Q: After being out of work for quite awhile, I'm starting a new job. But I'm concerned about getting back into the routine smoothly. What can I do to have a successful transition?
A: Pay attention to your new environment, and keep the other aspects of your life as stable as possible.
First of all, celebrate. It can be a long road to finding employment, so take time to be happy. And then, start to think through your transition strategy.
Begin by anchoring yourself in the positive — the reasons that you were hired. Consider your skills and the experience you bring to the role. Also take time to reflect on what you've learned during your time of unemployment; all of this will help you enter your new role with an air of confidence.
Then consider the aspects that you're concerned about. They may include having more structured time, meeting new people, mastering new responsibilities, even fitting in from a dress code and culture perspective. For areas of greatest concern, think back on past experiences in the workplace. What has worked well for you when you've started positions in the past? Have you observed any faux pas from others that you'd want to avoid?
To prepare for re-entry, create an action plan that launches prior to your first day. Your pre-job plan should include physical preparation. Start going to bed and getting up at times that fit your new job. Check your wardrobe. If you don't know the dress code, call to find out if it's business casual or more formal, and be sure that your clothes are up to snuff. Also pay attention to your emotions, working to stay on an even keel so that any "first day of school" anxieties don't escalate.
Once you're there, calibrate your interactions. Be friendly, but don't rush into alliances too quickly. Focus more on learning, and less on telling. One of the least popular people in the workplace is the "new to the job know-it-all."
Get clarity on performance expectations. Spend time with your boss so that you understand exactly what is expected of you. Another common pitfall is putting too much time and energy into the wrong thing, so head that off right away.
Keep the rest of your life as calm as you can. Think twice before starting a class or taking on a new volunteer commitment. You'll likely be fatigued at the end of a workday, so make sure that you give yourself room to recharge. Make sure you build good eating and exercise habits into your new routine, and an energizing — not draining — amount of time for other social parts of life.
Make efforts to protect your ideas
Q: I found out that someone I work closely with took an idea of mine and passed it off as his own. I'm not sure what to do — call him on it or let it go?
A: Idea theft doesn't need to be tolerated, but careful steps are necessary to ensure you maintain your own professionalism when dealing with it.
First, get your feelings under control so that you neither overreact nor give up.
Reflect on your interactions regarding this idea. Could he see it as building on a small nugget of a concept and transforming it? Or did he take credit for a full-fledged idea? Do you have documentation or witnesses that establish your contribution, if needed?
Assess the credibility of your source — do the motives or quality of information of the individual who told you about the situation stand up to scrutiny?
These lines of inquiry are not intended to suggest that you weren't shortchanged on credit for a good idea. But accusing someone of idea theft is serious, and you need to be on solid ground if you want to talk to him about it, or raise it with your boss or others in authority.
Make a plan to address the situation if you think it was an innocent mistake, perhaps by an inexperienced employee. A hallway conversation without others around may be a good option.
If you determine that he intentionally took credit for an important idea, stronger action may be appropriate. Meet with your boss to think through next steps, including a talk with your co-worker. Also plan what you'll do if he denies that it was your idea or doesn't have a satisfactory response for you. If necessary, your boss or other leadership may need to be involved.
Keep your conversation direct, nonemotional and nonaccusatory.
Look at the possibility that you're overly reticent with your ideas. Holding back on sharing powerful ideas invites others to move forward with them, and holds you back professionally.
Stand up for yourself in a clear but professional way in order to protect yourself from idea theft.