Want to move firms? This one’s for you… I recently finished a great book called ‘Strategies for Being Brilliant’ by Sue Ritchie – the book explores 21 strategies to achieve greater happiness, confidence and success. Throughout the book, Sue draws upon her personal experience with emigration to demonstrate how these unique strategies helped her adjust to a brand new place and culture. This concept of cultural adjustment reminded me of some of my clients (who recently moved firms to further their career ambitions). Whilst they may not have moved to a different country, much of Sue’s excellent advice still remains extremely relevant. And so, this blog post is inspired both by Sue’s book and my client’s experiences. Here are 12 tips to help you thrive (and survive) when you move to another firm:
1. Stop saying ‘when I was at….’
On the surface, comparing your old firm to your new one may not seem like an issue – but let it become a habit, and it can stop you from settling into your new firm. Constantly drawing comparisons between your old and new firm can suggest you’re reluctant to change (not to mention irritate your new colleagues). So take heed, and avoid this phrase when you move to another firm.
2. Your first 90 days will set the standard for the rest of your time at the firm
The hours you work within the first 90 days of your new role will set the standard for the remainder of your time at the firm. Therefore, when you move to another firm, you need to develop healthy working habits from day one. If you need guidance (or permission), speak to your line manager or staff partner. Together, you can discuss which days are most appropriate for you to leave on time to ensure you remain productive whilst simultaneously avoiding burnout. Read: Why habits, not goals, are essential to progress your career
3. Remember it is YOU who needs to fit in
When you move firms, you’re joining a team that has already established how they like to work (and play). So, as an addition to that team, you can’t expect everything to change instantly. Before you start offering suggestions for improvements, focus on integrating with your new team. Learn how they work, understand why they follow certain processes – only then should you begin to make suggestions and alterations.
4. Your team will go through some ‘storming’
Every time a new member joins (or exits) a team, the team dynamics shift. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to experience tension between new and residing team members when adjusting to this new formation. Yet, however difficult this period may be, you have to remember it’s not personal. For example, if a senior staff member joined your team and prevented you from working on more advanced client projects, inevitably, you would feel resentment towards them. Therefore, you have acknowledged that your decision to move firms may also have impacted another person. If you experience any hostility, try not to take it personally or retaliate – instead, understand that they too are adjusting to this new team formation.
5. Focus on building your internal network during the initial ‘quiet’ period
When you first move to another firm, you can expect to experience a quiet period. (This adjustment period is essentially the gap between joining the company and receiving your first projects.) I have known several professionals to struggle when they first move firms – and understandably so. After leaving their old firm, they have gone from feeling like part of the furniture to feeling like a spare part. Instead of feeling discouraged that you don’t have much to do, use this time to build your internal network. Networking is always an effective way to utilise your spare time, so get to know the key players, both in your department and across the firm. The work will come along soon enough! After each meeting, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to someone new. If you’re working remotely, reach out over email and try to arrange some informal calls and meetings. Share your advice, experience and contacts – you never know how these relationships could pay off further down the line.(We have a networking plan that can help with this…download it for free here). Read: The 6 greatest barriers to effective networking – which do you struggle with?
6. Get to know your team and their individual agendas
When you join a new firm as a senior member, you will (almost) always ruffle some feathers – again, you shouldn’t take this personally. Anyone who joins a team at a senior level will almost inevitably, though unintentionally, be delaying someone else’s career progression. (Even if this career progression wasn’t as imminent as the individual thought it was). To smooth your transition into the team (and reduce any tensions), you need to make a conscious effort with your colleagues. Take the time to get to know each member of your team (either in person or over Zoom), and genuinely listen to them. It’s your responsibility to understand their hopes, ambitions and professional agendas. Now is not the time to talk about you and what you want. Your aim is to find out how you can help them.
7. Have regular check-ins with your partner or line manager
Self-awareness is an important skill every professional needs to have. However, when you move firms, you may need some additional support to help you integrate into your new team and firm in general. It’s best to nip any problems in the bud sooner rather than later, so schedule regular check-ins with a manager or colleague you trust either online or in person.
8. Find yourself an internal firm mentor
If you want to thrive at your new firm (not just survive), you need to find yourself an internal mentor. Your mentor should be someone you can trust – someone who understands the firm and its processes, who also has your best interests at heart. This figure should be in addition to your partner or line manager. Use them to help you understand the firm, how and why things are done and then use that information as a springboard for your ideas. Explore what you want to change, what you would like to do differently and run all of this by your mentor. They will tell you whether your ideas will sink or swim. So, when you move to another firm, remember to try and find someone to act as your mentor – ideally within 30 days of starting your new role. Read: 7 tips used by highly successful professionals to make their relationship with their mentor count
9. Use technology to your advantage
Since the pandemic, remote working has become a part of everyone’s lives – because of this, connecting with new colleagues can be even more challenging. Instead of surrendering hope to the likes of bad wifi connections or stuffy zoom calls, use your online platforms to your advantage. Why not host a weekly coffee hour over Zoom? Or set up a group chat to encourage casual conversation? Whatever you decide, don’t let your location limit you. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all need more human connection.
10. Understand what is expected of you
Far too often, accountants, lawyers and consultants move firms without knowing what they actually need to achieve. (After all, good people management skills aren’t widely recognised as a strength of the legal and finance professions!) Therefore, you need to be proactive. Seek out your partners and managers and make them explain (exactly) what you need to achieve and when you need to achieve it. Now is not the time to be making assumptions.
11. Be patient
Remember, forming new relationships takes time – you can’t earn somebodies trust overnight. You have to be patient and continually put in the effort. As Sue mentioned in her book – your new team members will already have established their preferred way of working. In the same way, they already know who they will eat their lunch with. Until you have earned the right to join their inner circle, you shouldn’t feel disheartened that you aren’t as close as everybody else. Just give it time – before you know it, you will be as much part of the team as anybody else.
12. Remind yourself that you CAN do the role
When you find yourself in a new, unfamiliar environment, it can be easy to start doubting yourself. But remember, if your new firm didn’t think you were capable, they wouldn’t have offered you the job. To help combat these feelings of self-doubt, start jotting down some of your highlights and achievements at the end of each day. These can provide you with the well-needed boost you need to excel in your new role. a
You have to adapt if you want to excel
Whether you’re at your new desk in the office or you’re at your kitchen table, all of these tips are available to you. Although remote working allows for fewer watercooler moments, it doesn’t negate the importance of forming relationships with your colleagues. Yes, it may require more planning, and yes, it may feel strange at first, but becoming part of the team is essential to your success at a new firm. Much like adapting to a new team, we must also adapt to this new way of working. For more help in excelling in your new role, don’t forget to download our career action plan and networking template plan for free!
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