How to approach a new job or assignment

February 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Often we’re so focused on securing a new job or assignment that once we do, we’re at a loss for how to begin. Before actually starting a new position or taking over a new beat, experts advise embarking on a “listening tour” — doing some research and asking those in a position to know some pertinent questions that can save you a lot of time and hassle in your new position. (This of course comes after you’ve signed all the pertinent paperwork and thanked all of those who helped you land the job. See Jan. 6 post, “How to wrap up a job hunt.”)

Remember, beginnings are critical;  you only get one opportunity to “start off on the right foot” in a company or organization. The impression you leave now — based on everything you say and do as you get started — may have implications for years to come. So rather than jumping in blindly, experts advise taking the following steps as you get started: 

*Question in depth those who have had this job or beat before, or a similar position in the organization. When it’s not possible to talk to them — if you new supervisor doesn’t want you to talk to them, though, this should raise some red flags — go out and find people who may have left but held a similar position there. Your goal is not only to ask operational questions about how to do the job (presumably you’ll be trained in coming weeks on that score) but more importantly how to succeed in the position. Here are some important questions to ask: What do those who do well here have in common? What are the pathways to success here? What have those who failed in this job had in common? What’s most important to the leadership (and specifically to your boss) here? What are their pet peeves? What impresses them most? What is the culture like here? And always ask this question: What several things do you wish you had known early in your tenure here that would have saved you trouble down the road?

*Seek to make key allies early on. When asking questions about the job, also ask about who some key people are in the organization who can help you, beyond your immediate supervisor. Then introduce yourself and get to know them. Even busy people usually like to talk about what they do and can be important stops on your early “listening tour.” Ask them about their role in the organization and how they view your job. What’s most important here is listening — not trying to show them how smart you are or convince them of how you will do a great job. You’ve already got the job or assignment, what you need to do now is develop an in-house network to help you succeed — and doing so right away makes a lot of sense.

*Prove your expertise — this is why you were hired — early on and be a generous colleague in sharing that expertise with others. For reporters, make it clear you’re happy to share sources and your background knowledge (especially if you bring some that may be lacking in your organization) with your new colleagues — it’s great to be a “go-to” person on a specific beat or subject area. For editors and managers, make it clear that you’re ready, willing and able to help (as you have time) with broader company projects and assignments, and that you’ll step in to assist colleagues when they are burdened. Yet beware the pitfall of showing off your knowledge; no one likes a know-it-all and once you are branded as such, it may be hard to shake off this reputation. Display your expertise and knowledge through your work — show, don’t tell.

*For managers, make changes early in your tenure. As President Obama and other leaders before him have discovered, that open window on “change” doesn’t last terribly long. There is a period — workplace experts say typically six to nine months — when people in an organization expect their new leader (whether it’s of a company, a newsroom or a small team) to produce changes. If it doesn’t happen relatively quickly, they figure it’s not going to occur — that this is the “new normal.” So if a manager makes big changes after that, it’s often a surprise and it’s tougher to get the troops to willingly fall in line. Managers are smart to use this “honeymoon” period to make their changes — though experts advise that whenever possible they should try to conduct at least a brief listening tour of their new employees and seek to gain their support of the new initiatives.

*Though in the past I’ve posted updates on some help with the cost of continuing health insurance through COBRA, I realize some laid-off workers or those who have switched jobs have — quite sadly and alarmingly so — lost health insurance, especially after extended unemployment. has a good piece on some creative ways to obtain coverage:

Where to get health care if you face obstacles

Lack of insurance or timely access to your regular doctor doesn’t have to mean going without needed health care. If you’re uninsured and seeking stop-gap medical care before you find coverage again, you can triage your way to better health by understanding the trade-offs of several care options, experts say. A retail clinic, urgent-care or community health center may be a suitable fit, depending on the severity of your medical need and your personal preferences.
See Vital Signs.

*And, as always, some good leads…Today’s are focused on communications and public affairs positions, though there are some reporting and editing openings as well:

*Teach For America in D.C. is looking for a director of government affairs:

Director, Government Affairs (Washington, D.C.)
Washington, DC
affairs, media and communications relationships… and edit letters, talking points, and other communication for Members of Congress and Administration…
From TeachForAmerica

*United BioSource has an opening for a director of corporate and employee communications to work out of its Bethesda office:
Director, Corporate/Employee Communications (Washington, DC Area)
United BioSource Corporation-Seattle – Bethesda, MD
as the editor-and-chief for internal communications… to enhance UBC internal communications. o Providing executive communications support to UBC leadership…
From Jobfox

*The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is seeking a senior communications and outreach officer in College Park:

Senior Communications and Outreach Officer
Office of the Director of National Intelligence – College Park, MD
and ensure communication themes are reflective of… oral communication skills and demonstrated ability to produce high-quality written communication products… $123,758 – $155,500 a year

*The National Park Service in D.C. has an opening for an associate director of cultural resources:

Associate Director, Cultural Resources
Interior, National Park Service – Washington, DC
who possesses strong communication and interpersonal… Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communication, Integrity/Honesty, Written Communication, Continual Learning… $119,554 a year
From Interior, National Park Service

*With a hat tip to (for these next few jobs), Volunteers of America in Alexandria has an opening for a vice president of communications:

Company: Volunteers of America
Vice President of Communications
Alexandria, Virginia
Job Status: Not Specified
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
March 23, 2010
Job ID: 1150026

Volunteers of America is a national, nonprofit, faith-based organization dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. We are seeking an executive level communications professional to lead the development of effective message strategies that substantially expand the brand awareness and name recognition of Volunteers of America. This position will be responsible for public relations, including creating programs, publications and online strategies to promote and increase donor support of services including aging, housing, veterans and family strengthening initiatives. Directing crisis communications is a key component of the position. Proactive media outreach to place articles, letters, profiles and interviews is expected. Strong project and budget management skills and the ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously are required. Experience developing video, podcasts and PSAs is necessary.

Experience working within a decentralized national structure and understanding the dynamics between a national office and affiliates is desirable. The ability to manage a department of high performing and creative staff and consultants is required. The position will report to the Executive Vice President of External Affairs. S/he must work collaboratively with the executive team, other department staff and local offices. The candidate should have experience working in a fundraising environment with a focus on social media. We are looking for an even tempered professional who can work under pressure and meet deadlines.

Graduate level degree is desirable or comparable experience. Travel required.

To apply visit our web site at:

*The Prince George’s Sentinel is looking for a reporter based in its office in Seabrook, Md. This could be a good opportunity for someone just starting out in the business:

Company: Berlyn Inc/The Prince George’s Sentinel
Entry Level Reporter
Seabrook, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
March 22, 2010
Job ID: 1149771

Entry level reporting position at weekly community newspaper in Prince George’s County. Work in the suburbs of the nation’s capital. Strong writing and online skills needed. Some photography required. Must be a motivated self-starter. Only LOCAL RESIDENTS will be considered. Send resume and clips to No phone calls please.

*The Carroll County Times in Westminster has an opening for a copy editor/page designer:

Company: Carroll County Times
Copy Editor/Page Designer
Westminster, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
March 23, 2010
Job ID: 276168

Copy Editor/Page Designer

The Carroll County Times, a 27,000-circulation daily newspaper in Westminster, Md., is seeking a copy editor/page designer.

The successful candidate will possess excellent grammar and spelling skills and will be ready and willing to work closely with reporters and other editors on editing local and wire copy, designing pages and writing headlines.

Experience with Quark Xpress or a similar layout program is desired. A bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field is required.

As a member of the copy desk team, the copy editor will be expected to:
confer with other editors and reporters on content of news pages;
design, lay out and paginate pages on deadline that are appealing to readers;
make decisions on play of news stories; write headlines and cutlines; crop and size pictures;
contribute as an active member of the copy desk team;
produce special sections on occasion;
edit local and wire news and feature stories for organization, clarity, style, grammar and spelling;
and update content on our Web site.

There will also be opportunities to shoot and edit video.

This position requires working nights and holidays.

Interested applicants should send cover letters, resumes and design samples to:
Brian Patterson
Night News Editor
Carroll County Times
201 Railroad Avenue
Westminster, MD 21158;
or e-mail

*And to wrap up today’s leads, Bloomberg News is looking for a health care editor in its D.C. bureau:

Company: Bloomberg LP
Health Care Editor
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
March 23, 2010
Job ID: 1150017

The Company Few organizations can keep up with the fast-paced, 24/7 nature of today’s media coverage; even fewer can claim to have helped shape it. Bloomberg is the leading global provider of financial data, news and analytics. Bloomberg provides real-time and archived financial and market data, pricing, trading, news and communications tools to corporations, news organizations, financial and legal professionals and individuals around the world.

Bloomberg is creating a new web-based information product that will report on, analyze and quantify the impact of government actions on business and industry. It will bring the same unparalleled level of fact-based, objective reporting and analysis to policymaking as it has provided to the financial community for the past 27 years.

The Role Bloomberg is seeking an experienced Health Care Editor. This editor will be responsible for leading and managing an industry-focused team of editors, reporters and analysts. The ideal candidate should have at least five years of experience in business or government journalism, such as for a financial newspaper or real-time news service, and be able to produce clear, concise, and accurate copy under deadline pressure. This editor will work well with other editors and reporters and be able to understand and analyze government and industry data. This editor will report to the managing editor.

Additional responsibilities include: -Coordinating coverage with Bloomberg News teams and identifying most relevant Bloomberg content for this venture -Scheduling and overseeing the vertical team resources -Managing and optimizing processes and procedures within the team -Managing copy flow for industry reports and analysis -Providing insights and industry perspective Qualifications: -Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience -At least five years of journalism experience as an editor -A minimum of five years in a management/supervisory position with a proven track record of success -Experience working in a real-time news environment is desirable -Deep knowledge of health care from a government and business perspective -Experience covering both government and business -Ability to deliver information accurately in a fast-paced environment -Ability to think quickly to provide insights and perspective into industry reports -Demonstrable attention to detail and organizational skills -An entrepreneurial and energetic approach to the job -A good communicator, collaborator and team player -Knowledge of the government, economy, financial markets and industry

Please apply online here:

Happy hunting!



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Coping with job loss among those in your network Tips on using job boards

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