Getting off on the Right Foot
No matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished in your life, your credentials will only gain you entry into an organization. From there it’s up to you to establish your value to your team and their appraisal begins with your commitment. Commitment is your demonstrated will to deliver for your boss and the team around you. Resumes and the interviews that land you a position say a great deal about your potential but little about your real priorities, work ethic, or whether your efforts will even measure up to the cost of bringing you on board. Commitment is an impression that can only be fulfilled through action, and the meatier your background looks on paper, the greater level of scrutiny your day-to-day actions will receive.
One of the most prestigious institutions in the Air Force was known for quite some time as Fighter Weapons School — the Air Force’s version of “Top Gun.” An Air Force base with a population of 5,000 airmen will nominate candidates in the hope of getting one or two selected for the school in any given year. The Weapons School then gets to pick from a pile of Air Force -wide nominations filled with resumes of the most exceptional flyers, leaders, and communicators in the fighter community. Once selected for the school, those students receive rigorous training from the very best fighter pilots, the best instructors in the world. The school is tough to get through and, even with an exceptional screening process, not everyone who attends graduates. Those who do literally wear their credentials on their sleeve with a distinctive gray patch that’s recognized by every pilot in the service. These patch wearers receive what many would describe as instant credibility, but the reality is that everyone they work with beyond graduation will begin their own assessment of the worth of the man or woman behind the patch – and the assessment begins with the commitment they demonstrate the day they step in the door.
Think about that for a moment. These incredibly select people have graduated from one of the most intense schools in the world, and yet every one of them is subjected to the same kind of scrutiny any other newhire enjoys on his arrival in a new unit. The only difference is the expectations are much higher.
The same thing is true in your profession. What you’ve done up to this point in your life may be very impressive, but it is only a foundation, a launching platform for where you can go in the future. Your job has always been to set yourself apart from your peers in every positive way you can, and no matter what you’ve achieved up to this point in your life or what diplomas you have in hand, your job is to prove your worth.
The first steps into an organization offer up great opportunity and more than a few challenges. You get to start off fresh and create impressions that will long outlast the here and now. Your attitude and willingness to listen and to learn will be watched closely as you gain a foothold within the organization and, no matter how much you want to believe to the contrary, those impressions will solidify your long-term reputation in the eyes of everyone around you. So how do you go about setting that impression? How do you show your commitment to the organization and to the people on your new team in a way that will give you traction?
Three simple and sure fire things you can and should do apply to everyone entering an organization for the first time. They are: 1) Establish the expectations for your performance, 2) Aggressively learn your job, and 3) Develop the relationship with your boss. While you may have thoughts on each, all three are worth a little dwell time. Take a minute over the next two weeks and think through what has worked to establish the expectations for your new job, and I’ll follow with a few thoughts from the cockpit.