Starting a new job – ready, set, go

Practicing growth mindset while embracing change

The questions I’ve been getting for the last few days - Are you ready for your next job? Nervous? Excited? The short answer is yes – I have all the feels.

First of all, I am overwhelmed by all the well wishes on LinkedIn, private messages, emails and calls. I am so lucky to have a community of people around me who are rooting for me. Secondly, even though I am no stranger to making changes like this (see Three careers by mid 30s post), I am by no means immune to all the new job jitters. I am feeling all the vulnerability and the gravity of the decision that I have made – both filled with excitement and apprehension.

To organize myself and to pass the week and a half of time that I gave myself in between job, I’ve been doing what I do – processing and writing down a plan for a plan. To do this, I look back and I look forward and try not to dwell too much.

I know that I cannot (and probably should not) re-invent myself as I start later this week. Though of course, I’d love to overnight become the always innovative, strategic, cool, calm, collected, thoughtful, measured, and kind Helen. Chances are, I will still be me in my new role – with highs and lows, successes and shortcomings. Having said that, I am on a lifelong journey of growth and learning, so this is as good a time as any to step back, pause, take a deep breath and get ready for my next ride. Let’s dig in.

Reflect on what I want to learn, change and keep  

As I get ready to jump into my new job this week, I have spent some time reflecting on what I want to do differently and what I want to continue doing.

“Crossing the chasm” as a product leader

I am entering a company at a completely different phase than where I am coming from. I plan to read Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore and dig into strategies of how to help a product go mainstream holistically. This will be a new challenge and opportunity for me because there is no obvious path to organic growth – one that is often available in large companies with an existing portfolio of offerings.  So in this new organization, I’m excited to help achieve the flywheel effect (can’t go without mentioning Jim Collins) with a sense of ownership and collaboration.

I want to be more than my job.

I am proud of what I am accomplishing in the professional arena – I deeply care about the work that I do, develop great report with people I work with and enjoy celebrating successes and lamenting shortcomings. However, as Eric Eliasson and Lara Mitra point out:

“We have never expected more from our careers. Jobs purport to give us everything: belonging, purpose, meaning, community, and an identity. Buying into this mindset can lead to unhealthy results: when work does not go well, you will feel unwell. For me, the key to avoiding this cycle is to diversify the things I am passionate about and dedicate my time to. Kat Cole, former President and COO at Focus Brands, shared in our interview how putting more time and energy towards volunteer work made her happier and ultimately more effective.” What makes a successful career? Candid advice from talks with 30 leaders1

I find that I have fallen into this as well – where my work defines me more than I’d like it to. To manage that, I want to continue focusing on mental and physical wellbeing - building out baking and cooking as a hobby and working out regularly.  

Here are some of my cooking adventures that I’ve been pursuing as I’ve been evolving my cooking/baking2:

Set my work boundaries (and cut down screen time)

As someone whose value is so closely tied to work, it has become really easy to be tethered to work wherever I am. Of course, tech and mobile devices make this be incredibly easy.  However, constantly being interrupted by work notifications, prevents me from being able to unplug and be present in the moment with my family, friends, and baking instruments. A friend pointed out recently, that all her memories were of times when she was present in the moment. Well, if I’m thinking about work, or engaging with work instead of with other parts of my life, I will not be able to create those memories.

So I am committing myself to once again set appropriate work/home boundaries - remove my phone from my bedside and leave it in a different room/location during family meals, and be mindful when I check email/messages outside of working hours.

I’m always looking for more ideas for things that have worked for you, so please share!

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Find an ally

What has worked for me with every previous team is that I was able to find a work “partner in crime” – usually a peer on the same team or a team nearby. This has usually been a person that I work closely with, where our success is naturally interdependent and our styles are complementary. Having a a co-worker like that has made the days more fun and fulfilling when you can share joys and challenges together. I have learned that this person cannot be your manager and cannot be someone who works for you or is downstream of your decisions.

Building a relationship with this person also requires both vulnerability and trust while balancing with self restraint as there are always topics that are inappropriate to share. As I have learned time and time again, everything we do is about people. So having one ally on the team as soon as possible is really helpful.

Get my learning tools in order  

This is the first time I am starting a new role as a leader and a manager. I am definitely excited and I also am trying to be mindful as to how I want to show up. Most importantly, I want to be open and curious to learning from people around me, ask the questions, and internalize the business, the customers and the environment around me. I don’t want to show up as a know it all and am challenging myself to minimize the number of times I say “at my last company, we did it this way.”

As I’ve been preparing, I came across Deb Liu’s (former VP of Facebook marketplace and a recent CEO of Ancestry) post Onboarding to a new role – and I plan to use her advice especially the listening tour asking these five questions:

  1. What is working well? 

  2. What is not working? 

  3. What should we do that we aren’t doing today? 

  4. What would you do if you were in my shoes

  5. What should I learn about [company name] that will be helpful to me in my role?

I also really like her Make the first 90 days count post – and I also aim to publish my 30-60-90 day plan outlining priorities, commitments and deliverables.   

What has worked for you when you’ve started a new role especially as a manager in a new company?

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Be bold now – “Continue to pursue a career that offers an interesting life”   

Leaving an amazing company that has supported my career, family and personal development over the last 10 years is not easy. Impostor syndrome is real and one book that is giving me courage and perspective is Kate Isler’s Breaking Borders.  Kate spent two decades at Microsoft while pursuing opportunities around the world and eventually leaving it to now run Be Bold Now (a non profit to embolden women). In her book, she discusses lessons over the years in tech as a leader, entrepreneur, wife and mother as she has traversed careers, continents and job opportunities. Some of the ones that I have found especially pertinent, and reassuring given my eminent transition are:

“When you have an opportunity for an experience, take it. I was wholly unprepared and nervous about entering a party where I didn’t speak the language or know anyone in the room. It turned out to be one of the most memorable evenings of my life.”

This is how I feel right now as I embark on a new job – I am nervous because I am new to the education space, but I know that on the other side of this, I will look back with gratitude and fulfillment for things that I have learned. So my future self is cheering me on.  

“A career move is also a life choice. Success can be defined in several ways and does not always fall within the traditional definition of movement up the corporate ladder.”

I know that I have made a life choice a long time ago that I will change careers and jobs as the right opportunities present themselves. It does make my life look and feel different than a textbook on advancement in a corporation.

“Giving up is not an option! When you know that you are headed in the right direction, and there are detours or obstacles that set you back, look at them as part of the journey and not a reason to abandon the vision. Stamina is an attribute.”

So grateful for this reminder – as I feel this lesson with every fiber of my being. I know things will not necessarily be easy or comfortable as I start a new chapter, but I also know that I do not give up and that is a strategic advantage.

Coda on privilege - #StopAsianHate and Be Bold Now

We end every post on Mind The Beet with a reflection on our privilege and how we give back – and this week we are highlighting two organizations.

#StopAsianHate - This has been an incredibly difficult period for our colleagues and friends in the Asian American community. We stand with the community and are committed to take action to help confront racial injustice. So this week, we are donating and highlighting Asian Americans Advancing Justice – this is an organization with a mission to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all

Be Bold Now – Organization Kate Isler co-founded that celebrates women supporting women and hosts an International Women’s Day event every year – a holiday near and dear to my heart as it is a holiday we continue to celebrate in our family as instilled in me by my Eastern European heritage.

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Eric Eliasson and Lara Mitra, both MBA ’20, are co-founders of “How I Got Here," a podcast that features successful professionals sharing the twists and turns of their career journeys. To stay up to date, follow their LinkedIn page or sign up for their newsletter on Substack

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Homemade bread, Dominique Ansel’s strawberry tart, Thomas Keller’s roasted chicken and Dominique Ansel’s swiss merengue