Since writing about my experience with the looking for a new job part of the transition, I thought I’d write about the hidden hard part: transitioning into a new role.
When you’re focused on finding a new role that will fit your top criteria (I suggest picking five things that are your top priorities to help you refine your search), it seems like it’s jumping the gun to think about the actual transition. Especially if you’ve been in your current role for a significant amount of your career, leaving is extremely hard, even when you know it’s the right decision. When it came time for my departure from my last role to be announced to the whole company, and I stood in front of all of my colleagues, to be quite honest—I cried, I couldn’t help it. And that’s okay—people are human, and leaving a company you’ve devoted so much of yourself to for a significant amount of time is not easy. So let’s stop pretending that it is.
I’m the type of person that prefers to be as much of an expert as I can be, and to be as knowledgeable as possible. When you enter a new role, you know nothing, and have to be open to learning a lot: about the company, about your department/team, about their processes, and how to work with them most effectively. It’s jarring and overwhelming—that’s why a lot of people will say, “oh, drinking from the firehose?” when you’re in a new role.
So, even though I’m still in the process of transitioning, here are some things I’ve learned that I’m keeping in mind—and full disclosure, a lot of this is inspired by others, and particularly the book The First 90 Days.
- Learn as much as you can before you get there. I was fortunate in that I had two weeks off in between, and I set aside time to do a deep dive into my new company’s website, press releases, and social media, and start putting together a list of questions as well as ideas. You may not end up using them, but coming in with your research done and some potential value-adds right off the bat shows how excited you are about your new role.
- Don’t ignore your experience. Yes, you’re in a new environment—but you didn’t get there by accident. You have experiences that make you valuable to this role—use what you’ve learned in your past roles to help guide you in your new role. Maybe it’s a project management process that you’ve had success with, or a branding framework, but there’s always something that you can bring to the table that you’ve had experience with.
- Meet the right people. Obviously you’ll get to know your team and department very well in the first few months, but figure out (and ask your manager!) who else you should meet. Especially if you’re part of the Marketing or Communications team, it will probably be helpful for you to know the leaders in the Human Resources, Business Development, and/or Operations departments. The people that are important long-term connections may also not be at the department leader or manager level—find out who makes an impact or is an office “influencer.”
- Set up 30, 60, and 90 day check-ins. Regardless of the company performance review schedule, set up regular check-ins with your manager for those first three months, and come with an agenda—show them what you’ve accomplished so far, review any questions or roadblocks you’ve run into, and share your plan for the next milestone(s). This company made an investment in hiring you—invest some time into your plan to be successful.
- Be patient. If you’re the type of person who likes to hit the ground running (hi, hello, that’d be me), it can feel like you’re moving through molasses at the beginning. But take this time to pay attention, listen, and learn from your team, your colleagues, and the company. Maybe this new role included a change in your commute and/or your schedule—give yourself time to adjust to that. Personally, since I know I struggle with big changes, I tried to eliminate anything I didn’t have to do during my first month so that I could focus on putting as much energy into those first few weeks as I could.
Remember, it takes time to become an expert in your specific role at your specific company. I went from a role where I built the brand from the ground up to becoming the steward of a young but established brand in an entirely different industry. That doesn’t mean I’m not an expert on branding or design, but it does mean that I’m certainly not (yet) an expert on what those mean at this company, in this role.
What things do you to set yourself up for success in a new role?