Written by Donald Lush
It’s easy to make mistakes in a new job. These may be minor and result in nothing more than a few jokes, but they can also have a more profound impact on your future.
At an early stage in my career, after some years working for a London Borough, I had the good luck to work for the Lord Chancellor’s Department in the division looking after the affairs of people unable to manage their own finances.
Very early on, I inadvertently punched a hole in an original will. Now, you may not think this matters much but it does. A hole indicates that there might have been another document attached to the will which changed its meaning. The Battersea Dogs Home could have been in line for your aged relative’s money instead of you.
To put matters right I was obliged to make a statement describing my accident and swear an oath in front of the Master of The Court of Protection. To add to my embarrassment, it was Red Nose Day and the Master kindly advised me it might be better to remove my red nose before the proceedings as I would look more dignified and serious without it.
So why does this matter? Well, I learned that you have to learn how to handle a new job.
First of all, when all the recruitment procedures are complete and you now have the job you’ve dreamed of, your learning doesn’t cease. You now have to learn what your new job is. Ask questions, agree targets, research, read, try things out.
Secondly, you need to get to know your new organisation. Who matters? Who can help you? Who has power? What are the unofficial rules as well as the official ones? Again, ask questions, do your research. Be sure you know who to turn to when you need support.
Thirdly, what are you supposed to be doing? It’s amazing how organisations and managers assume you know. Meet your new boss and agree a plan which is then written down and shared. Identify any help you need to achieve the agreed aims and ask for it (again in writing) and ask more questions.
Looking back, if I had paid serious attention to these lessons I might not have had my hole punch mishap (and not been reminded of it every few weeks by my colleagues and been saved much professional and personal embarrassment).
Finally, the first few weeks of your new job are an ideal time to think about your next job. Why? Because this one is the foundation of the next one. You need to know what you have to learn and contribute to assure you of making your next jump.
Lessons learnt – I haven’t perforated any important legal documents since and I have done a job I love for many years now.