When I first came to work at TechRepublic, I had a lot of years of IT publishing experience under my belt. The woman who hired me was excited by that and thought I could bring a great deal of insight into the operations at TechRepublic.For the first four or five weeks, she would end our editorial meetings by asking me if I had any questions or comments. I would say, not really, and she would look kind of puzzled.
My silence wasn't out of ignorance or apathy, however. I'd learned a long time ago that there is nothing worse than the new kid on the block who comes in with the assumption that he or she can improve the ways things are. Who hasn't had the experience of mulling over an issue around a new employee who smugly suggests a solution that was tried (and that failed) 18 ITERATIONS AGO? It's pretty darned arrogant to presume that a functioning company hadn't thought of a particular idea until your superior brain came along. It's actually insulting to the existing employees because you're implying that they didn't have the know-how to already come upon that conclusion themselves.
I highly recommend to any new employee that you back up and take stock for a pretty long while before you jump in with your pearls of wisdom. Here's why. In my case, I did have some valid experience and was successful at past jobs. So I can see why that was one of the reasons I was hired. But in a sense, it's really like comparing apples and oranges. I may have been successful at my previous companies, but that didn't automatically give me a special insight into this company. I couldn't apply what I knew to this company until I learned about how it worked.
You can't burst into a position of high visibility at a company (unless you're hired in at CIO). I can't tell you the number of times I've been in company meetings (at all the companies I've worked at) when some new person, in an effort to get "on the radar," raises his hand to make some pithy comment. Sometimes it the comment is valid, sometimes it's wildly off the mark. This may succeed in getting your face temporarily in the minds of executives but it will also succeed in alienating some of your co-workers.
So if you're a new employee, take your time. Check out the land, learn about the history of your new company, and then, if you think you can make a difference, go for it.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.