After two years at my last organisation, I took the plunge to start a new and more senior role as Corporate Partnerships Manager at St Mungo’s. After two months at the organisation I’m ready to share my wisdom with you about how to get through those whirlwind first few weeks.
1. Look the part
Okay, so I am not usually the person to comment on how people dress. In my idea world we would all dress in whatever made us comfortable and our merit would be based on our ability to do our job, not whether our socks match. Alas, this isn’t the world we live in and while you might not be as high profile as Jeremy Corbyn, you can’t get away with looking scruffy either.
On your first day in a new role, always err on the side of caution. On my first day I wore a pencil skirt, shirt, tailored jacket and a pair of patent leather loafers that gave me blisters (and resulted in walking around barefoot for the rest of the week!). I was outstandingly over-dressed and while my new office wasn't quite as casual as my old, there was definitely a high number of colleagues in jeans. Cardigans are also heavily favoured. I have since reassessed my day to day office wear to be bit a little more casual and to fit my comfortable style, keeping the blazer and pencil skirt in the wings ready for meetings with corporates.
2. Meet people
It is so easy, even when you start a new role, to get into the habit of simply sitting at your desk and sending email, rather than going over and asking the question face to face. By doing this you’re missing the opportunity to meet people who could be really vital to you in the future and not putting a face to name, which could be awkward in the kitchen! Make an effort to find out where different teams sit and ensure that you go over and introduce yourself to someone when you have a question for them. They’ll really appreciate that you made the effort to come over and you will make yourself more familiar in the office.
Find out what your office social activities are. Often we get silo-ed into our teams, so taking part in some extracurricular activities is a great way to meet people from other parts of the organisation. A lot of charities will have something formal, like a softball team, but it could be super informal, like Friday night drinks in the local.
I cannot stress this enough! In your first few weeks get time away from your desk (vital for clearing your head of that new job fuzz) and visit as many of the organisations services as you can. If this isn’t possible, talk to project managers, call listen, ask to attend volunteer training. The more people you can talk to, the more of the organisations mission you can see for yourself, the more stories you have to share when you meet potential/donors. The more familiar you are with projects the easier it will be to match up the interests of the person or people you are targeting. I also find that when I see a project for myself I can talk more passionately about it.
4. Get to know your donors
Whether you’re working in Major Donor fundraising and you can literally get to know your donors, or Individual Giving and getting to know when is a little more abstract, it is important to get to grips with who you’re dealing with. In my first two weeks I managed to get out and meet 2 different corporates and made email introductions to those I couldn't meet.
Not all of us can physically meet our donors, but we can get to know the sort of people who give to our organisations. Make sure you’re reading the strategy for your income stream, no matter what level your role is, and the organisational strategy as a whole. Read donor profiles so you know who the regular and cash donors are and how they were recruited. Similarly it’s good to know the types of corporate supporter you organisation favours, or the main events demographic. You may not think this is relevant to your role, but it so is. Regardless of where you fit into the fundraising team it is vital you know who the people are that give.
5. Ask questions
There’s no such thing as a daft question. Seriously, I know, I’ve asked them all. Questions show our curiosity and interest in our new organisation. If you’ve moved over to another cause many people may use acronyms that can be confusing and it’s important to get clarification on these. You may have taken a step up and so come across words or phrases that are new to you. Asking what these mean will help you to learn. I once asked what ROI meant because I couldn’t understand how Republic Of Ireland fit into the paper I was reading. Turned out it meant Return on Investment…so you know, no daft questions.
Questions are also particularly important if you have just taken a step up, as I have. There will be lots of new ways of working, which can be difficult in any scenario but when you’re at a new organisation as well it can be particularly daunting. Confidence is key here – you have been given the job because your employers know you are capable of it. Asking questions when you have doubts isn’t going to change their mind and ultimately will make you better at your job.
What advice would you give to someone starting a new role?