But in 7th grade, I transferred districts and went to a local public school – away from my military friends. My new school was a “rich” school back then… very different than life on base. There, you don’t always have a lot, but you make do. These new kids had new clothes. We wore hand-me-downs and shared our clothes. This new school served hundreds of kids. At the Marine school, you knew everyone. On base, I was the 6th grade school president. In Junior High, I was an honors student who played the cello, sang in the choir and wore glasses and braces. I was at the bottom of the pecking order.
The kids at my new school had been together for years. There was the established hierarchy of coolness, the inside jokes, the shared experiences that bonded the other kids together. I was not a part of it, so I could not relate. Through no fault of theirs, I was an outsider… wanting to fit in but with no idea how, and frankly, there was no real opening TO fit in. After all, nothing was broken in their social structure so why add a new variable? Now,eventually someone opened their circle of friends to me (thanks, Ed). I found my place and figured out how I could contribute to this new world of mine, but it took a while and it wasn’t always fun along the way.
Whether you’re changing schools, jobs or careers, sooner or later we’re all the new kid on the block. Being new can be nerve-wracking as it is. You’re confident, and then you’re hesitant. You had your stuff down, and now you’re learning something new. The office is different; the pace is different; the goals are different. It’s an incredible opportunity, and still it’s about stepping carefully.
It’s the politics of being new…
What are the unwritten rules? Who are your new teachers, mentors or sponsors? Who are the unofficial leaders – those people that influence others’ opinions, actions and beliefs – perhaps without any official title? You want to show people what you’ve got and who you are. It’s important, but equally as important is who they perceive you to be. Your new teammates have their established order and their shared memories. They’ve been through the fire before and are closer because of it. Yet, here you are: the outsider, the new addition or the change agent.
You’re justifying what you bring to the table again – why you’re there. You’re included but not a member of the gang. You can build allies along the way. Or you may step on a landmine you never knew was there.
Some people come in strong – blazing their new path, brandishing their knowledge and taking a firm stand. That may often work. It may not.
I believe there are two must-do things that help you navigate your new hire “campaign”.
First, find ways to work across the aisle (rare though that may be in today’s political environment), to build consensus and find common ground with those you will help, support or lead. Ask questions… many questions. Then, listen wholeheartedly.
Second, don’t let the doubt get to you. You have to believe that you are here for a reason, otherwise why should anyone else believe you are? If you are a change agent, you’ll run into a lot of roadblock – subtle and overt.
- “We’ve tried that before.”
- “Our clients won’t like that.”
- “We do it this way.”
Yes, it’s important to honor established processes and traditions, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t challenge them and ask “why?” Why do we do things this way? Does it make sense? Or is it just what we’ve always done?
It may take patience and hard work, but that circle will open to you. It’s up to you then to decide if you want to join it as it is, or learn to lead it in a new direction… to create new memories, cello and all.