Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 4: best practices for new and recent hires 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on June 10, 2013

This is my fourth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-313 for Parts 1-3.) In a fundamental sense I began this posting with my series: Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation (see my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development, postings 73-88.) Though I could also claim that I began this earlier, and both in the progression of my writing here, and in the job search to job worked-at cycle, and with the pre-hire interviewing and negotiating process.

And I begin this posting by going back to its first sentence and more specifically to its second clause: “… and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so.” The crucially important words that were assumed in that, but that were left unstated would indicate that this meant problems “as identified and prioritized by the hiring business”, and more specifically “by the hiring manager conducting their side of their meetings with you.”

• Businesses hire new employees with all of the up-front costs and risks involved because they have need that outweighs those negatives for scale and priority. They see more positive value in bringing in someone than cost for doing so.
• And the value they seek is in getting specific tasks done and priorities addressed that they cannot cost-effectively get done with the staff that they already have in place.
• So from their perspective, the hiring process is all about problem solving, and taking problems out of the hands and off of the desks of their managers, and putting them into the hands of new hires who can get them resolved, and both in the immediate short-term and on an ongoing basis as needed.
• Given this, the best candidate is the one who can most effectively meet these needs – and that means having the requisite skills and experience, and the interest and enthusiasm for doing this work, and good interpersonal skills as businesses look for and need people they can work with.

Picking up on that last bullet point, all three of these basic requirements sets are essential, even if they are not always stressed or even explicitly noted in a posted job description. In fact the only requirements set that is certain to be explicitly addressed is the skills and experience component of a desired job candidate requirements list.

I have already at least touched on these issues in this series, in Part 3: searching for and landing a new job but at the risk of being overly repetitive – something I actively seek to avoid in my writings, I re-stress this here. Your on-the-job success from day one as a new hire has to be based on the shared understandings and expectations that are developed during the hiring process and most definitely as you meet with and are interviewed by your supervisor and manager to be and probably others as well who you will work with. So I ground my discussion of day one and beyond and success there, from this foundation point and with the possible pitfalls of the three requirements sets. And I begin with what might be the trickiest – because this is the one that at least seems to be covered in the job description that you faced in that hiring process.

• As a first point of note here and perhaps the most obvious of them, the skills and experience requirements listed in a job description can represent a jumble of high and low priorities. It is up to you as a candidate to discern from your background research of the business, and from your exchanges with people there which is which. Look to see what the business is doing and has been doing and really listen to what you are being told that would indicate current and anticipated needs and challenges. Focus on the points that you are told are most important to the people there, who are sharing time with you in interview meetings, and through emails and other exchanges. And ask good, specific questions. Show insight and never simply assume, and show interest in this too.
• And with that set of approaches and perspectives in mind, I come to a potential minefield challenge that can arise. Sometimes a new hire is brought in to address new and emerging problems, or ongoing tasks and responsibilities that are not problematical. In fact much if not most hiring fits this pattern. But people are also sought out and hired in an attempt to resolve long-term and even festering problems. For management and senior management positions, this can mean change management challenges and at times this aspect of a possible job can be fairly obvious. But this type of challenge can arise at any level of the table of organization, and particularly for hands-on, non-managerial positions this can come as a post-hiring surprise.
• So when you are interviewing and during the hiring process, sound out the people you meet with, your prospective hiring manager definitely included, to find out if this is a position that would address a long-standing problem that others have failed at. And find out as tactfully and non-confrontationally as possible how and why this problem task or responsibility has remained uncompleted and uncompletable.
• I am not arguing a case here against taking on this type of assignment or job. I am arguing the case against putting yourself in a position where you in effect back into this type of situation without realizing that until you have been hired and have started this new job.

If you are facing anything like this type of challenge, you need to negotiate the terms under which you address this challenge. Find out precisely how and why previous attempts failed and negotiate the terms you would need for working on this accordingly.

• To take that out of the abstract, I have seen even high priority tasks essential to a business fail and repeatedly fail because the executive that the hiring manager reports to saw them as so important, that they refuse to allow enough time for them to be done, for their dire urgency.
• So a new hire fails to meet their supervisor’s supervisor’s very demanding overall timeline as they peel back the layers of the onion and seek to identify and resolve all of the subtasks involved, and get buy-in and support from all of the necessary stakeholders needed for that. And they do not and in fact realistically cannot get the entire job done in the time allowed so they are let go and a new hire is sought out and brought in – who has to begin this entire process again from scratch.
• The specific example I am thinking of here as I write this had the senior executive involved insisting that their pet complex-high priority task had to be completed within the first 90 days of the new hire’s tenure on the job as that meant they would still be within their probationary period and could be let go without cause or explanation if they failed. And this particular, genuinely high priority task, essential for the business’ long term strategic goals remained undone, and I repeat a word I used earlier in this posting: festering for its lack of completion and resolution.
• This is an example of a long term problem I would not recommend taking on – unless terms of hiring and employment explicitly removed this non-starter barrier to any possible successful completion of this task. That type of negotiated agreement, I add, is not always possible.

So look for work that can in fact be done, and for terms of employment and responsibility that make that possible. And pursue an effective day one and beyond on the job from there. I am going to turn in my next series installment to discuss goals and stretch goals, and early successes. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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