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Why You Shouldn’t Talk About Your Old Job in a New Role

Businessman leaning on desk talking to coworkerBusinessman leaning on desk talking to coworker

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is the biggest mistake you see new hires make? is written by Vildan Kehr, divisional vice president of talent acquisition at Abbott.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen really smart people make the same mistakes when starting a new job. I’m not talking about the little errors made by overachievers, such as taking on too much too soon. They’re the types of mistakes that can stunt your career growth and ruin relationships. Here’s what I’ve seen during my time as a recruiter, consultant, and senior HR executive across three continents and dozens of countries:

Get over yourself
Having success in a new job is not a foregone conclusion. Too many people assume that their external credibility and past accomplishments will automatically translate into success. This is especially true in senior ranks, where the stakes are higher.

But here’s a secret: Very few people actually care about what you accomplished in your old job. Sure, people will be nice and encouraging to you. But they won’t believe you’re any good until they’ve seen your successes for themselves. Try to get some quick wins early while you’re still learning. If you wait too long, you’ll lose credibility and momentum.

Don’t be too proud to ask for feedback—early and often—from your peers, bosses, and direct reports. Smart people know what they don’t know—especially when starting a new job—and they welcome honest advice and fair criticism.

See also: Don’t Do This If You Want to Impress Your New Boss

Get with the culture
I’ve also seen new hires run into trouble by underestimating—or not paying attention to—the culture of their new company. But here’s another secret: You can’t change culture overnight. You earn the right to do that, and there’s no substitute for time in the job.

Now, if you’ve been hired to affect change—or if you want to turn your idea into reality—there are smart ways of going about it. Figure out who the decision-makers are and learn quickly how they arrive at their conclusions.

For example, does consensus need to be reached before ideas go up the chain of command? Or do people toss ideas around openly until something sticks? Are your ideas aligned with your boss’s priorities? Do they benefit the business?

The point is this: No one changes an organization by being an outsider. Listen, adjust, and check your ego at the door. Learn the culture first, focus on the priorities, and then put your plans in place.


Get on board
When you’re starting a new job, it’s tempting to mention your old one. In fact, it’s human nature. No one knows you yet, so you want to show everyone that you’ve been there before.

But when you bring up your old workplace, you’re sending a message that you haven’t moved on. Just as you wouldn’t go into a new personal relationship while always mentioning your ex, you should avoid making the same mistake at work.

On your first day, be ready to fully embrace your new colleagues. Ask what they’re working on, and make mental notes of how you can help them. And don’t be that person who only meets with other senior execs. Getting to know your peers and support teams are just as important, if not more so.

When you put others before yourself, you’ll become that leader you know you’re meant to be.