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In this Bleakest of Times, Start a Shiny Star, Light Up Your Own Path

Light Up your own path

You’ve just struck lottery. You’ve been offered a job!

Your job search is over. For now. Until… Or for a long time. It depends. Even if you can deliver. Meet expectations. Sometimes, even if you exceed expectations. Even if you hit a purple patch. Doing extremely well. Nothing is for sure.
Meet new norm. Nothing is taken for granted. When will we be hit with a bigger one? Opening up is big risk. Not opening up is big certainty. Chaos. No jobs. No food. No health. No peace.

Millions are on hand-outs. Job creation has to start. Billions are pumped in to revive job pipelines. It’s working. Work is coming. From businesses that withstood the slow decay of inactivity. Damaged not dead. But, many other dead. Closed for good. Even giants in the retail business. Work is coming, slowly.

Instant Insight

Despite the current havoc, you’ve got a new job. What’s next?

Will you be happy with the job, your colleagues, your boss, the company? Will you fit in? Is a rogue colleague needling, hoping to break your spirit? He does not need competition now. Someone close to him is waiting in the wings, if only you fail next week.
When will you be infected by a ‘dis-ease?’ A feeling of being disengaged? An increasing sense of unease? Your gusto gone. Meaning thinning. The clock gets bigger. Your body keeps wanting out of the place.
Dismiss the questions as unhelpful seeds of negative thinking. Pessimistic ponderings. Dismiss these as negative chatter. Go ahead, be negative about this pre-mortem, negative thinker.

Look at this exercise positively. It is a catalyst. To think proactively. It is positioning for a super start, improving your chances tremendously, towards a great career. Maybe, a long career is also important now.

The first ninety days are crucial. For many things. For addiction. They talk about the ‘sleeper effect’ where your brain gets hitched on to the determination for recovery.

In sales, within ninety days, the experienced master gauges whether you are going to be a star or just a starter.

In an intimate relationship, they say the honeymoon will be over. Rubber hits…the road. Or shit hits the fan.

In the ivory towers, people get dopamine hits in anticipation or blood clots with anxiety every ninety days. Business result gets reviewed. Some have fixed quarterly updates. Others follow rolling quarters. It is the business mindset to indict by indicators, review and rectify plans every ninety days.

It is important that the company, specifically your boss feels confident, they have made the right decision, hiring you. Better, if you are categorized an excellent investment. A strategic staff. Stuff for the future. Congratulations.

Crucial rules; never try to outshine your boss. Or make him busier.

Now fend yourself. Brand yourself. Start a star to stay a star. Working is like painting watercolors. Think and be sure before you start. It’s hard to lay over. You can lay a darker over the lighter. Still, even if no one knows, you know. There is a mistake in there. It’s not flawless execution.

You cannot cover a darker mistake with a lighter hue. You may have to start all over. Blessed, if you get a second chance to make the first impression. Let’s put in some work, starting swell towards being better than just doing well.

These are seven action steps to a happy, successful career:

1. Don’t settle for a busy buddy, get your own. On your first day, in addition to giving you a firm welcoming handshake, your boss will proudly introduce you to a ‘buddy.’

The buddy is assigned, usually for 90 days, to assist assimilating you into the environment and the work. Depending on organizations, your buddy might even be given a budget to treat you to lunch. Hurray, free lunch for 90days!

Free lunches are always good. The assimilation is more important. Depending on your boss, and the business situation, one of the two criteria could be used to choose your buddy:

a)   An experienced leadership type who is trusted. An excellent performer who is doing the important work for the department. Trusted. But hustled. He is too busy with the busyness but he keeps saying yes. He knows he is in the good books. He wants to stay in that book.” Shit, say yes. Then figure what to do.”
b)   The sociable average performer who has free time. The performance of this person has little impact on the indicators of the department. The handy volunteer. The go-to person. For the sure things. Not too hard. Just eat time. He thinks he is in the good book. He doesn’t want any sign that disturbs this thinking. “Shit, say yes. Let’s wing it.”  What’s not good about it? It comes with 90 days’ free lunch.

The leadership type would like to, but probably, could not give you the right level of attention. This go getter needs to get the pressing and important work done. It’s in his blood. Not to give blood clots at the management review.

Light Up Your Own path

The average performer would have all the time for you but the desired results. Instead of getting you the right level of information and connections, it’s mostly be small talks and fun fare. If he has beef outstanding, you might be conscripted into a pity party.

Another potential adverse situation. Your boss might want to ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ Your new buddy might be the overwhelmed one, the reason for your hiring. This person is supposed to hand over a portion of work to you.

If he is your buddy, you can be quite sure of this. Your buddy is more interested to pass on work as quickly as possible than passing on any other goodness. He wants to reclaim the much missed slack.

Sometimes, at the expense of missing some steps or details. And since, the benefactor of work is also your buddy, who are you going to discuss the issues with? Your boss? Never try to make your boss busier. Even if he is not busy.

Understandably, you would be fearful of creating an impression. That you do not trust his decision of the buddy. So, what is the best course of action?
Find your own buddy! Don’t announce it. Don’t make it official. Look around for someone to help you assimilate well.

Use to first week to do some window shopping. Start with your department. Is there someone who has a few years of experience, who seems responsible and nice?

If you run out of options, look over the fence. People in departments who work closely with your department.

Client departments; those who use your department’s services.

Or vendor departments. Those departments who provide support to your department.

You don’t have to put a sash on the person you identify. Just approach him to join you for lunch or tea. Give the free lunches, it’s worth it. Find common interests to chit chat. Build friendly relationship. Seep in questions you need answers for.

Ask about people, culture first. Don’t hurry into systems and processes. Those are available at training and the intranet. You can rework the systems and processes. It’s harder to rework people’s feelings.

One thing to remember. Be grateful. Everyone craves for a bit of recognition. You don’t have to give them a Bentley. Just a short note of thanks. Once a while, cc his boss. Keep your boss vaguely aware that you are making friends. Use word of mouth. Thank your ‘unsuspecting’ buddy personally, not for the ‘buddying’ but for the friendship, tips. Of higher value than a direct thank you, praise people behind their backs. Make sure the good word gets around to him. Once a person trusts you, you’ll get the inside scoops. Juicy and nice.

2.Where’s the plan to blend?  Granted. You have a healthy buddy who is fully functional. He steers you in the right direction. But, how do you know if you have gone to the places you are supposed to go? Where do you tick off the milestones you’ve passed?
You need a roadmap. A piece of document. The integration plan.

The plan should have at least 5 columns:

     a) Events- this should list all the meetings you  need to attend or organize: one- on- ones with key functional leads in the department, meeting the suppliers who keep your department running, attending stakeholder meetings to be  introduced, a business update which is      presented to you covering your department’s  quarterly and annual plans and a status update, a basic supplier management class to          ensure you do not get into a contractual tangle, a controls class to get you ethically correct, a  business emergency class to familiarize you      with the crises management tactics, a series   of customer service classes to ensure you  serve your client departments well as well as a    recognition briefing to open the opportunities   of the reward system to you. These are other stuff in your company’s people systems.

In addition to the main roadmap, don’t miss out the list of recommended training. These are  classes you are expected to attend over a longer period of time.

Critical is the schedule of mandatory training which you must enroll within 6 months to 12 months. Ethics training stands out.

Depending on your position, other training  could include grievance handling and disciplinary procedures, rules of engagement with contract workers, fraternizing and some statutory requirement.

b) Timeline –this column spells out when the events occur.

c) Owner(s) –this column lists the (name of) person or persons accountable for the events.

d) Desired Outcomes – this column describes the benefits of the events for the new employee, you. It clearly spells out what the efforts deliver.

e) Status –the fifth column tracks if the events are happening on time and if not, why? A new date is expected. Reason for excursions.

If an integration plan is not used, congratulations! It’s an opportunity for you to suggest and get one drafted. During the course of your career, if you find something lacking, don’t act like an average employee. Don’t complain. Seize the opportunity to do something positive. Stars don’t complain. They glitter when they are present. Embrace void. Create substance. Just remember, “Don’t try to outshine your boss.” Find a good time to give him your new ideas. Yes, give him. You read it on his forehead. Make them his ideas, “Boss the other day, you were saying…it inspired me to think of this idea…” 

Instant Insight

Definition of a good time: when for whatever reason he is in a good mood, just right after you did something he is happy about, after his long lunch on Friday…you get the drift.

3. What is your Department’s why? And, how?  You will be scheduled to attend a boilerplate orientation event by HR. Within two weeks of your first day. I bet they will have your department covered. A page of PowerPoint, max. It’s good.

But not good enough.

Being an incumbent employee, you’ll need more about your Department. Ask for a Department orientation. The one they present to a major supplier, customer, a government official…anyone they have to impress. If you are too small to demand one, find out who owns the material. You can usually get it from your boss’s administrative assistant. Pore over it. Write down questions. Get the answers piece by piece. You think it’s hard? 
Get big fast.

The orientation should cover the vision, mission, strategic objectives, credo, services, location, organization, contacts and success criteria. Formal teams and task forces.

This event will allow you an opportunity to clarify, align with the business expectations. The material is a solid foundation to develop your success roadmap. Again, if the orientation package does not exist, it’s an opportunity.

Another tip. Respect the formal hierarchy. Get close to the informal leaders. Information is power. They have information. The clout informal leaders wield may surprise.

4. Galvanize your position with a network of strengths. Build a network of strengths. Don’t just strengthen your relationship with like- minded.
Extend your reach, diversify your interest.
a)   Don’t worry about reaching too high up. Schedule one-on-one meetings with high level leadership. Even if they think you are too low level for their time, they will assign subordinates to meet you. At least they know you exist.

To do this successfully;

-send the appointment mail with a short introduction. Not just a ‘hi, I am a new employee and would like to meet you.’ In a short paragraph, tell them your expertise and how you will serve them. Be sure to express interest in current hot button programs, some examples may be the green initiative, diversity or work environment improvement.

-clearly state the objective of the meeting; with three questions you would like to ask. The questions would engage the leaders positively; about their position, accomplishments, vision and stuff that hallelujah-exhilarate them. Approach with a strategy, you'll get what you want. 

b)   Don’t just network with functional leads. Get close to informal leaders. The people who are low in position but high in influence. Who do people look up to who are not ‘higher ups?’ They have information. About people. They have people skills. They sway grassroots in tense situation. They are great for rumors, up and down the ranks.
c)   Leaders of strategic programs like diversity, green, lean and safety. The idea is not to link strongly with all. Choose the ones that you can contribute to and participate in. These programs usually come with high profile recognition.
d)   Service owners who are critical support to your role. For a new employee at this age, IT is important. Procurement. Human Resources.

5.   Work hard and be seen to work hard. If there is one person you should pay attention to, when he dishes out career advice, it is Guy Kawasaki. He is a bestselling author of business and influence books. He had high flying and successful careers with Apple and Motorola.

This is the final of his ‘10 tips to climb the top of  the mountain:

“Get to work early and you leave late. Work hard while you’re there. Suck it up because you’re imprinting people with the impression that you are diligent. Don’t confuse working smart with working short — the two are not the same thing. Early on, you need to work smart and work long to make an impression.”
I need not add more.
6.   Work smart and not be seen as trying to beat the system. Don’t be tagged as a gamer. Be transparent. If you are short circuiting a process, tell your boss why you are taking the risk.
Under promise and over deliver. Align and manage expectations. Give yourself time to do a good job and do it faster. This is not the same as sandbagging when the focus is to have more slack time. Do this well, you will build confidence in your capability. It can land you high profile assignments.
Documentation is king. Document all verbal agreements. Send a mail to reiterate what has been agreed. You need not cc or bcc the world. Don’t create a sense of doubt of the integrity of your co-workers. It’s a two-way sword.
Make uncertainties certain. Prepare presentations early. Before presenting, get offline alignment with one or a few of the more senior attendees. This is critical if it is a meeting to discuss issues. Brainstorm the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Some call this ‘framestorming.’ Framing questions the right way to get right answers. This is ‘premortem’ strategy.
List 3-5 more controversial ones early at the presentations to get them ‘off the table.’ Have a list of other questions with answers for quick reference. This smoothens the presentation. It avoids the rat-hole trap; being stuck in stress inducing, life sapping struggle over an issue.

7.   Why not start with Success Planning? Motivate yourself with the biggest why. Just like the janitor at NASA who is helping to launch the space craft. Or the mason who sees the beautiful cathedral with every brick he lays. Why not?
Every job has its importance. Who is more important? The brain surgeon or the maid of the brain surgeon?
Set SMART goals. But not for the level or positions you want. Find out what is the gap between when you are to where you want to be. In terms of performance. Skills. Attributes. Set your goals to achieve the required accomplishments. The training needed. The personal quality desired. Translate your goals into actionable plans. Take action!
Actively participate in important company programs. Even if they are not relevant to your job responsibilities. These are usually corporate social responsibility events. Hop onto a community service group. Or an environmental focus team. Driving diversity in the workplace is a big deal. Workplace improvements ala Google seems to be an ongoing dream for many organizations.

Don’t ever forget Dr. John Gottman’s 5:1. Be sure you can dish out five compliments for every criticism you make. Simply, for every negative thing you say, say five good things. This will enhance your relationship. With anyone.

And, oh…you are not hired to raise problems. You are hired to provide solutions. Going to discuss a problem with your boss? Better have a solution in mind. Problems are why we are hired. To solve them. Or be part of the solution.

Start your search for a mentor. If you do your networking right, this will not be hard. Remember you have to give before you receive. Like all mortals, your potential mentor will have this question in mind, “what’s in it for me?” Make your proposition compelling. Build a solid brand. A winning brand. Before you ask for sponsorship. But it’s never too early to start. This could be a long and arduous process. It’s worth it.
Light Up Your Own Path.

Be known as a success broker. Share the fruits of your performance. Credit everyone who helped you or worked with you. This is assuming leadership. Most people think that only leaders are empowered to recognize. Be a leader. Recognize people. Even your bosses. And your boss’s bosses. Just do it sincerely.

Like most successes. Winning at work, takes work. These seven action steps to a happy successful career is a power launch of your future. If you find it hard to follow all the steps, just remember this; focus on making your boss successful. It is expected when your boss hired you. If you deliver good work, focus on making your boss look good, you will be on the right track. The track is lit with and littered with opportunities from your excellent start. Start a shiny star.
You can take this to the bank: if you make your boss look good, your career path will be better, faster, and easier because a rising tide floats all boats.”
-Guy Kawasaki
Now get back to work.

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