Thuy H. Sindell on Starting a New Job
Thuy H. Sindell, Ph.D., has made a job of helping people at their new—and old—jobs. She co-founded, with her husband Milo Sindell, Hit the Ground Running, an employee-performance software company that addresses human-resources needs, such as, solutions for new hires as well as techniques for capturing employee knowledge during exit interviews. As a coach for Mariposa Leadership, Thuy conducts leadership and employee training to amplify coaching skills and strategic thinking at all levels of an organization. Her clients have included top-notch firms such as Charles Schwab, Cisco Systems, Gap, Wells Fargo and Yahoo! Sindell also co-wrote, with her husband, the best-selling Sink or Swim: New Job, New Boss, 12 Weeks to Get it Right and Job Spa: 12 Weeks to Refresh, Refocus and Recommit to Your Career. She shares her secrets to new-job success.
How can you work to combat the anxiety and fears you may have about your new job?
Anxiety has a lot to do with trying to do well. There are three things you can do to make sure you set yourself up for success.
- Understand expectations. At your new job, be clear about your role, responsibilities and how you’ll need to define success.
- Build your network. Get to know your co-workers. They will be valuable resources for you in understanding the company culture.
- Before you actually start the job, you can prepare by making sure you’ve read everything you can about the company. Understand the direction of the company. This information will tell you how you can effectively contribute to the company and how your role fits into the big picture.
How do you get to know your co-workers in the first 30 days of starting a new job?
There are two ways. One way—the slightly formal way—is to send an email or voicemail to ask if a co-worker will meet with you, so you can get a better idea of what he or she does. The other way is to ask your co-worker to lunch. For some people, social relationships are an integral part of their work experience. And, some of that can be built informally through a lunch. Let the conversation flow. Some people are really straightforward and want to get down to business. After that, you may get some chit-chat. Others will want to start with chit-chat. But, you’ll find out about both the professional and personal sides of your co-workers. This allows you get to the heart of how they can help you.
What are some of the top mistakes you can make in the first few weeks at a new job?
There are five pitfalls you should avoid when starting a new job:
- Don’t leave the station without a map. Make sure you’re clear about what’s expected of you and what your success will look like. When performance reviews come around, how will you be rated and how will your manager look at you compared to other people?
- Don’t over-promise and under-deliver. This is a common problem for people who have trouble saying “no.” When you first start a job, you may have a tendency to over-promise, but think about the time-management aspect of your new job. Ask yourself “how long is it really going to take me to do this? Will I look bad if I ask for an extension?” Make sure you are setting yourself up for success from the start.
- Don’t tell others how to do their work. “At my old company, we did it this way.” It’s really annoying to hear from a newbie that you aren’t doing something well, even if this newbie is being brought in to change procedures and make them better. Instead, ask clear questions to understand the situation before passing judgment. Say something like “tell me more about how this came to be.” This approach will provide you with more background information and help you think about how to add your input effectively. You have to manage your knowledge so you aren’t pushing your ideas and offending others.
- Don’t be an alien life-form waiting for human contact. Some people just like to stay in their cube. That’s definitely a no-no for a new employee. The first 30 days is a time to demonstrate to people that you are here and you want to work with them. So, get out there and make connections.
- Don’t be a target for the fashion police. Image and first impressions are important. Are you presenting the image you want to portray? Look around to see how people carry themselves, especially the successful ones in your company. What are they wearing? How are they communicating? Adjust and tweak your style and wardrobe to make sure you’re projecting the image you intend to project.
How can you recover from a mistake you made in the first 30 days?
We all make blunders at some point. The first thing is to acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, then take action to correct it—if that’s possible. You want to asssure others it will not happen again.
What are the top things you can do in the first 30 days of starting a new job?
These are the absolute things you must do:
- Make sure you are clear on what success looks like.
- Figure out the culture.
- Build a network of support.
When is it appropriate for you to ask your manager for performance feedback?
The one-month mark is a good time to ask for performance feedback. You’ve been on the job long enough to make an impression, but not long enough where you can’t make adjustments. This is a good time to check-in and demonstrate to your manager that you are open to improvements and suggestions. And, don’t worry, you won’t seem insecure.
Sink or Swim outlines the first 12 weeks as the make-or-break period in your new job. How important are the first 30 days in that period of time?
The first 30 days are crucial. But, the 12 weeks give you a longer time period to try to fit in. You actually need a little more time to get into a rhythm as you figure out how things are really done in your new company.
What is important for you to do beyond the first 30 days to ensure your continued success in your new job?
In the next phase, make sure you do the following:
- Understand what projects look like long-term. What will you be doing during the next six months? At about month one, you want to take a look at other things you’ll be working on in the near future.
- Understand the culture. Start to dig in and figure out what is the real work of your job. How does that fit with your style and what you need to adjust to fit in?
- Get out there and meet the people you need to collaborate with.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I try not to allow myself to freak out. My natural reaction to change is “oh, my god, no. I was so comfortable before.” Managing that response and seeing the change as an opportunity is the first step for me.
The best thing about change is...
…it holds possibilities.
What is the best change you have ever made?
Building this software company, Hit the Ground Running, with my husband. It’s been a great adventure and culmination of everything we value, know, and love.
For more information on Thuy Sindell, visit www.hitthegroundrunning.com.