Have you ever been the “new guy”? I bet you have. Remember when you started that new job, what about when you joined a new soccer team, or remember trying that new hobby/activity for the first time. At some point we have all been there, we have all been the “new guy” and unless you are scared of leaving your precious comfort zone, there is a very good chance that at some point in the near future you will once again be the “new guy”. Being the “new guy” is actually a great experience, it can be very exciting and at the same time very humbling. Humbling experiences teach us a great deal about ourselves. But at the same time being the new guy is no easy task and it can be very stressful because everyone is “sizing you up”. Everyone is making predictions on your performance. Right or wrong everyone makes snap judgments about the “new guy”. “Is this person the real deal or are they a faker”? “Is this person in it for the long haul or are they going to quit once it gets hard?
Like it or not, these snap judgments are in-bedded in our DNA. It is based on a survival mechanism that our ancestors used all the time. “Is that a lion or a bush”? “Does that river look safe to cross”? “Should I drink/eat that”? “Does this tribe seem friendly or hostile”? “That brightly colored snake looks creepy, better stay away”! In fact one can argue that without these snap judgments, the human species may have gone extinct a long time ago. However, at this current point in our evolution we have yet to out grow our profiling instincts, sorry to break it to you but we haven’t yet reached that perfect “judgment free” hippy utopia. So instead of arguing whether snap judgments are right or wrong you should be-aware that they in fact do exist, and you should try to use these judgments to your advantage or at the very least learn how to not let these snap judgments be your down fall.
The worst mistake many people make when being the “new guy” is they don’t stop talking. Let’s use soccer as an example since I played on the same adult team for 11-years! Over those years I saw countless players come and go and the most annoying/disappointing players were always the once that kept talking, they talked about how good they were, they talked about playing in college, they talked about how awesome their old team was, they gave their opinions about our players, they gave their opinions about our team strategy and many times this was even before they played one game with our team…
Here’s the thing…no one cares about what you have to say (at least not on day one), we only care about performance! If you are actually good, guess what, people will notice. Hell when it came to soccer I could tell if someone was “all that” after just a few touches on the ball. This means that when you are the new guy, stop talking and let your actions do all the talking for you and if you are actually as good as you think you are, it won’t take long till people notice. Once you have proven yourself people will ask/want to hear your opinions, they will eventually ask about your story. But until someone asks, just shut-up, listen and perform.
I have to give you one more example because it is just too good. A few months ago we were hiring for the front desk position. One of our stipulations is that you must take at least 3-classes before we start the formal interview process. Why? Because we are a specialty gym, if you don’t like our workout, or our “gym culture” you will not be a good fit. It is worth noting that these classes were free of charge and it was also made very clear that they (the job applicants) were not being “graded” on technique, stamina, strength or any other physical attribute, we just want to make sure that; 1) they can follow directions, and 2) that they liked our gym. The plan was to just treat them like any other new person that walks through our doors. Think of it like this, would you work at a taco stand if you hated tacos? I sure hope not because if you do you are crazy.
But when the applicants step through our doors it is amazing how many of them talk themselves out of a job within the first 5-mins. Why? Because instead of listening to what we have to say they keep talking. Is it a coincidence that we have 2-ears and one mouth? Here is true story:
- Random hipster girl applying for job – (Arrives 10-mins late) “Hi, I am applying for the front desk job, I am here to take my first class.”
- Me– Great! Please fill out this wavier and then I will introduce you to the instructor for your orientation.
- Random hipster girl applying for job – “Oh, I don’t need to warm-up, I rode my bike here”
- Me – “That’s great (rolling my eyes)! However, all new people must do an orientation before taking a class, it is a safety issue and class is starting in 10-mins, so let’s get going”
- Random hipster girl applying for job – (At this point she doing downward dog) “Well I don’t do anything till I stretch first…”
- Me – “We will stretch you out as part of the warm-up but you need to get an orientation of the basic strikes before taking a class, it is a requirement for everyone”
- Random hipster girl applying for job – (Transitioning to warrior-one pose and holding for a good 5-secs) “Ok I am ready now”
Sadly this was not a one time occurrence. We had about 6 applicants come take the class, all but one (the person who got the job) kept talking. They told us about their martial arts experience, they told us how they were taught to throw punches, they told us this and they told us that but never once did they actually listen to what we had to say.
This got me thinking there are definitely times in life where the best thing to do is just shut-up and listen and being the “new guy” is definitely one of those time for a few reasons:
- No one cares about what you did in the past – Life is a game of what have you done for me lately. How many people used to be in shape? How many people used to own a business? The world is full of used-to-could’s. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong about discussing your past but remember it doesn’t matter what you used to be able to do, the only thing that counts is what you are doing now! You can tell your boss that you are always on time but that statement has no value until you prove to him/her that you are in fact always on time. Let your actions do the talking.
- You may actually learn something – What a crazy concept! Wait you mean to tell me that I could learn something from someone who has more experience then me? Yes but I am also telling you that you could actually learn something from someone that even has less experience than you! It is true! In fact the majority of successful people will tell you that you can learn something from anyone in just about any situation. Maybe you get a different perspective or maybe you realize how annoying a certain mannerism can be. If you have an open mind and you are willing to analyze yourself there is something to be learned from every situation you encounter.
- You don’t want to over promise and under deliver – This goes for job interviews or just being the new guy in a “tight knit group”. Stop telling everyone how good you are and instead show everyone. Here is the crazy thing, if you are actually good people will notice very quickly. The more you talk the higher you are raising your own bar and the higher the bar the more likely you will fail to reach this bar. If I had a dollar for every time an employee told me they are never late, and their only flaw is that they work too hard and care too much… Well we know how this story usually ends don’t we. Don’t get me wrong I am not telling you to lower your standards I am telling you to instead under promise and over deliver. To be successful in life you must do more than is asked of you and if you tell me you can do something, I am going to believe you and that “belief” now becomes my new expectation of your performance.
Being the “new guy” is awesome, it means you are expanding your horizons, it means you are stepping out of your comfort zone. But never forget that it is human nature to judge and analyze the “new guy” so I challenge you to stop talking about yourself, and instead practice laying low, practice being humble, listen to the rules, learn about the group dynamics and most importantly show up and give 100% effort on a consistent basis. If you practice this I guarantee the group will accept you quicker and before you know it, they will ask you all about your past experiences. Once this happens–You can start talking 😉