New Job? What To Do Before You Drink The Kool-Aid

3 Key Questions to Ask When You Start Your New Job

Even though the economy’s still not booming, a number of colleagues have recently gotten new marketing jobs. (Hint: If you’re still hiding in bed waiting for the recession to pass, you may want to peak your head out and see what’s going on.)

This got me thinking about the advice for new employees that I’ve given my students over the years: You need to think about how you leave your current position and how you start your new one.

Starting a new job, like being a newlywed, is a special time. In addition to the great skills and experience you bring to the job, you’re in a unique position since you’ve still got an outsider’s perspective while you’re allowed to look under the company’s hood  and see the inner workings, so to speak. As an added bonus, everyone who was part of the hiring process is vested in your success.

If you’ve made a change to a new product or category, there may be terminology that’s unfamiliar. For example, when I started working in the banking industry, I asked a lot of elementary questions. For example, I didn’t know that a DDA was a bank’s name for a checking account. It stands for Demand Deposit Account. To this end, it’s useful to get some help from a member of your network with experience in this segment so that you can focus your inquiries on the meaty, company-related questions.

Therefore, before you become indoctrinated in the firm’s way of doing things (aka drinking the Kool-Aid), it’s a good time to document what you’re learning. Bear in mind, as you consider what you’re learning about your new firm, that different organizations may have different names and/or ways of doing things. To help you structure your approach, here are three areas where it’s important to gather information.

  1. How does the organization work? Examine the company’s business and marketing plans against the organization’s goals and objectives. Are these elements consistent or are there areas that aren’t covered or covered ineffectively? Do the plans flow from the goals? How is progress towards these goals measured? Does the reporting fully capture what’s needed based on your past experience?
  2. What are the politics? Every organization by its nature is political whether it’s over power or other scarce resources. Who is part of the executive team? Who are the true leaders who wield power within the organization? Before you’re pulled into the office intrigue, figure out where the true power lies and what the allegiances are. You need to draw your own conclusions about how effective your staff and peers are. Accepting other people’s word for it may hinder your ability to build working relationships. Often, the power structure isn’t consistent with the management hierarchy. This is attributable to how people have come up through the ranks of the organization and who’s worked for whom.
  3. What are the day-to-day processes? Think beyond your own position. What are the overall business procedures? Based on your past experience, are there areas that are ripe for improvement? Are there quick hits that can have a big impact on the bottomline? Are there areas where the business processes are out of sync with current technology? If major changes are needed, can you make a case for the modifications and/or investments?

Take advantage of your honeymoon time to help you better understand your new company and how it works. At the same time, take note of the areas where you see opportunities for improvement, especially the quick hits because once you’ve been there a while you’ll be drinking the Kool Aid and believing that the existing work-arounds are efficient.

Based on your work experience, it there any thing else that you’d add to this list? Have you been able to take advantage of your honeymoon period to make significant improvements?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: Stallio via Flickr

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