This is another short, mid-week episode of Finance Career Launch where we discuss a skill, habit or mindset that will help you advance your career in finance. Today we’ll cover a couple issues people often have when starting a new job. This episode is based on a question from one of our listeners, Kathy.
Kathy has a great story.
She started in public accounting and transitioned to contract finance work when she became a mother, and has focused on venture capital for the past ten years. Her kids are older now and she recently was recruited by a private equity fund to be the CFO.
She wrote to me:
Now I feel like I have to get serious. I have to start going to meetings, contributing value to the team, understand the PE-specific language and buzzwords. I guess my biggest problem is being with the group and feeling like I’m current. I’m used to flying solo – communicating mostly by email with my “group.” I can write better than I can verbally express my thoughts. I’m very nervous about being present with a group. On the other hand, I’ve missed being with people and look forward to hopefully fitting in! Any helpful tips you have would be appreciated.
Kathy and I wrote back and forth a few times and it became clear to me that she is a very competent person. She is confident in her financial and accounting abilities, but her question comes down to two things:
- She really wants to contribute value to the team, which will require her to understand private equity-specific language and buzzwords.
- She’s been on her own for a while, working virtually with a lot of clients and now she’ll have to communicate in person with the team.
I can certainly appreciate Kathy’s position. I often feel more comfortable when I have the space to gather my thoughts and write or talk them out alone first. Being put on the spot in meetings (especially when starting a new job) can be intimidating.
When Starting a New Job, Use The First 90 Days
Whenever you start something new, you have a huge opportunity to ask a lot of questions. People are far more forgiving of basic questions when you first start. Use that time to learn as much as you can before you are put on the spot.
Start by walking around and having one-on-one conversations with your new team and people outside your team. If you’re like me, one-on-one is much easier than a group setting. I find it easier to build real relationships one-on-one, and those relationships with individuals provides confidence to speak up in a group setting.
Informal conversations will build confidence – start by having the first one.
Set Manageable Goals to Make Progress
Set a goal to have ‘x’ number of conversations a week with people about the business and what they do. Come up with good questions (write them down) and then build on the answers you receive with more questions. Over time, you will become much more comfortable with the people and the business.
As Much as Possible, Prepare for Meetings and Group Discussions
One-on-one may be somewhat intimidating, but it is even worse in a group setting (especially when starting a new job). If it isn’t already there, open the line of communication with those people running meetings or teams. Maintain a regular dialogue with those people. If you think you may be called on, ask to see an agenda ahead of time. If you want to introduce a new idea at a meeting, get on the agenda and prepare ahead of time.
Music by Elijah from NOMADS