Tips for the new kid

One of the ways marketing managers can advance their careers is by getting a new job - at another company. But beware: It's very easy to end up in a situation where your presence is not welcome. Following are potential challenges and how to address them.

One of the ways marketing managers can advance their careers is by getting a new job – at another company. But beware: It’s very easy to end up in a situation where your presence is not welcome. Following are potential challenges and how to address them.

‘This is how my previous company does it’

In theory, an organization that hires you from outside does so because of the skills and experience you have gained in your previous job. But that does not mean you should do everything the way it was done at your old company.

If you have come from a marketing organization known for its training, then the expectation is that you will bring new insight and skill with you. But you have not been hired to turn your new organization into your old one.

The expectation is on you to find a way to incorporate your training into the framework of the existing organization. You might find that there are people in your new company receptive to your point of view, particularly if they are younger, business school graduates or avid students of marketing theory. But there are those to whom your presence is a threat, or even an insult. By bringing in someone from outside, your manager is effectively saying, ‘No one here is able to do the job,’ or ‘We are changing everything – and you may be next.’ Either way, you can not count on everyone to embrace you or enthusiastically jump on board a new direction.

This is especially true when so-called ‘tier 1′ marketers move to ‘tier 2′ or non-marketing organizations. Management expectations are high – money, time and risk have been invested with results in mind. You may be in a position where there is no manager above you – in the sense of a mentor/trainer whose job it is to develop and shield you. The missteps you make will be quite public and, with no track record at the new place, the knives are out.

Compounding this is that you feel the pressure to deliver and to keep your previous high-performance track record unscathed. Your tendency to fall back on what you know reflects your insecurity about your new position, your unfamiliarity with the new organization or industry, and your loss of ‘equity’ and familiarity.

The result can confirm everyone’s worst fears and perceptions, making the person whose decision it was to hire you regret it.

Tips for success

There are ways to make your experience in a new workplace a positive one for everyone.

Understand your mandate, and do it early. Speak to your boss and get some understanding of what specific issues lead to the decision to hire outside the organization. Was there a knowledge gap, or friction between sales and marketing? Have the advertising or promotion efforts been deemed inadequate?

Seek to understand how things happen. Every organization has politics and ‘odd’ ways of driving the business. And every industry works a little differently. Talk to as many people in other departments as you can – seek their counsel as to what is working and not working. It is a good way to introduce yourself, and reduce uncertainty or concern about you.

Do not promise or expect too much. Small victories, at first, even when you see great opportunities, are more important than home runs. Make your boss happy you were hired. Position yourself as a supporter of the organization, not a panacea for its ills.

Shut your mouth, but open your eyes and ears. Potential supporters are everywhere. Listen to the concerns that people voice in meetings – how can your experience and perspective help?

Be prepared to change. You think you have been brought in because of what you know and now you have to adapt, incorporate and adjust. Remember, just because people want new ideas and perspectives does not mean they believe everything they are doing is wrong.

Swallow hard, be friendly and ask questions. And when you find your thinking at odds with that of your new colleagues, remember Mark Twain’s famous old saw, ‘Better to be silent and thought the fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.’

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Michael W. Shekter runs The Marketing ADVISORY, in Toronto, a consulting, training and resource service for the marketing community. He can be reached at michaels@marketingadvisory.com