On-boarding (not just) a mid-career professional

Based on topics outlined in an an HBR article about starting a new role as a mid-career professional, this post discusses how we can flip the narrative and apply these as a leader, setting them up for success.

On-boarding (not just) a mid-career professional
Photo by Scott Graham / Unsplash

Recently I came across this HBR article that lists tips for starting a new job as a mid-career professional. Reflecting on the article, I believe these steps can apply to anyone–not just a mid-career professional–that is starting out on a team. Further, we can flip this discussion to view it from the perspective of a manager or lead for bringing a new hire onboard. By taking the points raised in the article as the basis, we can re-frame and re-apply these to the perspective of a leader and help set up a new hire for success.


Build important relationships

Help them to build relationships, not just on the team they’re starting on, but also across the division or organization. They should also have a clear idea of where to go to get technical support, application access, or any other resources that your team commonly needs.

It can help considering these questions as part of on-boarding:

  • Who should they know?
  • Who or where do they need to go to for x?

Provide understanding into the business and team

When a new hire starts, they might only have a cursory idea of what your business does and, specifically, what role your team or group has in working to make the business successful. Defining these up front helps get them on board with the team’s vision and mission, and also frames their work within the overall efforts of the business.

As part of on-boarding, point them to documentation, guides, and team charters. Share recent all hands that helped define a vision. If you’re using OKRs, this is a great time to share those as well.

Some questions to consider helping them answer:

  • What does your team do and why?
  • What team agreements exist and why?
  • How do the team’s goals and efforts fit into the overall goals of the division or organization?
  • What are the most important projects being undertaken right now and where can they help?

Understand how the role is perceived

To help set expectations and define their work, the new hire should have an idea of what their role is and what expectations there are both within and outside of the team for that role. This can be done by clearly outlining what expectations are for the role. This should include both what your expectations are as a lead, and overall organization expectations for the role and as an employee.

Questions to help frame this can include:

  • What does success look like on the team? What about failure?
  • How does the company view the role, and what spoken and unspoken expectations might exist around it?
  • What overall expectations are there for someone within the company for how they approach their day-to-day work.

Teach dependencies

Give the new hire guidance on what dependencies exist for your team and how to work with those dependencies. This can include anything from stakeholders, to teams to involve when starting on a project. For example, involving UX teams up front of any UI related work, or content teams to determine the best copy to write for a particular feature.

  • What teams do you work closely with?
  • Where are product decisions made?
  • What does a typical workflow look like for a project on the team?

All of the above can easily be incorporated into an on-boarding checklist available for the new hire when they start. As a lead, you can help guide them through each item, or have an on-boarding buddy help answer questions and guide the new hire as well.