Remind me how to start a new job
September 8, 2019 10:59 PM   Subscribe

In a month or so I will be starting a new job. It's the first time I've moved in over a decade, and can be considered "late career". (I'm in my 40s.) I would appreciate some advice on how I should approach the first weeks, both from a professional and psychological point of view.

I work in UX design, and I'll be working in a team of similar experience or more junior. Moving from a small company, I've not worked in a team for years. Naturally I want to meet everyone and introduce myself, and also learn more about them and their work. However, I want to avoid it seeming like a portfolio presentation, or interrogation.

I expect I'll meet people as a team, probably also informally after hours, but one-on-one conversations are bound to be more valuable. What's the best way to set it up? Formally, with calendar invites, or let them initiate it? What are general tips for working with creative team members for someone used to doing everything themselves?

Psychologically, my natural tendency is towards imposter syndrome, and I'm bound to feel anxious about seeming "behind" at first. I'm worried I'll over-compensate by talking too much about my past work, in order to "prove" myself. I know it would be better to ask people about themselves and their work, but I don't want to put them under pressure either. (Or waste anyone's time.)

I would enjoy seeing the team's past work and learn about the processes that went into it. I want to learn about their tools and techniques, and share my own knowledge. There are also housekeeping matters to sort out, like my company phone, bank details, expenses etc. Anything else I shouldn't forget?

Or, I might be over-thinking it as I'll probably get thrown straight into a busy project and may have limited time for anything else, initially. But I don't want to waste the opportunity to make a good start.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
How big is this new org? If they are big enough to have teams, they very likely have a structured onboarding process, during which you’ll either get answers to these questions, or will have an opportunity to ask the right person.

Could you follow up with your contact at the company to ask about their onboarding, and what you should expect on your first day?

Some of this will also depend on the kind of business you’re moving to. Is it an agency?
posted by third word on a random page at 12:55 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Although it's aimed primarily at managers and senior leaders taking on a new role or joining a new organisation, the book The First 90 Days has a pretty structured approach to understanding the situation in a company, who people are , and where you can make a difference.
You'd have to just read it with a view to what's applicable to your situation but it might be a good way to make sure you've thought about everything.
posted by crocomancer at 1:56 AM on September 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
The new organisation is also small, closer to a startup. Under 20 people. It's an internal agency of an enormous company (which is overseas), but is run largely independently. However, while I was sole designer in my last role, here I'll be joining a UX team of 10+ people. I doubt they have much in the way of formal onboarding.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:23 AM on September 9, 2019

I expect I'll meet people as a team, probably also informally after hours, but one-on-one conversations are bound to be more valuable. What's the best way to set it up? Formally, with calendar invites, or let them initiate it?

In the absence of a formal onboarding process I'd recommend setting up introductory meetings with all members of the team. Calendar invites are fine I would have thought. (I also think it should be fine to take it off site and do it over coffee to start to build a bit of rapport, but I'm in the UK public sector where that kind of thing is totally normal, and might not be so for a more formal industry.)

More generally, I'd speak less and listen more in my first weeks at a new job as you're getting the lay of the land, even if you're normally quite an extroverted person. I'd also advise saying yes to any invitations to lunch or after-work social events in your first few months, even if you normally prefer to keep work and social life separate. It helps people get the measure of you in a less formal setting and helps start to build relationships.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:39 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm actually involved with creating a formalized onboarding process at my current (~6 months in now) job, and so I'd say to write up a curriculum of how you'd onboard someone to your current job, and then use that as a template for your asks in terms of training and information at the new job. Being prepared with things you want to learn and know helps immensely, especially with an org that's new to onboarding employees.

Also, keep in mind that the onboarding process is thought of as about 2 weeks by employers, but it usually takes a few months for any new employee to reach a comfort level and expertise to get fully productive, so go easy on yourself and ask whatever questions you need to get to where you want to be.
posted by xingcat at 5:47 AM on September 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

As an older developer that regularly jumps into companies with younger counterparts, I have to resist the urge to immediately break into war stories while getting to know my peers. It's incredibly tempting to break into "one time, at band camp...." every time you want to break the ice or relate to something the others are talking about. I've begun to get a little paranoid that doing this irritates the others although they're going to be polite anyway and just let me talk.

My new approach is to be pretty stoic and do a LOT of listening, as Unicorn Chaser suggests. If the others really want to know more about you they'll start asking questions in the vacuum. Then it becomes easy to tell those stories.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:44 AM on September 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

I went though a similar transition about 18 months ago. I went from a small startup to a huge company. One thing I wish I spent more time on at the beginning was understanding all the career coaching and training stuff they offered. I kind of dove right in and had a lot of culture shock, unfortunately I didn’t really start exploring this stuff until about a year in and would of been a lot happier if I’d started using that sooner.
posted by interogative mood at 7:17 AM on September 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of the most useful things I learned in grad school is Hollanders theory of Idiosyncrasy Credits. Very similar concept to the Relationship Bank Account, but for groups. It is very useful for individuals in any group dynamic setting, and especially so if you are new.

Essentially, study the group and its norms of culture, what it values, how it operates, etc. and then be a contributor, thus earning "credit." You can buck the norms of the group occasionally and "spend" some "credits" by asserting your individualism against the group norms, but you should mind your balance and make sure you have a substantial balance of credits to spend. The more fundamental the norm you challenge or bend with your individualism, the more "credits" your idiosyncracy will cost you.
posted by cross_impact at 10:33 AM on September 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

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