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Publish Date: 9/13/2006

Get to know a new company during probation period


Dear Kate & Dale: I am about to start a new job, after nine years with my present employer. I am trying not to burn any bridges at my current job, but I need to think ahead to making it through a probation period. I’m excited and scared. Please give me some advice. – Anita

Dale: Beyond the probation period lies the real issue: how to make this move a part of a thriving career. You mentioned not burning bridges, but you also need to keep open all the bridges you’ve constructed during your job search.

Recontact anyone you asked for help and tell them the good news. Ask if you can keep them up-to-date on your progress, and tell them you hope you’ll someday have a chance to be of help to them. In doing so, you have moved from just another job seeker to a successful colleague, offering to be part of circles of helping.

For those people you met during the search whom you most admired, a lunch or meeting for coffee is a chance to gather wisdom – not just learning the new job, but evolving in your profession.

Kate: While doing your recontacting, I would go so far as to call the people who turned you down for jobs. You never know when they’ll be hiring in the future. As for starting the new position, you need to begin by figuring out the new culture. I had one client who was a touchy-feely manager. His style made his new team feel patronized and manipulated, and his employees did him in. He learned what work needed to be done, but failed to learn how it got done at the new company.

Meet everyone, be visible, but hold off on doing anything daring till your probationary period is over. I advise my clients to ask during job interviews, "Six months from now, what would you like to be able to say about the person you hire?" Ask a revised version of that question again so you’ll get a fresh definition of expectations.

Dale: Likewise, ask your new employees and co-workers about their work, goals and lives. Keep notes. What you ask isn’t as important as the asking – questions imply respect, and giving respect is the best way to get it.

Dear Kate & Dale: I am an RN of 18 years who is upset about your article on nursing as a good career path. Please get the facts right. The real truth about nursing is that you can’t find a job that is tolerable that doesn’t kill you. I show up to work to find that I am the only nurse who showed up to work. You can’t leave the floor, for that would be abandonment. Then you are pulled to a floor and given an HIV-positive patient whose blood you will come in contact with... – Gail

Kate: And the letter continued on. Gail’s right – nursing is a tough field; that’s one reason there’s a shortage. However, her letter was not representative of many similar ones; it was the only letter we got of its kind, so I’m not sure why Dale was so keen to publish it.

Dale: Because it represents all those people who hate their jobs. When you hate your job, you tend to attract people with similar views, and soon you come to believe the entire profession is rotten. Then you conclude, as Gail has, that you need to get out.

I’d like to suggest that before she tosses out her training, experience and much of her income, she seek out five or 10 nurses in other organizations, ones who love what they do. In doing so, she’ll be finding inspiration instead of commiseration, and I’m guessing she’ll discover that the problem is not the profession, but the place she’s practicing it. There is no job so good that a lousy environment can’t ruin it. Said another way: Misery not only loves company, but ruins companies and careers.

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O’Clock Club, a national career-counseling network (www.fiveoclockclub.com). Her newest book is "Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game" (Thomson Delmar Learning). Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab. His latest book is "Better Than Perfect: How Gifted Bosses and Great Employees Lift the Performance of Those Around Them" (Career Press). Please write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail dale@dauten.com.

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