You’ve done it. Congratulations are in order. You finally landed that job you were after and after an exhausting interview process, you have projects and work that you’re excited about. You’ve met your co-workers, gone through the company orientation, set-up your office space and are ready to hit the ground running. But wait—do you really know what your role is at your new place? I’ve found that often times people are hired for a job, but clarity is lacking in how the new employer actually wants it filled. How can you really know what you should be doing and how to do it well? The key lies with your new boss and the expectations they have of the person sitting in your seat. For that reason, you must begin there and do so as soon as possible. Consider asking your new boss out to lunch ASAP and go armed with the questions below.
1. “What do you expect of me in this new role?”
It is dangerous to believe the answer to that question is simply described in your job description. Often times those hiring for the position have a clear idea in their mind of what the person in the role should be doing, but they’re not great at communicating it directly with those they hire. The only way to truly get an answer to this question is to have the conversation with your new boss and ask her or him what they expect of you. You might be surprised how different their answers are from your job description or title!
Also, if your boss gives you responses like “I need you to be creative” or “you need to take ownership,” be sure to clarify those words since they often times mean different things to different people. I’ve found it helpful to ask for concrete examples such as “who is someone here at the company who has done this job or one similar well?” Or better, “What were the things that the person who excelled at this job did? What did you like about the way they operated?” Again, you’re in a new role and you don’t want to waste time guessing about the qualities your boss respects; spare yourself and clarify!
A best practice approach is after your boss gives their answer is for you to give your interpretation of their response. “Okay, given what you’ve said, here’s what I see as the priorities and goals for this role…what do you think?” This gives your boss the opportunity to respond to your understanding and they can agree/disagree or redefine your analysis as needed ensuring you’re both on the same page.
2. “As best as you can tell, how am I doing?”
This is an important question even when you are new to the role because the answer you get will shed light on your reputation, as well as what your new boss values from his/her direct reports. One of the worst things we can do at work is to assume we know what our boss expects from our performance. That’s a risky gamble and I’m not a fan of gambling at work, so don’t. Ask the questions and have the conversations.
3. “What’s expected of you (your boss)?”
What are the pressures and expectations placed on your boss? When you’re the new person walking in the door, you’re less likely to be aware of the behind the scenes daily nuances of the organization. However, what affects the boss will eventually have effects on you—where he/she feels pressure will one day tickle down to you. So, get curious about the expectations placed on him/her to gauge how you adjust your own goals. Of the three questions, this last question is by far the least frequently asked. And yet, if you don’t know what is expected of your new boss, how can you do a good job of aligning your work to support him or her? Treat your boss as if he or she is your most valuable customer from day one and start getting curious.
With a new boss, you have an amazing opportunity to set up the relationship you want from the beginning. You get a chance to completely reset from any dysfunctional interactions you’ve had with previous supervisors. Your curiosity and willingness to listen will set the tone for the relationship and demonstrate your willingness and ability to be an engaged team player. Furthermore, it will ensure your transition to your new role goes more smoothly and successfully.