Over the last few weeks, I have found myself drinking from the proverbial firehose in my new job. That is, meeting new people, navigating a new work environment, taking in new information, listening, learning the scope of my new responsibilities, and asking questions to better understand the operations of the organization. Prior to starting this new role, I had never heard of the metaphor of drinking from a firehose. However, as soon as I heard it used, I could not help but smile at how well it described what I had been experiencing as I settled into my new job. Afterall, the many meetings, the rapid flow of new information, new acronyms, names, faces and roles sometimes passed in a blur, as I attempted to take copious notes and prayed for good memory. Which I imagine is exactly what drinking from a firehose might feel like?
What Does Drinking from the Firehose Mean?
According to the Urban Dictionary, the metaphor “drinking from the firehose” is defined as “to be overwhelmed (with information, responsibility, work, etc.); to do something intensely; to be inundated.” This experience or feeling is typical for most new hires during the first few days and weeks settling into a new job. During the onboarding process, (See previous article), new employees spend the majority of their early days getting to know their team(s), learning about business operations, key stakeholders, listening to customer needs and expectations, while scanning for opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge. And if not careful, one can quickly feel like the gushing firehose is spilling more water over one’s face and clothes, rather than what ends up in one’s mouth.
So, what can you do? How can you learn how to drink safely from the firehose and avoid the drowning feeling of being overwhelmed by the rapid flow of information, scope of work and many expectations that comes with your new role or job?
When I started my new role, I really wanted to do my best. So, I decided to draw on the wisdom of the crowd by asking my professional network on LinkedIn to share tips and advice to help me to position myself for success in my new role and confidently apply my skills and knowledge. I received over 100 valuable responses offering wisdom, tried and tested advice and key reminders that can help anyone achieve success when starting a new role or new opportunity.
How to Drink Well from The Firehouse
Here are the top eleven tips that you should keep in mind as you put your best foot forward and drink well from the firehose:
- Believe in yourself and your abilities. Do not be consumed with trying to prove yourself- you are the person for the job
- Listen twice as long as you intend to speak. As you do so, pay attention to what is said and to what isn’t. Keep your eyes and ears on the ground.
- Be a learn it all, not a know it all. Rather than be an expert, be a sponge and ask questions to learn and understand. Be humble.
- Be social. Try to say hello to everyone and try to meet as many people as you can. Remember to smile and be respectful of everyone.
- Build relationships and connections. Surround yourself with the right people. The relationships you build will be the most valuable currency you have to spend.
- Remember that trust and vulnerability go hand in hand. Be willing to be vulnerable and to trust your team as you get to know each other and vice-versa.
- Learn the organization structure and culture. Understanding this will help you to get a sense of how you fit in and can contribute, as well as how things get done.
- Maximize your first 90 days by setting realistic goals. Once you have gotten an understanding of your role and responsibilities, work with you manager to identify and agree key work priorities and goals to be achieved over the first 30-60-90 days.
- Be open and ready to learn, fail and make mistakes. Things will not always work as planned, nor will all your bright new ideas be accepted. Don’t take this personally. Continue to listen and pivot. Fail fast and early and recover well. And as you do so. extend yourself grace and remember progression is better than perfection.
- Ask your manager and team for feedback. Regular feedback will help you to gauge how you are doing, how you can add value and gain insights on your opportunities for growth. Allow yourself time to settle into your new space and work environment. And celebrate all your wins- no matter how big or small.
- Be your authentic self. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not to impress others or fit in. Own your unique talents, perspectives, abilities and recognize the value you bring to the organization. Also remember to be patient and present for each step of your new journey.
At the end of the day, failing to manage the firehose and to drink safely while settling into a new opportunity will lead to frustration, burnout, stress, fatigue and less than optimal results. As you adjust to your new role, remember to pace yourself, and ask for help when and where you need it. Also, be willing to set healthy boundaries to maintain work – life balance and to ensure positive overall well-being.
So, what additional tips would you add to help others drink from the firehose and not drown? What has worked for you? What advice do you have for someone who is starting a new role or a new opportunity? Share and let me know.
Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!