Advice to my daughter – You signed your first contract.
You’ve just finished your trial period and you’ve finally received your first contract – the infamous Graal. I know that you’re relieved, ecstatic, after this little victory. However, you’re still very aware that life is starting now and that the challenges to come are at least as hard as the past ones. Thus, once you’ve celebrated on social media, called your best friend, and drank champagne with your family (in this order), it’s time to prepare for the next step.
Your colleagues appreciate you, they consider you like a young girl who is really motivated and brings a bit of fresh air to this slightly dusty service. A few even went to the bar with you to celebrate your new contract.
Now that you’ve managed to fit in, it’s finally time for you to make your mark in the service. So far, you were mainly there to learn, but now it’s important for you to prove that you bring some added value to the team.
Normally, you’ve already identified your allies. Those who will defend you when you say something dumb, who are infinitely patient when you ask a million questions (I know how annoying you can be in those moments) and who always find time to help you in your training. This first group is like a little cocoon where you feel good, and you’re welcome in all circumstances. However, there are also other types of colleagues. This second group is made of the neutral ones, those who ignore you because: “You understand, miss, we’ve seen a lot of young ones like you. We are still here and we have better things to do than to waste our time with this new recrue who may not make it past Spring.”
They’re not even the worst. There’s a third group of colleagues, more negative, who have decided to make your life hell, because for them, welcoming a novice rhymes with hazing: “She needs to suffer as much as we did when we started, following this wonderful tradition that we’ve created”
There’s your new challenge. Conquering the recalcitrants.
Why? Because during the first three months, you learned everything you needed to know from the first group. Now, you need to get to know the second group, and even the third one. This is going to require more patience, and you’ll need to be more strategic, but it’s a sinequanone condition to expand your circle of acquaintances and prove that you have what it takes to be a leader. With the first group, it was easy, almost anyone can be friends with them, but you now have to put your leadership skills forward and prove that you can be a part of any team.
There are several proven successful methods, like going for coffee breaks, asking about Sunday activities, knowing the children’s names, and even the grandchildren if needed, and showing an increasing interest in their projects. I’m not saying that it should be forced, or that you have to be a hypocrite! No, just remember that we’re all human and that if someone is a bit cold, it may only be because they don’t know you.
Is it all? No, not at all, that would be too easy.
You were humble during your training and you tried to avoid being seen as the pedantic young girl who thinks she knows it all. It’s a great quality, which people sometimes forget about, and I’m proud of you. But now, it’s time to show what you’re worth. If you don’t want to be seen as the ‘nice little one’ forever, who’s agreeable to work with and always there to help, but that no-one can imagine in a leadership role – even in the far far future, then it’s time to act now, before you get put in that box. And believe me, it’s so difficult to get rid of such a label that you often end up identifying with it and acting as is expected of you, entering a vicious cycle.
You’re seeing the company with fresh eyes. You graduated from a great engineering school. Clearly, since you arrived, you must’ve seen a lot of things that have shocked you or surprised you, and your head must be buzzing with ideas to improve current processes, both in the working life and in the projects that you’ve studied. No?
But you’re scared. Scared that your ideas might be stupid, or worse, that what you say might embarrass you in front of your colleagues. Afraid of being the one who’s going to question the established order and particularly afraid of confronting Robert, the guardian of traditions. You know that there’s little room to maneuver, and Robert has accepted you but he’s keeping an eye on you and was very clear about the fact that your youthful charm won’t lower his harsh judgment on your competencies.
It’s now time to step out of your comfort zone. You can keep using your angelic air to ask questions on the processes that are more and more precise and inquisitive. And slowly, you’ll start suggesting ideas for improvement.
And to make sure that you’ll actually do it – that you won’t spend the next ten years in your little cocoon, regretting the fact that you didn’t shake the system, I have a challenge for you. You pick whichever project you want, you give yourself three months (or less, but not more), and you come back to me. When I say ‘come back to me’, I won’t get offended if you’d rather do this challenge with a friend.
And in three months, we meet up. If you won, dinner’s on me, if not, dinner’s on you, in my favorite restaurant. This project is yours – it could be, for instance, to get rid of all the plastic bottles in the office, or it could be something more in line with the industrial processes. It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is to start a ‘disruptive’ project, with a measurable objective, with a reasonable deadline, to prove that you have the power to change things when you put your heart into it.
Good luck (this would be a good time to shake hands) and see you in three months.