A role transition—whether a promotion, a move to a new organization, or a fresh challenge in your existing job—can be a huge boost to your career and a chance for you to blossom and thrive. You know the drill heading in: Apply your experience and talents to the position, make sure you are accepted by the hierarchy (including your own direct reports), and clinch a few big wins in the first couple of months to demonstrate what you can do.
But in today’s hyper-collaborative and dynamic workplaces, successful moves aren’t as easy as they once were, even for the most qualified and hardworking people. Too often, transitioning managers and employees don’t live up to their organizations’ expectations.
Many Transitions + Poor Onboarding = Big Problems
In today’s organizations, transitions occur all the time and take many forms. Managers and employees—Millennials and Gen Zers in particular—change jobs far more often than previous generations ever did.
Internal moves are increasingly common too. Although many companies tout their onboarding processes, it’s not clear whether those methods are working.
The Hyper-Collaborative Environment
More and more companies have identified collaboration across disciplines and units as a way to meet the new business goal of ever-greater agility.
This environment has changed companies’ thinking about what’s most valuable in their employees’ contributions. Gartner reports that companies now view “network performance”—effectiveness at enhancing and capitalizing on others’ performance to improve one’s own—as equal in importance to the ability to handle tasks individually.
The Fast-Mover Strategies
These fast movers showed that people making transitions today don’t have the luxury of allowing their network connections to form serendipitously. To be successful, you (and those who onboard you) must be intentional. Here’s how.
1. Surge rapidly into a broad network.
Fast movers act as quickly as possible to discover the informal org chart of key boundary-spanning, energizing opinion leaders who are able and willing to help them get things done.
2. Fast movers get clarity on their value add and then work to improve in the areas where they’re weak or find people whose knowledge and skills fill the gaps.
Successful transitioners also adjust their approaches and ideas to mesh with new members of their networks.
3. Identify how you add value, where you fall short, and who can fill the gaps.
Whether your main contribution is your knowledge of a key technology, your ability to inspire people, or other skills and intangibles, you can use traditional connections, such as bosses, direct reports, and internal clients, to help you pinpoint exactly what others are expecting you to bring to the table.
4. Create scale.
Fast movers can not only quickly integrate into their new roles but also get big things done by harnessing the power of those they know. They tap their networks for both ideation and implementation—that is, they seek help from innovators across the organization who can offer novel solutions to pressing problems and from influencers who can help execute on, spread, and sell those ideas.
5. Shape the network to maximize personal and professional well-being.
Despite the stress inherent in taking on a new role, and all the networking they’re doing, fast movers also manage to prioritize their physical and mental health. They don’t allow the breadth of their networks to undermine the quality of their relationships or overwhelm them with too many demands for collaboration. They find people who understand, energize, adapt to, and create mutual wins for them just as they did for others. They rely on people who can fill their skills gaps and free them up for more valuable, meaningful, and scalable work.
A carefully crafted, supportive network shields them from some of the pressures of their new roles.Some of your new connections should be role models—contacts who show you a path to better work/life balance.
If organizations want to ensure that everyone who transitions has a reasonable shot at becoming a fast mover, leaders must develop a networks-first mindset—an understanding of the prime importance of connections in today’s highly mobile workforce and how they really function. Many companies pay lip service to supporting networking for new hires and promoted employees. But then they simply provide social hours, urge involvement in external associations, or assume that the bigger your network, the better. Not so. Some of the most effective fast movers make a point of engaging more intentionally with smaller subsets of superhelpful people.
Organizations can further help transitioners by thoughtfully establishing norms for sharing expertise in meetings, pairing newcomers with veterans, and continuing onboarding programs well into the first year. They can develop leadership training that intentionally cuts across silos, conduct “connections audits” to help employees build their networks, and flag ineffective networking practices. And they can deploy coaches and mentors to spread best practices.
Networking for transition doesn’t have to be a do-it-yourself exercise. Employers can lead the way in showing people how to quickly build the connections that will help them thrive.