Unlearn Habits From Your Old Job Before You Learn A New Job

What does it mean to be new? No matter how many trips around the sun your physical form takes, you can still be new. You shed skin, you grow muscles, and your cells regenerate. And just as our cells regenerate, our ideas and experiences are replaced with newer ones. And it takes time. We all know that “it’s not easy being green.” Whether you’re a new executive or an associate, your first day at a job will always be a first. Often, professionals — particularly seasoned ones — will reject the benefit of a first day and operate in a new job as if it were their previous job. You may feel inclined to replicate old habits and expertise from one job to the next, but this behavior can shorten your tenure.

unlearn habits from old job

Forget Knowledge — Listening Is Power

No matter how strong your resume, you still have no experience working at your new company. Your team, mission, and office dynamics are different from your previous jobs. Because of this, you may feel pressure to prove yourself and immediately transfer your wealth of knowledge into tasks at your new position prematurely. Ironically, this can lead to rookie mistakes — acting before you’ve listened can force your boss to spend more time correcting errors and training. Save yourself from costly mistakes by listening to how things work at your new company before acting on a whim. What may have worked at a previous company may not match your new company’s business objectives. Don’t limit yourself to only learning your day-to-day responsibilities — set aside time with each of your new teammates across the department. Ask questions, listen, and learn about your new colleagues’ roles. Discover ways to build partnerships and learn how your work directly impacts your organization from top to bottom. Before presenting an idea, listen to differing perspectives and learn from them. Industry knowledge and expertise are very valuable, but day-to-day tasks are not intrinsically transferable between organizations. Remember that experience is a commodity that generates value over time in a role. 

Perspective, Like Timing, Is Everything

Being “new” isn’t a measure of your competency. There is a difference between having a lack of experience and using your experience to approach a familiar process in a new way. The only way to gain a fresh perspective is by taking the time to watch, listen, and see a solution that was previously unseen. As Audre Lorde aptly put it, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.” After learning about your new company’s workflow, you can use your expertise to frame solutions in a different light. Contrary to popular belief, you weren’t hired for your experience alone. Most employers are looking for a unique and strong point of view. You don’t get that strength by simply stretching. The muscle you’ve gained over the years comes from exercising creativity, adapting to changing environments, having the stamina to see projects through to the end, and producing tangible results. A strong portfolio demonstrates a willingness to learn, iterate, and deliver. So, after you’ve listened, taken a step back and given yourself the time to thoroughly evaluate a process, project, or task at your new company, then is the moment to offer a fresh perspective.

You Are Never Too Senior To Feel Junior

While it may feel difficult and unnatural, it is important to accept the notion of our own novice. Socrates embraced this most difficult truth: “I know that I know nothing.” Admitting this to your new boss may seem counterintuitive, but “knowing it all” has its disadvantages. Consider this: If you did know everything, there would be nowhere left to go. To embrace complacency is to accept a stagnant, and short, career. A lack of hunger is an intrinsically undesirable quality for a new employee. Don’t stymie your growth before your first 90 days — learn as much as possible, apply your expertise, and evaluate before you deliver. You cannot be the best at your new job without first learning how to unlearn habits from your previous job. Think of your new role as another chance to hit the reset button for your professional development. While being new again can feel scary, the novelty of newness can also be exciting. Don’t be afraid to shed your skin and regenerate. The best version of yourself is yet to come.

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