Just as every person has a unique personality, so does every business. This is why hiring managers consider how well your personality matches the firm’s corporate culture, in addition to your skills and talents, when deciding whether to extend a job offer.
However, assessing your fit in a company before you’re hired is an inexact science; it’s a prediction similar to recommendations you might get from Amazon that say, “Since you enjoyed ‘Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog,’ we thought you’d also enjoy ‘Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People.’” You won’t know if you like the new book until you read it, and you won’t fully acclimate to a new corporate culture—or the characteristics, nuances and unwritten rules of an organization—until you’re there.
In fact, in a recent survey by The Creative Group, four out of 10 executives polled said acclimating to a firm’s corporate culture poses the greatest challenge for advertising and marketing professionals starting a job. While most managers understand you need time to adapt, they’ll also take note of how you go about doing so. Following is advice on how to assimilate as quickly as possible.
Follow your leader. Get to know your manager’s communication preferences: Is e-mail, instant message or in-person communication preferred? Also, discuss your responsibilities and how your position fits into the grand scheme of things. You might ask questions such as: What are your immediate priorities? How often and in what form should you provide project updates? How will your performance be evaluated? Consider requesting feedback three or four weeks into the position to make sure you’re on the right track.
Make friends. While you want to get to know everyone on your team, pay particular attention to those you’ll need to rely on heavily. The obvious candidate would be your manager, but also reach out to colleagues with whom you’ll frequently collaborate. If you’re a graphic designer assigned to a particular product, it won’t hurt to ask the group’s marketing manager to lunch. Your goal should be to learn specifics about the other individual’s role and how you can most effectively work together.
Take note of the work ethic. One company’s idea of hard work may entail fielding instant messages 24/7, while another may expect you to only be available during set hours. Spend a few weeks studying how people work and notice whether your colleagues or manager accept calls or respond to e-mails from home. Also, how long do people leave for lunch, or do they sit at their desks while eating? When do colleagues arrive at work, and when do they depart? Adopt these unwritten company rules as your own.
Mind your meeting manners. There are unofficial guidelines that dictate proper decorum during group gatherings as well. Perhaps you came from a company where meetings were essentially free-for-alls in which the loudest person got the floor. But apply the same behavior during a meeting at a firm where opinions are only given when solicited, and you’re bound to receive the wrong kind of attention.
Don’t rock the boat. Even if you have an innovative idea for overhauling your firm’s website, wait until you’ve established a credible reputation and rapport with your colleagues before proposing a major change. Your first priority is to earn people’s trust. Once that’s been established, colleagues will be more open to your suggestions.
Even those who are a good fit for a particular work environment may find it difficult to adapt to a new company’s culture because the clues can be subtle. By taking time to note the distinctions, you’ll not only start your new job off on the right foot, you’ll also demonstrate your professionalism.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.