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Navigating a new job

Donald Truss, ACS Career Consultant

“My new job isn't what I thought it would be.  What's the best advice to navigate my first few weeks?”

Some employees have the attitude of putting their palms to the sky and saying “I will do anything that needs to be done here. I will sweep the floor if that is what is needed. I just want to be on the team.” But, this often conflicts with an employee who thinks “I am a specialist. I am really good at what I do, and now they want me to do this? How will I continue to learn if I am sweeping the floor?”

Truth is when you accepted the job, it was the very best opportunity you had at that time. The next day a different opportunity may have arisen that was even better, but if you keep leaving a job trying to climb too quickly, it will backfire. When a potential employer sees that you have a history of not staying with one company for more than 1 or 2 years, they may be thinking “it is unlikely that this candidate will stay with us for the long term, so we will keep looking for a better candidate.”  

I had a VP of HR from a global chemical company tell me “If we make a hiring mistake, it can cost us $250K. It takes us 6 months to accurately determine if they are a fit or not. If not, we take another 3 months to analyze the evidence and document all of our discussions. Once the candidate is gone, we must repeat most of the work. It is a financial disaster.” 

With this in mind, try to be strong and patient. It is OK to discuss with HR, saying “I was told this during the interview, and now I am being asked to do this. What do you expect I will be doing 1 year from now?”

Finally, one of my friends was an executive VP at International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF). He said he started with the company as a chemist when he was very young and living in England. He said he was working in the lab on a Saturday morning when the company President came in and spoke with him. He said, “I want you to go into Sales.” My friend said “I thought I was getting fired. Who asks a scientist to go into sales?” But then my friend thought, “if the President of the company asks you to do something you probably should do it.” He told me that looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened for him. People get paid more for managing responsibility than they do for providing labor. He ended his career managing 5,000+ people.

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