The New Job: Don’t Dive, Wade

photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious (Creative Commons License)
photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious (Creative Commons License)
Imagine this: Lebron James barrels down the lane for a dunk only to run straight into Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics. Because of the angle and the timing, it’s not immediately clear whether it was a blocking foul or a charge. It is clear, however, that a foul has occurred. So, who does the call go against? Kelly Olynyk, obviously.

Why? Because Kelly Olynyk is a rookie playing limited minutes for a losing team, and Lebron James is Lebron James: a four time MVP, two time champion, and two time gold medalist. In other words, he has a reputation. Olynyk does not because he’s new and it takes time to acclimate and build cred. And that’s not just true for the NBA. Whether you’re a world-class athlete, a teacher, a graphic designer, or an administrative assistant, a new job means learning a whole new set of rules, both written and unwritten.

My plea to you, new employees: take as much time as you need to do this.

I know you’re eager. You want to hit the ground running and start impressing people right away. These impulses are even more intense if you just graduated from school. You’re finally out in the real world, which means you can finally start putting what you learned into practice. Also, you don’t want people to think you’re slacking off, so you tell yourself to hit the gas and start cranking out work.

Well, I’ve got some good news. Observing and learning is not slacking off. It’s playing the long game. You don’t want to rush something to impress your new boss only to have it backfire when you find out you made a mistake on step two, and now you have to pretty much start over, or worse, one of your new coworkers has to go back for you to clean up your mess.

And speaking of your new coworkers, this idea of taking time and observing how things work goes for social interactions in the office too. Are your new coworkers very casual with each other, sometimes even snarky? That’s cool. It’ll be fun when you can partake in that kind of interaction. Not right away, though. These people know each other. They understand each other’s sense of humor and can read below the surface to differentiate between a playfully sarcastic remark and an actual dig. You? They don’t know you yet. They probably want to, though. They probably want to let you in, but that doesn’t mean you should break down the door. In order for them to feel comfortable they need to be the ones to open their world to you. They need to give you the tour, show you where everything is, and tell you what’s off limits.

Those are just some of the reasons you should take things slow when starting a new job; tune in later this week for some practical tips on how to pull this off.

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