Starting a New Career or Venture? Here's How to Engage with Style, Purpose, and Results


Starting a new career or venture can be tough for host of reasons. You've worked hard to find your next calling and have established a foothold and you're starting soon! What can you do to position yourself to establish relationships quickly, improve your character and perception amongst your new peers and associates, and get to adding value to your new enterprise as quickly as possible? 

I believe there are 3 generic scenarios that can happen when starting your next career or venture:

  • Scenario 1: Winging It
    • You've made it this far, you're pretty much golden, the hard part is over.  From here on out you're going to do what you've always done to be successful.  You're pretty good at working hard and smart and making things happen so planning ahead doesn't seem like it will do much for you. What's wrong with this approach? It's worked so far and plenty of seemingly successful people get ahead by sheer brute force and addressing the world and it's events as they come.
    • My belief is while some people succeed with this approach, there is much left on the table:
      1. Does not maximize the probability of success
      2. Much of the "success" before could be attributed to "luck" and not entirely succeeding on purpose or at most, what got to you successful so far won't be so in your next venture.
      3. You could be taking the slowest possible approach to learning and getting to value added (trial and error, politicking over valuable results, etc.).
      4. Depending on the type of new venture, you may establish your first impression as being "underwhelming" and something other than being an A Player.
    • Scenario 2: Notional Planning
    • This ones obvious in that you've thought about engaging and working hard to make your relationships happen and get to valuable results.  Perhaps you've even gone so far, as I see many people avoiding doing, to WRITE IT DOWN.  While thinking ahead and rudimentary planning can increase your odds of accelerating your success and value, there is again, much left up in the air.
    1. What got you here won't get your there - i.e. "there" being highly valuable in a short period of time.  The book by the same title What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith is a great view of 20 character/behavior flaws that definitely WILL get in your way when starting a really new venture.  You likely won't have the political capital and relationships established that you need and so people (other employees, customers, managers, leaders) will be making assessments quickly and so not having a really clear view of your character strengths and potential flaws will more than likely gum up the works of getting to valuable as quickly as possible.  Use this book as a guide to deliberately overcome some of the 20 traits Goldsmith speaks to, it'll help tremendously!
    2. Your past performance and results certainly speak volumes to your capabilities and skills. Often, however, when making a big career transition and starting a new venture your ability to meet new and quite different outcomes as well as having the will to persist and learn quickly are going to be MUCH more important than they have before.  This is where some preparation can really help, even in the transition period.
      1. Reinventing You by Dorie Clark and The Startup of You by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman are two great books to prepare yourself well for starting your new venture and career and ensuring you have a foundational personal image/brand from which to demonstrate your value, and quickly.  In them you'll find a variety of methods, tools, techniques, and anecdotes from a wide array of professionals on the subject.
    3. You'll more than likely be perceived as confident as well as invested in establishing meaningful relationships quickly with the kind of preparation these books might help with.
  • Scenario 3: Planning Well
  • You've planned well and are positioned to develop your critical relationships quickly, understand clearly your priorities, and get to adding value as soon as possible.  This, I believe, is paramount to increase your odds of feeling fulfilled and accomplished in your transition, cementing your value in your new enterprise amongst your peers, customers, and leaders, and producing much more value than you consume.  Yes, I said consume.  When you start a new career or venture, while quite difficult and taxing in many ways, from a "systems" view you're sucking value to get up to speed, productive, and producing the value you were meant to.  In the book The First 90 Days, author Michael Watkins lays out a systematic approach with strategic and tactical methods to ramp up and add value to your next career transition or venture as soon as possible.  More precisely, he says the value extracting period of your new venture should last no longer than 90 days.  At that point, you're indebted to the organization or ecosystem in which you've started your new venture.  Yes, indebted.  While not measured directly you've taking the time, effort, attention, and other resources of the system to allow you to integrate, learn, and get to adding value.  The next 90 days of your plan are merely getting to breaking even (paying back your debt) so that you can truly get to adding the value you were meant to deliver. My experience and corroborated from others I've spoken with in a wide swatch of industries as well as read about, is that it can take upwards of 2 years (or longer in some drastic cases!) for a new hire or venture to really get humming, productive, and adding value.  For new career hires, that's a massive cost and productivity burden.  Imagine if it only took 90 days to get to adding value and another 90 days for the debt to be paid off and to truly delivering valuable results.  That's 180 days or half a year.  That's 400% faster than the average of 2 years! That'd be a huge return on your investment of making your transition as well as your new enterprises or customers investment in finding you valuable.

In our current booming economy, there is a lot of employee turnover of people moving around in their careers or starting new ones.  I believe there is a drag on the true output of our careers, organizations, and economies with so much movement but so little systematic and intentional planning, straight to whatever measure of productivity you want to select.  That's a lot of dollars getting spent along with the time, attention, and other resources, that could be put to much better use.  So do the economy, your organization, and career a favor, and plan just a little better, it'll pay huge dividends for you, your customers, your organization, and all your new relationships.  Contact me if you need help getting this plan to be a reality!