There are few experiences as humbling as starting a new job. Overnight, you are transformed from a fully competent contributor to an unproven rookie. You enter a new world, where the language, customs and culture are unfamiliar. The mental ‘maps’ you’ve used to navigate your past environment are of limited help; in fact, they may lead you astray. Though certain practices, interactions or cues you encounter might look like ones you’ve experienced before, in this new landscape they may carry a very different meaning than what you assume.
In this respect, entering a new organization is profoundly similar to moving to a foreign country. I should know. When I was 13 years old, one of many moves with my family led us to Saudi Arabia, where we lived for 5 years. Even now, I can play the scenes of our arrival and first days in my head like a video recording. The chaotic airport, the oppressively hot night air, the strange smells and staccato Arabic enveloping us, the desolate nothingness of the desert highway at night, and the gecko perched near our new front door as if to welcome us. Whether a new organization, or a new country, the complete immersion into a different culture feels a lot like waking up in a Picasso painting. Read more