As the White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci probably hadn’t even learned how to use the coffee machine before he was shown the door.
The rise and fall of The Mooch was so swift over the space of 10 days, people took to social media to to describe the shortest amount of time they spent on a job and say what else could happen over such a short period of time.
For all of us who work under far less public scrutiny, there’s still something to be learned about how to make a big impression in a new position.
When you start a new job, the pressure is always on to make a mark, to prove you are worthy of the position. But there are some crucial first steps you can take to ensure this outlasts the expiration date on a carton of milk.
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By building relationships, hitting early goals, and avoiding sounding like a know-it-all, you just might find yourself with a job beyond a second week.
What to avoid
First, don’t do anything crazy.
“Use your first 10 days to suss out who will influence you, and how much of an influence you can have in this new company,” says Jason Womack, executive coach in San Francisco and author of Your Best Just Got Better.
It’s a lot easier for a big splash to go horribly negative than to go well – Gautam Mukunda
Lots of new hires have a tendency to make a big splash in the job they just landed, but bold announcements are more likely to backfire, says Gautam Mukunda, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
This means avoiding a showy demonstration at your first staff meeting. Don’t announce an organisational shakeup on your first day. Stay clear of wide-sweeping criticisms of the company processes. “It’s a lot easier for a big splash to go horribly negative than to go well,” Mukunda says. “There’s a good chance your new co-workers are just not going to appreciate your attempt at a big entrance.”
Also on your list of things to shun is setting big goals. There’s a good chance, as a new hire, that you still have no idea what you might be capable of achieving. And yet many people set overly ambitious goals in their first days on the job, says Michael Sharkey, founder and CEO of San Francisco marketing software firm Autopilot.
Over-promising now means there’s a good chance later you’ll be explaining why you and your new team couldn’t come through
For now, Sharkey says, leave those sales numbers or new product projections alone. Over-promising now means there’s a good chance later you’ll be explaining why you and your new team couldn’t come through.
“The appetite for goals in those first few days is hard to quench,” Sharkey says. “But if you set too many goals right off, it’s going to be very hard to achieve them all.”
The right first moves
Instead, Sharkey says the key is to start with something small to establish quick wins. Maybe it’s a new hire you want to bring in to round out your team. Perhaps it’s simply learning the intricacies of the company’s supply network, or getting to know people in lateral positions.
Start with one small task, and you’ll hopefully start the new job with an early win
“It’s all about expectation-setting and understanding what matters,” Sharkey says. “Start with one small task, and you’ll hopefully start the new job with an early win.”
While working toward that goal, begin building the relationships you’re going to need later. Find mentors and upper managers willing to offer advice, and then don’t be afraid to ask them questions, Womack says.
But be sure these early questions are well tailored, Womack cautions. Avoid trying to sound like the new recruit with all the answers, because nobody wants to hear the new person talk about how everything should be done correctly.
Instead, Mukunda recommends asking questions that show you want guidance from others – an easy way to ingratiate yourself to managers and colleagues. “There is simply no better way to build relationships than to ask for advice,” Mukunda says.
Asking questions that show you want guidance from others is an easy way to ingratiate yourself to managers and colleagues
That’s something Mukunda learned the hard way in his first job. He started as a business analyst at McKinsey & Company in 2002 with his head full of ideas. At his first review, Mukunda recalls his manager chastising him. “Dude, you are the most junior person in the room,” his manager said. “But at meetings, nobody talks more than you.”
It wasn’t that the company didn’t value his input, Mukunda says. It was simply that he had not yet earned the right to be the loudest voice at the office. Now he tells his students to follow a line from the Tony-winning play Hamilton: “Talk less, smile more.”
“You have to remember, when you’re at a new job, upper management is immediately judging you,” Mukunda says. “You can control that by knowing when to stop talking, ask questions, and listen.”
If you do that, chances are you’ll outlast the tenure of Anthony Scaramucci.