How do I job?
March 10, 2023 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I would like to know what to expect on my first few days / weeks at my new work?

i have mainly freelanced my entire career. I just landed a director level job at a large institution. I'm very excited. But as it's that level, I'm curious how the first few weeks go. It's not like I'm entry level and will be told what to do, and because of the pandemic, I am not replacing anyone, I'm part of a rebuild.

It's a large institution, I will be running an arts department. If this were freelance, I would know the job requirements, but this is next level. I'll be managing staff. Lots of meetings. Creating new programs. So... what's going to to happen on the first few days? Part of me imagines I am shown to an office, and then they shut the door, and it's like, now what?

I don't want to scare the folks I'm going to be managing, so I'm looking for a few tips on what to expect by those who have been there. What's the training when there is no one in the job at present, and what can I expect to have to be ready for?
posted by miles1972 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming you have some kind of supervisor, yeah? If so, you'll probably meet with them to discuss "here's the kinds of things we're hoping you can help us with" at some point during your first week, so you'll have some kind of idea of what they actually want you to do.

But your first day they're probably going to be getting through all the necessary HR/payroll/financial stuff that every employee goes through - how to set up your payroll direct deposit, where to find the printer, where they keep the pencils, who to call if your desk falls apart, etc.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:45 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Just like meeting with whoever your supervisor-person is, it would also be a "green flag" for your staff if you met with each of them personally and got a sense of what is important to them, what they're hoping for your role to achieve. Any discrepancies between their bottom-up perspective and your supervisor's top-down perspective might constitute an important or ambiguous part of your job!
posted by xueexueg at 1:53 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]

Part of me imagines I am shown to an office, and then they shut the door, and it's like, now what?

Well, start by not closing the door.

Yea to meeting individually with anyone who reports to you. Ask them about what they’d like to do. It wouldn’t be a terrible idea to take them all out to lunch, too.

The you’ll probably meet with heads of other departments. They’ll probably have a lot of unsolicited suggestions for you; keep track of those.

Then once you’ve met everyone, go back to whoever you report to and discuss what everyone said. Then your boss will tell you what to do.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:20 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]

The first week is generally HR mandated stuff and then just meeting with various people. It’s also common to have 30/60/90 day expectations at a larger org so you wouldn’t be out of bounds to ask your supervisor about this
posted by raccoon409 at 2:25 PM on March 10

I am a fan of Andrew Bosworth's Career Cold Start Algorithm for getting started with a new team/project/job. I have used it multiple times to great success.
posted by saeculorum at 2:26 PM on March 10 [12 favorites]

Yeah, set up meetings with everyone who you'll manage, and I think individual lunch/coffee meetings are better than something more formal- people will feel more comfortable opening up. What do they like and not like about their jobs and the company, what do they think could change, what are their goals? Basic listening tour to start with.
posted by pinochiette at 2:31 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

Your job the next few weeks is to make them glad they hired you, and to start to formulate the who what when where why and how you will accomplish what they want you to accomplish.

You’re on a listening and learning tour. The connections you make and the info you gather now will be what guides your more concrete plans. You’ll likely be scheduled to meet with your supervisor and other important stakeholders.

If you’re not already scheduled for these meetings, ask your supervisor who’s who and schedule these yourself.

You’ll likely be given assignments, but on a very high level, like “we want to focus on development.” If you’re not given these, they will emerge anyway in the course of discussions.

Ask questions and take notes. Ask them if they had a magic wand what they would change about your program or department or whatever. Don’t promise anything. Have your “welcome to me” spiel planned because you’ll be telling it 100 times. Who you are and why you’re here and what you’re working on.

You’ll also want to meet your staff in informal way as a group to start on a high note, and then each 1:1. As them about themselves and their roles and any roadblocks they commonly face. Again, don’t promise anyone anything.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been in an office, observe their norms about how they dress and talk, how meetings are scheduled, their calendar and messaging systems, when people start and end the day, all that.
posted by kapers at 3:00 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]

The First 90 Days is a great guide for leaders in any kind of transition like this.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:31 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]

I work in a nonprofit organization that has a horribly dysfunctional onboarding process. Hopefully your new organization is better. You've been given great advice here, so my only suggestions are on the lighter side.

Find out who the toxic employees are and avoid them if you can. The gossipers, the ones that don't seem happy to be there, the ones that use sarcasm and/or eyerolls and point out how effed up everything is.

Ask what the processes are for booking conference rooms, how to process invoices, calling out sick, where to get additional supplies, etc. Even if you won't have to do those things on a regular basis, it can be frustrating when they do come up and you don't know what to do or who to ask. Chasing down these processes are a time suck and waste productivity, believe me.

Find out where the good lunch places are, where the good coffee is.

Good luck!
posted by sundrop at 6:58 AM on March 12

I recently had a conversation with a coworker who was on his way to manage a new site. He said he never made big changes in the first six weeks; that that time was all about learning how the new place worked.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:25 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

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