The first few months of a new job are often filled with stress as the newcomer navigates his or her way through a sea of new faces, new rules and new challenges.
But a new book argues that being the new kid on the block in a new company or field can also lead to increased creativity and some of the best moments of your career.
“When we’re in this rookie mode is when we tend to do our very best work,” says Liz Wiseman, the author of the book “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work.” “There’s brilliance in it. A rookie move isn’t a mistake or a disaster but is actually something that is innovative.” Wiseman says that companies and managers should adjust the way they look at career changers and new employees.
“Rookies come in without the mentality that it will take years of paying their dues before they can contribute and they tend to work a lot faster,” she notes. Here are some things real-life rookies should keep in mind as they navigate the workplace.
There is no honeymoon period. “Rather than be nervous, [realize] that this is where you are going to do your best work,” says Wiseman. “Instead of seeing those first six months as a write off and kind of being in learning mode and not being expected to contribute, actually the first six months is when people are valuable.”
Ask smart questions. “Start reaching out to people who know [the lay of the land],” says Wiseman. “And that humble request for help is likely to kick in somebody’s mentoring genes.” Oftentimes, says Wiseman, it’s during the rookie period that people find a strong network of colleagues who will vouch for them down the line.
Don’t be arrogant. No one has made friends by bluntly criticizing the way things are done. “I think approaching anything by saying ‘I have a better way’ is not going to go over well,” Wiseman notes. “I think the best approach, the humbler approach, is to think ‘what can I learn from you, what can you teach me’ and then just deliver fast and I think just show them.” A willingness to learn from your colleagues goes a long way.
Age is just a number. “It’s never too late to be a rookie,” stresses Wiseman. “Professionals who are able to use their hard-won experience but are still able to tap into their rookie smarts will build a culture of innovation.”
Build a record of success. “You have to show you have a track record of success in rookie assignments,” says Wiseman. “If you could show a trend of that, hiring managers will see that what you have is learning agility.” Developing an ability to think quickly on your feet is key to success. As Wiseman notes, “learning agility is forever; skills are ephemeral.”
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