly what challenges lie ahead. However, there are several steps that you can take which will help you learn the new role quickly and allow you to show that you can add value. Here are my top 7:
- Make sure that you completely switch off mentally from your old role and don’t assume that any successes you previously had will automatically bring you success in your new role.
- As soon as possible, make time to learn about and understand the products, services, markets, corporate culture and company politics.
- Start to develop an action plan and find opportunities where you can easily build credibility, create value and improve business results.
- Work on building a strong working relationship with your boss and your team in order to quickly gain the support of both. It may be that you need to make some changes within your team to ensure that you have the right people in the right positions as this is key to the success of the entire team as well as your own.
- Identify people within the organisation who can help you to achieve your business objectives and find ways to help them in return as a strong network will increase your success rate.
- Get your work/life balance right. When starting a new position, it is easy to get over absorbed in it which has the potential for isolating you just at a time when you need a strong support network.
- Help others with their transitions particularly within your team as the quicker they can get up to speed the quicker team performance will improve.
The above are based on three years of research into leadership transitions at all levels and if you are interested in finding out more you can read Watkins, M. (2003) Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels: The First 90 Days, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press