Whether an job change is voluntary or the product of a reorganization, figuring out where you fit in a new group can feel a bit like being the new kid in the cafeteria.
Melissa DeLong, 48, held a few different jobs during her six years at Microsoft. Some of the job changes were her choice. Some weren’t.
And though she was lucky enough to stay employed through several reorganizations, adapting to a new team — and new teammates — was sometimes challenging.
Even when a job change is voluntary, figuring out where you fit in a new group can feel a bit like being the new kid in the cafeteria. How should you interact with others? Should you go in with lots of ideas and energy, or learn the lay of the land first?
Here are some tips for navigating the sometimes choppy seas of the internal job change.
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Treat your new team like a new company. The processes, benefits and 401(k) stay the same, but the culture and temperament of your new group may be vastly different.
Approach those first few weeks like you’ve landed a job at a new company, advises DeLong. “From the outside, it looks like Microsoft has one culture, but from the inside, it’s like hundreds of different small companies.”
Get curious. Take time to map out the big picture — and how your new group fits into that picture, says Stacey Stovell, recruiting manager at Seattle’s ExtraHop Networks. “We all have the desire to make an immediate impact, and often, the best way to do that is to come in and build relationships and listen, and be curious about what’s needed and how to be effective in your job,” she says.
Understand what’s expected of you. If you’re interviewing internally for a position, find out what the business objectives were for creating the opening, says Jackie Haggerty, director of human resources at ExtraHop.
Ask what you’re expected to accomplish in your first 30, 60 and 90 days, and make a list of key people you should meet with in order to accomplish these things. This “ramp plan” will help you accelerate quickly in your new role.
If you’ve landed on a team due to restructuring, the same principle applies.
“It’s all about proactively seeking information. Find out what needs to be done, who is doing what and how you are expected to add to the effort,” says Haggerty.
Get to know the people you’ll be working with. DeLong says she had the most success when she was able to spend time doing one-on-one meetings with the people on her team and surrounding teams.
“I have found that people are very receptive to this approach, particularly if you walk in and say: ‘I don’t have a specific agenda, I just want to get to know you, your background and how you fit into the team,’ ” she says.
These informal meetings open up communication lines, and help you learn where the team’s challenges are quicker.
“Someone who is having a problem might hesitate to set up a meeting with a complete stranger, but won’t hesitate to drop by to chat if they feel like they already know you a bit,” DeLong says.
Give due respect. People want to tell you their story and gain your respect, Haggerty says.
“They want you to understand who they are and what they bring to the table. It’s important to pay that respect and glean whatever knowledge they have,” Haggerty says.
“It’s far more helpful if you start out doing that than if you go in guns blazing,” she says.
Be a force for good. When upheaval happens in a company, two types of leaders emerge: Those who hate change, and loudly (and contagiously)complain. The other type, says Haggerty, are the leaders who try to wrap their heads around what objectives the business is trying to meet by reorganizing, and how they, the employee, can use their skills to help achieve those goals.