“Its my first day”
I think The Simpsons captured how important that line is to the new guys in the office is. How many times have you used it? You probably didn’t take a navy submarine into international waters (well if you did, nice bro) but we’ve all been in those awkward moments on our first days when you’re pestering your co-worker every two minutes because you accidentally released a cage full of birds into a crowded mall on a shift at the pet store.
Well maybe something like that. Reading Robert Greene’s Mastery, Robert Greene sums up the three stages we all go through when adjusting to a new job, country, process or any change to your external environment. I’ve been through enough part time jobs to be able to vouch for his writing so I thought I’d share them here.
Its basically three stages. First we start in the Passive mode, then the Practice mode and finally the Active mode.
The Passive mode is kind of like the beginning of a party where you don’t know anyone. You’re taking in whats going on, who each of the participants are, getting the lay of the land before you make your first move. In the work environment the Passive mode is your first few weeks or months on the job. What you should be looking for and learning, on top of your basic job duties, is the culture of your new workplace. Who are the influencers, how the flow of communication works, the underlying pecking order and a potential niche where you can stand out. Getting a solid understanding of the lay of the land and how things are done in your new environment will help you go about making bigger moves in the future when you reach the Active mode.
In the Practice mode you are working towards becoming good at what your core job is. The Practice mode and Passive mode can be done simultaneously, but neither is more important than the other. In the Practice mode your aim is to know how to do your job so well that it becomes habitual or tactic knowledge- you’ve become so skilled at your job that you find it difficult to teach it ,but have no problem demonstrating it.
At this point you will have a solid handle on your core tasks and responsibilities and you know the lay of the land. You understand the system and all its components and how its parts interact. Now you can start experimenting with system, like modding your car. This is a shorter phase ,but a crucial one if you want to prove your value to your company or yourself. Here you have the legitimacy to propose new processes, a new project, or solutions to problems. As you pursue these experiments your ability to take criticism and possibly face heat from co-workers/partners/management will be put to the test, so it’s important to keep the knowledge you gained from the Passive mode in mind.
The importance of office politics will be something that will be debated for years to come, or at least until the robots take over, so its important to look at your environment subjectively and make smart moves if you want to achieve success.