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Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

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Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby D.X. » Fri Jun 15, 2018 7:54 am

An interview question from either the interviewer or interviewee can be "what do you expect the from the first 3 months in the job".

And as a newbie say in transition to a job either in academia or to a new job industry one may have a theoretical expectation of what that could look like.

Certainly some hiring-managers will have an idea what that could look like as well, with respect to the candidates behavior.

The theoretical expectation is something to the tune of being in a learning phase or mode. That includes on-boarding in the form of training and having 1 on 1 meetings with varied stakeholders to persoanlly get to know them, understand their role and how you work with them. Then you get time to understand processes and understanding the broader workings of the organization while have while comfortably having the time to understand the job role and responsiblity, with clear mapping of objectives and tasks. And a key acheivement is at the the end of 3 months you're ready to run with all tools with a clear map to "start" to do the job.

Then, there is reality.
1. On your third day an urgent email comes in with need for data or report in 3 days and you're the only one available to do it. Your boss offer's support but they deliver is you and you boss is depending on your support.
2. During this time another urgent request comes in and in 2 weeks you're expected to give an update on a project you've only just inherited to another Program team. and about mid-way through the second week you're expected to review and comment on a report and fill in the missing sections.
3. Then on the 3rd week you're expected to travel to other site to attend the 2nd kick-off meeting of a project you've only just been in-formed you're the member of.
4. At the end of you're first month, your team-mate quits for another job and you are now responsible for a number of their task too.
5. You start your second month an you have many task on the your plate, you have not mapped any objectives - your role is not clear defined other than you're leading a few project and now standing member on number of task-forces, project teams, and programs.
6. As far as those 1:1 meetings to personally know people....Nope. You've met this folks in a project meeting where you're first interaction is addressing one of their questions and your first 5 minute conversation is name exchage, objective dicussion on task at hand and next steps with a promise to have a more prolonged meeting to get to know you..which ...will probably not happen unless you push through. Next thing you know, you're working with people but you know nothing about them..that's the reality i think these days.

The this was my most recent experience - i am 4 months in to my new job so with minumal time to learn my products, data, learn who people are, I am delviering, pushing and swimming the nose above water. I'm faking it till I make it.

So the theory is a nice period of learn and watch to the reality is, learn by crash-course and putting out fires, you crash and burn OR you swim with nose above water to win.

My very first job was crash and burn. Maybe i didn't know how to ask for help.

But my next job. well by virtue of the job a 3 month learning and train period consistent with the theoretical start.

The rest of company's i've been in has been "running start" just as i"ve described. That's why i can do it now swiming, nose above water. in the past i probably was flapping in the water a bit, but now..slow and steady, bring it on.

So leads me to the interview question. Do you answer with theorethical answer as I described - or do you use the reality answer? My answer..both. Acknowledge the theory but it's ok to discuss reality. You could give examples or if not at least you're acknowleding a potential reality.

I also think these days this is what's driving hiring managers who looking to hire folks ready to run. Training..what training? do the job..that's the training.

So, What have been your first 3 month experiences? Thoughts on my this post, do share!

Best,

DX
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:26 pm

Great post, DX. I think you are taking the idea proposed in another thread and taking it in a logical direction. What is it that happens early on in a job, and how can managers ensure they hire people who have the stick-to-it ability to hang in there while all this stuff happens around them?

I think it would be refreshing, personally, to have people interview who actually admitted that while the 90 day plan you describe would be ideal, it may be impacted by just plain old life inside the company. As an interviewer, I really don't know what "else" can happen, what urgent stuff can be thrown in my lap, and so leaving it a bit open for these events is a good plan. And admitting that as organized as we are, there's always going to be "stuff" that happens.

Dave
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby Craig J » Thu Jul 12, 2018 2:36 pm

DX - This is an extremely funny and terrifyingly accurate picture of what I've seen from people starting a new job in biotech (you must work at my company because that's how it is for every hire!). I'm glad you've figured out how to handle it, because it's definitely a skill. I'd say the theory is more relevant to entry/lower-level positions or academic-type groups. But anyone in a decision-making role in industry will be expected to make decisions or at least ask assisting questions to figure things out within the first month. I really like the idea of using this as an interview question and would be extremely curious to see how many people answer with theory vs reality. Could be a good way to isolate who will be able to handle the pace and priorities in a company. I'll definitely be adding it to my arsenal of questions.

When I was hired to an associate-level position the employee who was supposed to train me was fired on my third day, so I had no choice but to learn by doing. Luckily, I had a lot of support and in general other people in a company want you to succeed. Learning your job by doing it is much easier when you use those people around you as a resource, so I would highly recommend to others that you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions... lots and lots of questions.

Good luck with the new job, DX.

Craig
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby D.X. » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:29 am

Hi Craig J,

Yeah maybe we do! Another issue that could be relevant but more political is how do to manage if they say in 3 months no longer have the boss who hired them! Which in my new job now, my boss who hired me is already "moved-on".

I was smirking because someone was telling me that they had 10 bosses in 6 years, because in my last company I had 10 bosses in less than 4 years.. So that's another theory vs. reality: that your boss is long term!

I think academics don't know or realize that in the industry world our supervisor also have their development plans as well, to include private out of company agendas...they can also fall out of political favor....so that's another issue to consider related to this post is ability to manage change.

And more and more in the context of "transformational changes" that many companies are going through be it a new executive board coming in place, a cost cutting re-organization, a M&A, boss-leaving, ambiguity in roles and functions, political changes of powers, etc etc. ...getting down to how flexible the candidate is!

Personally i've florished i these environments, alot of opportunites came my way experience wise while....others floundered. So i do think alot of this comes down to change management response as well.

These days the its pretty rough at least where i sit so sometimes i envy those still in the academic world who have no clue to the realities awaiting them - nearly wish i could go back to that innocence.

DX
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby SCT » Thu Sep 06, 2018 1:49 pm

Me again.

Well, I've been in the job 3 weeks now. R&D Programme Manager in a Biotech company. Remember my other thread about the 100 day plan??
Well.....this thread seemed more appropriate for an update.

Because...reality is indeed quite a bit different from theory. First of all - I now understand why my previous incumbent left - it was not because of a career change, but because of "difficulties in organising Resources." Another Project Leader who had been with the company for 8 years, left within 5 days of me joining - citing "management difficulties" as her main reason for leaving. The following week, 2 more research scientists quit.

It was then that the CEO had a direct one-to-one with me. The company experienced a difficult period over the summer, mainly related with "staff culture and poor communication." But I was assured that a line had been drawn under those events - and now it was time for me to spring forth and "bring change." And first up in priority was - taking over the project that the project leader who quit had left behind. I only overlapped with that individual for a few days - so hardly any time for a proper handover. Meanwhile the external clients who are expecting the fortnightly meetings plus technical updates are still insisting on keeping the meetings going and adhering to timelines as if nothing has happened. In other words, I have to pick up someone else's mess as if they never left - only the name has changed. So no time for walking - have to run straight away.

Its been a tricky three weeks - listening to project managers, scientists, technicians etc - you hear slightly different sides of the same story.

So for now, I'm managing two projects - both behind schedule - as well as coping with disgruntled/low morale teams. Bit of a baptism of fire.

They do say, be careful what you wish for...
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:09 pm

SCT, sounds like a difficult start to a new job.

The company is in trouble -- let's be frank. You have joined an organization with some serious issues. So, dig in, do your best, and try to come out of this as the person who fixed it. Not someone who contributed to the ongoing disaster. Should they turn around, you could be a key person on their management team. Good luck!

Dave

PS -- Your other option is to make a very fast turn-around job change.
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby SCT » Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:40 am

Thanks Dave. Yes, the company is going through a rough patch as it relies heavily on bringing in contract research work. That said, the finances for the next 12 months look good (and they do pay above average salaries) - so some of the low staff morale has been 'blamed' on my predecessor who applied a lean sigma six approach to all aspects of the business but (as the senior management tell me) he lacked "the human factor - he could not or would not engage with the teams in a productive way." He didn't have a scientific background - so he could not appreciate/understand why for example more time was needed to select a different pair of antibodies because the ones originally outlined in a project proposal performed poorly when actually tested. Any deviations from the original project plan/proposal was severely admonished - so it got to a point where people were afraid to talk to him and he spent most of his day in his office, with the door closed. I now occupy that same office, but the door has been removed - so it looks more like a small offshoot from the main office area. There is a small round table with 4 chairs right next to my desk where anyone can pop in for a quick meeting or chat.

Anyway, my role is probationary for the first 6 months - after that period, I can leave or the company can let me go without hard feelings from either party. So I'd like to stick it out until then. If the assurances offered by the senior management are backed up by action - and I get the support I need - who knows, the company could be back on track and we can all be proud of ourselves.
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby D.X. » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:03 am

Hi SCT,

Congrats on the job and thanks for sharing your experience. As you noted the running start is more the normal than the exception and the storm you've walked into, some of the elements of at least, is also more the normal than the exception.

Today many companys in pharma are in a pertpetual state of transformation, reorganization, etc. resulting in a perpetual change management situation. As it is said, the only constant is change.

That being said from your post, it is clear you see the challenge ahead of you and you see the opportunity. You understand there is a behvior change needed contrasting that of your predecessor and you understand from your post, that success is alot about how your work with people, not necessarily technical or deep scientific expertise. All that means nothing if you can't related to people.

So my advise to you which I think you already get - as a project manager a key role you have to help mitigate risks. Yes you are a project tracker and you must caputure deviations from plan to include delays for example. Sometimes that does in fact require courage because people don't like seeing red - but in your role you must capture and report that. A red...is a red, you report that upwards. YOu know that from project management 101.

HOWEVER, for your success, a key part of your role is, I think you already get ,is to be a fellow risk-mitigator. It works well when you help others try to understand the issues behind a deviation, if not try to role up your sleeves a bit and then put a risk-mitigting plan in place...together ..with your colleagues. That way, when you do report that "red" or deviation - you report it with some additional commentary i.e. "WE identified AB and C, and WE have decided XY and Z will be done" It's about the "WE". Don't alienate people - show you're with them, they'll already feel bad about deviation, don't put salt in an open wound.

The best project managers I worked with were the ones that stood by my side.

Good luck and remember..keep and eye on those critical passes and mind the gaps :)

I'm sure you'll make it past your probation period, you know the issues.

Best,

DX
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Re: Your first 3 months on the Job: Theory vs. Reality

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Sep 11, 2018 4:43 pm

SCT wrote: Anyway, my role is probationary for the first 6 months - after that period, I can leave or the company can let me go without hard feelings from either party. So I'd like to stick it out until then. If the assurances offered by the senior management are backed up by action - and I get the support I need - who knows, the company could be back on track and we can all be proud of ourselves.


You've got the right attitude about it -- good luck and keep us in touch!

Dave
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