What To Do When You're New


I wish the book, What To Do When You're New, would have been published twenty-five years ago.

Being more introverted versus extroverted, the author's advice and teachings would have helped me during new jobs and after promotions, when relocating to new cities, when joining new clubs and organizations, and whenever I became a member of a new team.

The book, by Keith Rollag, is all about how to be comfortable, confident, and successful in new situations.

"It's nearly impossible to accomplish anything meaningful and important in life without at some point having to meet new people, learn new things, and take on new roles," explains Rollag. So, even for extroverts I believe this book will be useful.

"And as a newcomer, how you think and act in those first few seconds, minutes, hours, and days matters," adds Rollag.

According to Rollag, the secret to newcomer success comes down to willingness and ability to do five key things:
  1. Introduce ourselves to strangers.
  2. Learn and remember names.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Seek out and start new relationships.
  5. Perform new things in front of others.
"The more confident, comfortable, and willing you are to perform these five basic skills, the more successful you can be as a new leader, team member, student, neighbor, volunteer, and any other newcomer role you decide to take on," explains Rollag.


Each book chapter examines:
  • Why the skill is important to your success.
  • Why it causes so much stress and anxiety.
  • How to get better and more comfortable doing it.
  • How to find or create opportunities to practice.
"We spend our entire lives being new. Still, we're rarely taught how to be a successful newcomer," says Rollag.

In fact, if you are a typical American worker, you will be a newcomer to at least 11 different organizations by the time you are forty-eight years old, often as a result of workplace restructurings, mergers and downsizings. And, the Census Bureau estimates that the average person in the United States moves every four years, and can expect to move over 11 times during his or her lifetime. That puts you in newcomer status in neighborhoods, civic organizations, schools, clubs, etc.

I found the teachings about asking questions as a newcomer particularly useful. Rollag explains how to ask new people questions about themselves in a way that's strategic and inviting. He states that research shows that the more questions newcomers ask and the more help they seek, the better they tend to perform at work. In addition, co-workers see them as more creative.


Included in the chapter about asking questions is this quote:

"He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever."

Rollag, Ph.D., is an organizational researcher and management consultant who currently serves as Associate Professor of Management and Chair of the Management Division at Babson College.

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