Is It Better to Be the New Kid on the Block?

New jobs can be stressful. You’re dealing with a whole new group of people, processes, and products. You might even have changed industries. And being the new kid on the block means you’re often clueless about what’s going on or even how to write about your new content. While I’m a big fan of taking advantage of your experience, there is also something to be said for being the new person in the organization.

Advantages to Being New

First, let’s start with your first win: you were hired because they thought you had something to offer the organization. If they didn’t want someone new, they might have promoted or transferred someone who was already there.

Next, after you get settled into your desk/cubicle and figure out all the little practical things, you can turn your attention to the content at hand. You start with the reference materials that are on hand. Maybe you look at what’s been said/written before. Perhaps the primary advantage you bring with you is that you have a fresh perspective on the material. You might might see some stylistic tics that you don’t like, or you might identify ways that the organization could say something more artfully.

You might not understand how or why something is worded a particular way–that might cause your leaders or peers to rethink what they’re doing because the answer might be, “We’ve always done it that way.” That doesn’t mean they have to do it the old way. Also, you might also see things in the writing that others have missed, such as standard stock phrases that are worded awkwardly or even misspelled! A fresh perspective is sometimes necessary because the organization is so used to how they do and say things that they might not even realize that it could be done differently or better. This is your opportunity to shine!

Approaching a New Writing Environment

There are a few ways you can handle your approach to new tasks:

  • You can ask a leader or peer some background questions, such as:
    • “What would you like to see changed or improved in the organization’s communications?”
  • If the answer is “nothing,” then it’s important to pay attention when you ask the following:
    • “Are there particular ways the organization prefers to describe X?”
    • “Who is/are our primary audience(s)? What can you tell me about them?”
    • “What do they want to know?”
    • “What sort of ‘voice’ does the organization prefer to use when communicating?”
    • “How much freedom do I have to write things as I see fit?”
  • You can just start writing.

I’ve tried all of these approaches. In the end, you usually end up learning more when you hand off your work to someone else to review/proofread/edit. That’s when you will learn what words are discouraged/forbidden or how the organization prefers to express itself. In short, you learn by doing.

It’s usually much easier to work in organizations where they know they want to change or improve their communications. If there’s already an in-house style, you’ll have to go through multiple redrafts to get the style just right. (This is made harder if there’s nothing written down, as I learned with one customer. This might be your opportunity to write down what the in-house style is for the benefit of future writers!) At the very least, you can bring a fresh energy and diligence to your role that might have been missing previously.

The bottom line? Don’t think you’re automatically at a disadvantage because you’re the new person.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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3 Responses to Is It Better to Be the New Kid on the Block?

  1. Reading about style sheets made me realize something. As Michael Edits begins its twentieth year, only one author has given me a style sheet, and that was last year. With everybody else I just write my own. I haven’t decided what that means.

    • Bart Leahy says:

      Do you work primarily with small businesses?

      • The smallest business I work with has one employee and the largest has eight. They don’t have enough editing to hire an employee to do it, so they outsource to me. And the dude who brought his own style sheet is a one-person operation.

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