Even as someone who loves flying, I am always grateful when the plane has safely landed. A good landing doesn’t happen by accident.
Before attempting to land the plane, the pilot runs through a landing checklist to ensure nothing has been forgotten. There are lots of variables to consider: the weather, crosswinds, visibility and turbulence.
All of those factors, plus the pilot’s experience, combine to impact how well the plane hits the tarmac.
A good landing isn’t always a smooth landing. If the touchdown is too soft, it actually means the plane is still really flying – the plane is partially in the air and on the ground. The landing also hasn’t finished when the wheels hit the tarmac. It ends when the aircraft has slowed down and is taxiing to the gate.
It’s the same when you change careers, you may have a smooth or bumpy landing, and just because you’ve landed, it doesn’t mean your work is done.
It often takes a while to find your groove. At the start, you feel like the new kid on the block – needing to prove to yourself (and perhaps others) that the move was the right decision. As well, in your previous career, you were known for something, and it can take a while to build your reputation and brand in your new job or organisation.
With a new job or career comes a new language, customs, expectations and challenges, and so it’s natural to feel uncomfortable because your brain is learning lots of new things. Give yourself time to adjust. Explore the new terrain with an open mind, be a bit adventurous and ask lots of questions to get more clarity. In your early days, you have the great advantage of being able to ask anything you want.
This is also a danger period because you have to quickly get up to speed and demonstrate to your new employers that you’re a good hire.
Various studies report that 35 to 40 per cent of senior hires fail within their first 18 months. The figures are even higher for lower-level roles. A 2017 global talent management survey (from Contract Recruiter) over three years, involving 5000 hiring managers and 20 000 new employees, found that only 19 per cent of new hires went on to achieve success.
To excel quickly in your new environment, here are ten ideas to help solidify your landing:
- Know what success looks like in your new environment. Set clear goals and know what outcomes need to be achieved, by when and to what standard.
- Throw out the old rulebook. Don’t assume that what worked for you in your former career will work in this new environment. Be open to change.
Obsess about presence. Be present and focused, and look for ways to distinguish yourself from the crowd, so you are quickly known for something.
- Learn as quickly as you can. Understand the environment, how it operates, and what may or may not work in this context. Go on a fact-finding mission, seeking out information, insights and contacts.
- Build relationships early. Identify colleagues, stakeholders, clients or suppliers who will be critical in helping you succeed. Get to know their needs and wants, and how what you do can help them. Find the ‘makers’ — the influencers and connectors — who can best help you navigate the new environment and make progress that matters.
- Keep mentally and physically sharp. Even if you don’t feel like you are experiencing culture shock, working in a new environment is mentally and physically draining. Your brain is in overdrive as it is continuously solving new problems. Find times to rest and recharge.
- Identify what to scale back to adjust to this new environment. You may need to establish new routines or create space so you can devote more time to embedding your new role.
- Be patient and impatient. Be patient with yourself as you learn new things; at the same time, be impatient for change and for building success.
- Don’t wait to be told what to do. Figure it out and make it happen.
- Reflect constantly. Move forward but take the time to reflect on progress by checking-in with yourself on what is and isn’t working. Identify where you may need to shift, adjust or realign your expectations and behaviour.
- Reward yourself. It can be too easy just to move on to the next thing. Take time to celebrate your progress with the people who supported you through the leap.
Remember, things change quickly. Jobs come and go. Throughout my career, the most successful people I have encountered never cruised along, doing the bare minimum. They were always on the lookout for ways to proactively expand the pie.
As author, Zig Ziglar once said “It is not what happens to you that determines how far you go in life; it is what you do with what happens to you.”