The challenge of returning to work and establishing yourself in a new job
Published: 07 December 2016 By Jonathan Earle
Starting a new job with a new employer for the first time in more than 10 years is a daunting prospect. Returning to employment after six months makes the challenge even harder. Here’s what you can do to make your first 100 days easier.
On the 15th August, I walked in to the head office of Dixons Carphone for my very first day at work as commercial marketing director at my new employer. I had been out of work for 6 months and so it was a shock to the system to have to be dressed smartly and not simply worrying about walking the dog, hoovering the stairs and picking my daughter up from school.
My sleep patterns had changed as the start date came nearer and the feeling I had the night before was like many Sundays I had experienced over my lifetime. My mind was in overdrive.
Starting a new role is a daunting prospect at the best of times. I had gone through this experience 10 years earlier at O2 but things were easier then. I had no kids and my income was very much my own.
I had to move from ‘I’ to ‘team’ and quickly. During my time out of work, I was able to be more selfish than I had ever been. I was 100% focused on securing a new role but could also pursue other passions – playing sports and writing, for example. Now I had a team again and a wider network that I wanted and needed to get to know. My memory isn’t as great as some and so I noted down facts about everyone I met, from the number of children they had, to their football team and partner’s name.
My natural inclination is to get stuck in. I had, however, decided, that I would do things a little differently in this role.
Firstly, I wanted to complete my induction and prioritise this above day-to-day work. It is far too easy to cancel a trip to a warehouse or store in favour of attending a meeting on Christmas trading. In the long run, understanding how the business runs and who some of the key contacts are is more important.
Secondly, I over-indexed on listening. This might sound simple but my profile is ENTJ (Leader) on the Myers Briggs personality test, so my preference is always to talk. But I needed to listen to the language used, to the conversations that I was part of, to the rhythm of the business and to not jump in and and make a half-hearted impression.
This proved invaluable as it allowed me to form a quick but deep understanding of the business I was in. This also allowed me to understand my objectives and the possible routes to achieve them. I know it sounds crass, but it is amazing what you do hear when you are focussed and present.
Within this I have also tried to stay new and to ask the obvious questions such as ‘so why do we do it like that?’. What I love about my new company is how people are only too willing to help and explain but staying new is something that I will try to hold onto for as long as possible.
In the long run, understanding how the business runs and who some of the key contacts are is more important.
My final goal was to make sure I remembered I was still a dad. Sounds stupid but when I walk in the front door, I am greeted by my son and daughter who have also had long days and still need to read, finish their homework, be tested on their spellings, have supper and put their school clothes out for the next day.
One thing I have stuck to is switching off my phone completely in the evening to save any temptation. From experience, nothing major will need responding to at 7pm that can’t wait until the next morning.
It’s brilliant being back at work. From forging new relationships, to thinking about new problems and simply having a salary.
The first 100 days anywhere are tough, but unless you work in the medical profession it is highly unlikely that anyone will die from what you do, so enjoy the experience and don’t take yourself too seriously. Have the coffee meetings and find out about people and what they love away from work. Keep up the stuff that just makes you you and stay new.