Back in the “New Girl” Career Seat

By: Caroline Dowd-Higgins

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My work as a career and executive coach has provided me with many opportunities to prepare individuals for intensive interview and salary negotiations for new roles. Recently, I accepted a new and exciting career opportunity, which has heightened my empathy for the vulnerability a candidate feels while navigating a rigorous selection process. It’s been six years since I was in the interview hot seat myself!

As the “new girl” in my organization, I have strategies to share for anyone taking on a new role. I’m ready to put these ideas into practice in my new workplace.

Listen more, talk less.

Absorb information as an active listener and honor others with your undivided attention. Curiosity and asking questions is encouraged, but avoid talking about your previous employer and “how you did it this way at XYZ company” all the time. Allow time to observe the new culture and chime in when you have meaningful things to share. It’s okay to watch, listen, and learn at the start.

Establish your professional brand.

Simply put, your brand is what you want people to say about you when you are not in the room to represent yourself. From the start, illustrate the professional persona you want to project with your behavior, communication, and work ethic.

Everything you say, every interaction, and every reaction impacts how others perceive you. From the first staff meeting to the first company happy hour — take the opportunity to learn, grow, and represent yourself in a positive light.

[Related: The Power of Perception]

Earn the trust and respect of new colleagues.

The operative word is “earn,” because trust and respect are not automatic. Treat everyone, regardless of rank or position, with respect, and practice the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

You have a clean slate opportunity to be authentic and vulnerable. Channeling Brenè Brown and consider how vulnerability opens up space for trust and connection:

Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.

Set healthy and realistic boundaries early on.

If you follow me, you know I’m a recovering workaholic and strive to reframe my passion, stamina, and energy for my work into being a high achiever and not a self-imposed work martyr. While there is a proving period for any new colleague, setting healthy boundaries is essential for your wellbeing and long-term sustainability.

Take time to consider what you need to do your best work, and be clear with your boss and colleagues. Be aware that you have the opportunity to role model good behavior to others by taking all of your PTO and respecting the non-work time boundaries. It’s also imperative as the new colleague to be clear about prioritization and when it’s appropriate to say “no.”

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. -Brenè Brown

[Related: Three Questions to Help You Decide Where to Set Boundaries]

Pick your battles — avoid the politics.

Every workplace has issues; it’s part of working with humans. You will meet people you truly enjoy working with and experience others where there is a professional “rub.” To protect your sanity and productivity, learn to let it go and determine what challenges demand your time and energy from those you can overlook.

Don’t try and mind-read the nature of the office politics, cliques, or gossip — you’ll never be accurate and it’s best to be neutral. Enjoy doing great work and serve as a role model; others will admire you without entangling yourself in the zany.

Welcome new professional relationships.

You will meet a lot of people as you start this new career journey. Smile, be gracious, and do your best to remember names. Accept the lunch and coffee break invitations and expand your professional network beyond your unique work team.

As you begin your new career opportunity, muster the courage to show up as your authentic self and let others see who you are and how you want to make a difference in the organization. Change is always a bit scary, but as Robin S. Sharma says:

Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.

You won’t always be the new girl or guy, so enjoy the fresh new beginning and remember to pay it forward with graciousness when the next new colleague arrives.

[Related: Being and Having an Ally in the Workplace]

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book “This Is Not the Career I Ordered” and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series: Thrive! about career and life empowerment is on YouTube. A dynamic public speaker and coach, Caroline is a member of the National Speakers Association and the International Coach Federation and presents to audiences globally. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow Caroline on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.

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