I recently began an exciting position in a new institution after an eight year stint in a previous job. What a massive difference: it has been an intense learning experience after knowing my previous role inside out to starting afresh. But it has been hugely enjoyable and I have a few hints and tips that I have picked up along the way.
When you have been in a position long term, many aspects of the job become second nature. It is easy to forget that you need to learn EVERYTHING all over again: from who to contact for what, to who can help you with specific queries, not to mention learning as much as possible about an institution. Stay calm. No-one will expect you to be doing the job without having researched and taken in information about the organisation and how you fit into it.
Don't pretend to know
Learn to be able to ask for more information and to say when you have no idea what someone is talking about. There is no shame in not knowing the language or acronyms used by a new institution. Each organisation has its own language, and we become so used to using them we forget that they are gibberish to anyone external. It is a difficult trap to get out of: how do you ask someone several meetings later what they meant?
Gather promotional materials
Since I started here I have picked up as many brochures and booklets as possible and I WILL read them all (eventually). These contain the messages that my institution wants the outside world to know and so it is a great place to start.
Use lists and avoid the red herring
Use to-do lists or charts or plan your time another way, but do try not to drop any balls initially. This isn’t as easy as it sounds with a to-do list as long as your arm and receiving more items for your list in every (back-to-back meeting). It can be difficult sometimes to sense what the most important and urgent items are and what is a ‘red herring’ or a non-urgent, non-important task. Use your team mates and colleagues: they will have a good idea of what needs doing immediately and who’s tasks are most important when they land on your desk. Be friendly and open and they will be too.
Establish an easy to negotiate filing system as soon as you start. This can help you with the red herring, as you can file things away until you need them. If you never need them again, you’ll know they are a red herring. You will never throw them away though and you’ll find them years down the line during a clear out or desk move and wonder how you ever thought you needed to keep it.
Meet and greet
Meet as many friendly internal and external faces that you are able. Internals can tell you what they like about the institution and often what they need from you in terms of fundraising. Externals will give you feedback on how the institution is perceived and how they think you should be moving forward. Don’t be pushy or tread on toes. You are the newbie and you need help on your way. Your team (if you have one) and colleagues around you are the key to getting on in your job. They can point you in the right direction and support you in any number of ways from providing you with old and forgotten paperwork and giving you the background (and gossip) that you need to know to negotiate awkward situations.
Use your contacts
If you have good relationships from a previous job and feel that there is something for your colleagues or institution to learn from them then use them. Arrange for meetings between old and new colleagues. If you have friendly contacts that you’ve known a long time, arrange to meet so you can practise your pitch on a friendly pair of ears: and ask for constructive feedback.
Write down and share your ideas
Starting in a new institution always gets the brain cells working overtime and can result in a boom of ideas. Write them down, share them, but don’t forget them. Soon enough you’ll be bogged down with the every-day paperwork and routine tasks and you’ll wish you had time for a spark of creativity. At this point it can be very useful to reflect on the ideas you came up with in the beginning, and see if there are any that you can now progress effectively.
Don't be too hard on yourself
You got a new job! You are there! Enjoy it, get to know it and don’t expect to know it all or make a difference immediately. In time you will!
Do you have some tips to add?
Do you have some tips to add?