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Dana WilsonGreat news! You’ve been through the interview and now you’ve been invited to sit down (or have a Zoom meeting) with the HR department for a job offer. You like the people, the money is good and the job is challenging.

Sure, it’s a bit of a stretch, and your potential boss was even kind of vague about the expectations for the position, but that will all be worked out once you’re on the job. Right?

Probably not. Getting the gig is just the beginning. All kinds of landmines exist and there’s a good chance you can injure your chances of success without a good plan. In the best scenario, you will get help from your new employer to properly navigate your new surroundings. Often, however, you are on your own. You’re going to need to put together an Onboarding First-Aid kit and administer it yourself. So, in the absence of outside support, try the following rescue procedures to ensure your survival.

Procedure No. 1: Network Scope

You probably used networking to find your position; use it now to expand your list of friends and allies within the organization. Start by building a ‘network scope’, a map of the people with whom you will need to have a relationship. Ask yourself who you need to know to do the job and how you will meet them. You will probably need someone on the inside to help you. The Human Resource Department or a trusted peer may be very helpful. An excellent, and often overlooked, source is your new administrative assistant. He or she probably knows who you need to be acquainted with and can schedule networking or introduction meetings.

Procedure No. 2: Role Ultrasound

If no one has given you a solid list of annual objectives for the position, create your own. It doesn’t matter whether it is official or not – it gives you something to share with your boss and direct reports. The interview process and the job description may help, but don’t depend on them. Work out misconceptions early on and build in items which may have been skipped or glossed over in the interview. Don’t forget to include your peer group in these conversations! You may be inadvertently stepping into someone else’s territory with your initial draft.

Procedure No. 3: Early Win Vaccine

Quickly achieve success around things that are important to the organization. This is a critical component of building credibility in a new executive’s tenure. A great idea for determining early wins is to ask other executives what is frustrating them. What barriers are in their way? Address these challenges and you can become a hero. To access your progress, begin asking for feedback almost immediately. Don’t stop at ‘How am I doing?’ Seek specific examples of what you are doing right or wrong. Find out what you could be doing better. Dig deep. Don’t be satisfied with vague, superficial answers. Be sure to probe for potential land minds that could destroy your career if you move too quickly.

Procedure No. 4: Culture Thermometer

This is a tough one. It is impossible to know what you don’t know about the inner workings of an organization when you’ve only just arrived. Begin by keeping your eyes and ears open at every function, meeting and hallway encounter. Your homework while preparing for the interview should help. If you didn’t create an organization book with history, competitors, press releases, articles and analyst reviews (if a public company), do so now. Also look for a mentor to provide “air cover” for you by giving you the big picture and sharing (unofficial) items that aren’t documented in publications or documents.

Procedure No. 5: Study the Chart

Given that you successfully got the job, you probably know a lot about your subject matter. However, each company and each new role requires specialized information and processes. You may need to use a different software package or learn a lot about an innovative product. You will probably be faced with a bunch of unfamiliar business acronyms and technical jargon. It’s not surprising then that you will need to quickly get up to speed on the content knowledge of your new position. Create a quick reference guide for acronyms, jargon and technical language specific to the industry. Spend your early days reading and learning – this is your discovery time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand an assignment, process or procedure. You have a small window (usually 90 days) to build a solid understanding of the nuances of your position without disapproval. After that it will be expected that you know what you are doing.

In reality, it usually takes 12 to 18 months to be totally effective in a new position. Uncertainty during this period is normal! Ideally, your organization will provide you with effective onboarding triage. But in the absence of a defined plan, or professionals who specialize in providing this support, use these procedures with great care. Your career survival may just depend on it!

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.

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