“Will I fit in and belong here?” For most candidates starting a new role with a new employer, this question will be top of mind. You may be apprehensive about how best to understand and define your role in relation to the wider organisation, or you may be preoccupied with ‘culture fit’. Will you be a good fit in terms of the work you will be expected to do, the way you will be expected to work, and your traits and values? You’ll be thinking (probably quite a lot) about the projects and tasks you will be working on, and the people you will be working with.
All of this is normal and natural—and believe it or not, you can start to prepare for any uncertainties or challenges that might lie ahead long before you join the organisation. Your starting point is to go about finding out as much information as you can about the organisation in advance.
Here, in the latest article from the new Barden & Chartered Accountants Ireland Career Guide 2023, Pamela Fay, an executive coach, coach supervisor and owner of Business Performance Perspectives, gives us some key tips on how to excel in a new role…
Do Your Research
Context is incredibly important when you’re about to take on a new role with different people in an unfamiliar culture and environment. You want to find out what day-to-day life is like. Many Chartered Accountants will be joining big firms and these firms will have their own stated way of doing things—i.e. their values and what they say they do.
In all organisations, however, there are also hidden systems. You need to know what time you are expected to be at your desk, for example, what the accepted dress code is, and the extent to which you can work from locations outside the office, if at all.
To get ahead of these questions, I would recommend reaching out to any existing connections you might have to people already employed at the organisation, either directly or via their extended network. Find out what day-to-day working life is going to be like and research your team—who will you be working alongside and reporting to? What is acceptable and encouraged in terms of communication style and presentation? What’s frowned upon?
Listen and Learn
Your first six weeks in any new job is a time for observation. You shouldn’t really be aiming to do anything radical, or cause a stir, during this period. Instead take the time to talk to your new colleagues, join them for tea or coffee, attend all the meetings you are invited to.
In short: listen and learn. It can take a long time to find out how an organisation functions, and you need to understand your role in the organisation, and what you are being asked to do. You should be curious. Do as much research as possible and ask as many questions as you can (never be afraid of appearing stupid), and take any support you’re offered.
Appear, Behave, Communicate
When it comes to the impression we make in the workplace, I always come back to the ‘ABC’. This is how you appear at work, how you behave, and how you communicate.
- How you appear If you wear a suit on your first day, you need to wear a suit all the time. The team around you needs to know what impression you will be putting forward both within and outside the organisation.
- How you behave This is about how you conduct yourself at work. Are you behaving in a way that leads others to believe you are responsible, conscientious and empathetic? Are you polite and respectful of other’s views and contributions? Do you turn up, or log in, to meetings on time? Are you actively demonstrating that your are trustworthy and reliable?
- How you communicate Some people respond to emails quite quickly. Others don’t. Really, it doesn’t matter which category you fall into. What matters is that you are consistent.
Nobody is Perfect
For many people, the thought of putting a foot wrong in the early stages of a new role will be a worry. No one wants to get off to a bad start, but it’s also important to remember that we can almost always recover. If you make a mistake, own up to it and face the consequences.
Look for support when you need it, chat to family and friends about what went wrong, and don’t try to handle the situation alone. Colleagues may also be able to help you out because they’ve already ‘been there, done that’.
If your problems run deeper, however—if you’re not happy with your boss, for example, or you don’t share the same values as the people you are working with, you may need to start considering your next move.
My mother had some great advice. She used to say, ‘never get stuck in a corner’. If you’re unhappy with your role with an organisation, take your time before you make any definite decisions.
Don’t get cornered. If you decide that it would be best to move on, leave on your own terms. Again, this comes back to my earlier advice about doing your research. An extra couple of weeks in a role you may not be enjoying is nothing compared to moving on to another role you may later regret.
Life is all about learning and, really, it comes back to that saying ‘short-term pain for long-term gain’. In my own career, I once took a job I wasn’t suited to. I stayed in that role for a year, but during that time, I was also actively looking for new career opportunities. I realised pretty quickly that the organisation I was working for wasn’t going to change, so it was up to me to bring about the change I needed.
Find Your Vibe
Even if you’re happy with your new organisation, you may still find that you’re not getting the chance to fully utilise your skills in the role itself. In this situation, it’s a good idea to think about how these skills might be deployed in the wider organisation-in collaboration with another team or department, for example, or as part of a specific project. Seek out, take and create opportunities to showcase your abilities and demonstrate how you can add value to the organisation.
Remember, different teams will work in different ways. I’m a big believer in getting into an organisation you want to work for and then assessing your situation six months or a year in. By then, if you have the sense that you would be better suited to another part of the organisation, you may be able to make the case to switch teams and take on different responsibilities. Teams and team dynamics play a crucial role in how we experience our working lives.
Even if we enjoy the work we are doing, we need to feel valued within our team, and to be able to trust, rely on, and draw inspiration from our team-mates. This is especially true for Chartered Accountants, who are often required to work very hard under severe time pressure. Support, camaraderie and teamwork really matters.