I was a pastor for 20 years. In that time, I served many churches in many different roles. You could say I am an expert at starting new jobs. It’s definitely a trend in the greater workforce. Jobs are becoming more transient in the workforce as a whole. Gone are the days of people retiring from the same job after 30 or 40 years. Although I have no solid statistics, and it probably depends largely on the size and demographic of the church, at least in my experience, jobs in the church world have always been fluid. Fifteen years ago, the last time I really saw any statistics, churches got a new youth pastor/minister every two to three years. Other positions were similar. So yes, you could say I was an expert.
This can be a difficult transition because most of the time you’re entering a new job that is, for all intents and purposes, the same as your old job just in a different location. Nine times out of 10, however, it’s not the same. There are some of the same duties and framework. However, every work environment has its own dynamic. So, for this transition to be smooth, it’s very important to accept and understand a fundamental principle:
You’re entering into an established dynamic.
Most of the time the people who are in the workplace that is new for you (but home for them) have been together for some time and have an established dynamic or normal. You are disrupting that. No matter how excited they are that you’re there or how important the role that you’re filling, you weren’t part of the “normal” that existed just a few days ago. Team building exercises and inclusive environments help, but “normals” are created organically. Moving to a new job is very much like jumping on a moving train. If you want this to be a smooth transition, you need to sync yourself up to the things that are already in motion.
It really comes down to syncing expectations. Once you understand the natural flow of the new job and the environment that surrounds it, you’ll be able to jump aboard. There are a lot of aspects that come into play, but I found three that can really help you enter an existing dynamic and create your place in the dynamic a little smoother.
What are the unspoken rules around the office? Are there any things that are stated one way on paper but lived out differently in person? This would include boundaries or things that people who have worked there a minute have figured out, but aren’t necessarily spelled out on your first day. This is a general category that would include everything from the actual policy rules to the social norms there in the office. Every office has logistical things that are acceptable and unacceptable. These vary greatly from office to office. Trying to be aware and identify these things quickly can really help the transition into a new job.
What is the expectation of the role you will play in that dynamic? This includes your job role as well as a role on the team. It’s important to know not only the scope of the expectations around your role in the office, but also the duration. What is the ramp-up time? What is the learning curve? How quickly am I expected to contribute? Many times, people come in guns blazing only to be seen as someone trying too hard. Or they hold back only to be seen as not contributing. There’s no right answer here. It’s all about the expectations of the office.
What is the dynamic of the relationships in the office? What is the expectation of closeness or community or communication? How often do people talk to each other? What’s the unspoken normal with walking into someone’s office or hanging out in the hallway? What is considered an interruption in terms of casual conversation and what is considered just being a good work neighbor? How much of my personal life do I need to share or not share?
BONUS: ASK QUESTIONS
One of the most important ways to go about setting up your expectations and becoming part of a new dynamic is to ask questions. I think when dealing with high-level positions this can be hard to do. Sometimes we equate the knowledge of a system we’re walking into with our competence to work within the system. This is simply not true. Every workplace is a little different. There’s no way you can know expectations coming in to a new environment no matter how many other environments similar that you’ve worked in. Assuming before asking questions can be a dangerous thing. So, have confidence in the ability to do your job competently, but also know that you will need to ask questions if you are to transition smoothly.