The Internet has given us many new words: one is newbie. It means newcomer or initiate. Many professions have formalized status for newbies: doctors begin as interns, attorneys as associates, pilots as co-pilots, and more. Typically, newbie rank is a way to continue your education in an environment uniquely suited to teaching important lessons. You do become a part of a team, but your main contribution is your own education.
For many, it's a difficult role. Achieving a goal so long desired, only to discover that the path leads through positions of such low status, can be frustrating indeed. Being the least of the best — even when it is also the best of the least — can be a painful reality. Here is Part I of a set of guidelines for newbies, emphasizing the inner experience of the role.
- Enter gently
- Jumping in with both feet probably won't work. Assume that you'll have to earn the respect of all, and that you'll fail with some. Easing in gently, listening and observing, helps you avoid the blunders that can harden impressions of you prematurely.
- Accept your station
- However frustrated you feel about being a newbie, accept the reality. Don't try to prove that you're better than people seem to think. Everyone knows you have talent — if you didn't, you wouldn't have been accepted for the position.
- Know the value you bring to the team
- The value you offer is a channel for investment. Since the team is investing in you for the future, rather than the present, your main job is learning. Demonstrate that you can learn, and learn fast, and you'll impress the people who are responsible for making your learning possible.
- Recognize your mistakes and ignorance
- See your mistakes and ignorance for what they are: emblems of your newness and humanity, rather than proof of defect. Accept their existence, and do what it takes to plug the holes in your knowledge and prevent repetitions of mistakes. All the competent stars around you went through much the same thing you're going through now.
- Learn how to handle feeling ignorant
- Distinguish stupidity from ignorance. Is making mistakes upsetting to you? If so, why? If errors upset you, Jumping in with both feet
probably won't work. Assume
that you'll have to earn
the respect of all.learning will be painful, because much of what we learn comes from errors. If you have trouble dealing with your own mistakes, fix it.
Most important, remember that this stint at being a newbie won't be your last. There will be a first time for you in many possible roles: spouse, parent, Nobel Laureate, nursing home resident, and on and on. Learning how to be a successful newbie might just be the most valuable lesson of all.
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
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- Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on April 15: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 15.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.