Getting assigned to your first unit or transferring to a new unit can be exciting…and unnerving. You want to make a good impression and quickly find your role on the new team, but you know being too much too soon can give off a bad vibe.
First impressions matter, but what matters more is the impression others have of you after your first four to eight weeks. This is the time when you move beyond pleasantries and others will truly see who you are and what you’re like. That’s why if you follow the 4 unwritten rules of joining a new unit, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.
1) Don’t talk.
When you join a new unit, it’s important to remember others might be skeptical of you and they might not trust you. It has been their unit for some time, and you’re the newbie. You’ll want to lay low when you start out. Keep your opinions about what the unit should be doing to yourself and don’t engage in conversations about controversial issues like politics or religion. Eventually, your unit members will become more comfortable with you, trust you and ask for your opinions. That’s the point when you have the willingness of your teammates to be open to what you think.
While you’re doing a good job keeping your mouth shut, open your ears. As the new unit member, you’ve got a lot to learn, and the only way you can learn by listening. Pay attention and listen to everything and everyone you can—briefings, presentations, off-hand conversations with other unit members, etc. After a while, you’ll get a good sense of how the unit works, who the influencers are and how to get things done.
3) Meet as many people as you can.
Once you report to your unit, you’ll obviously meet with your unit leadership, but make sure you also schedule check-ins with personnel, operations, logistics, plans, communications, training, finance and any other support functions your unit or command has. While it might not be required, it’s a good practice because developing good relationships with officers and enlisted in those functions can help you get things done in the future.
It might be hard to keep track of everyone you meet, so keep notes of who they are and the roles they play. Doing so might be impressive to others and help you build good will early on.
4) Don’t cause any problems.
The last thing you want to do as the newbie to a unit is cause a problem, big or small. Obviously don’t be the one missing your Reveille or muster time, but also don’t be the one leaving dishes in a kitchen sink or leaving extra copies of your documents on a printer. Those little things will be noticed by other unit members and will make it more difficult for you to assimilate with your new group. Remember that the quicker you learn and follow the unit’s unwritten rules, the faster you’ll become one of the team.
In the end, it’s important to prioritize your long-term role in your unit. You can be known as the thoughtful, hard-working, reliable and strategic-thinking teammate, or you can be known as the one who causes problems, talks too much and doesn’t listen. By following these unwritten rules of joining a new unit, your choice will be obvious.