You're The FNG. Now What?

You're the new guy or gal in the company. What are some missteps to avoid to get started off right?

When I first started my corporate job, my boss (a former Green Beret) sat me and another recently hired vet down. “I was debating whether or not to tell you guys this,” he said. And then he proceeded to lay out all the different relationships in the company. Which sales people didn’t get along with each other, which ones did, what good skills to learn from some, and bad ones to be aware of from others. It was the most enlightening talk I had in my career. The social landscape he described was as mixed up as the warring families in Game of Thrones. If you read a recent contributor’s article, Corporations Have Plebes, Too. And You’re Probably Going To Be One, you’ll see how critical understanding these relationships can be to your new career. Miss it, and you might fall under someone else’s wrath. When you’re the new guy, you’ve got a lot more to learn than just your job.



In that article, Dan wasn’t the bad guy, he was just the new guy. He was doing the best job he thought he could be doing. But there’s a saying in the Marine Corps, “Perception is reality.” You could assume and wish that everyone sees your point of view. That people don’t hold petty grievances or will understand your vision. That’s kind of the hope when you leave the military. That you can leave that sort of bureaucracy behind. But that’s a pipe dream…and it’s ok. It’s just important to realize it. Most veterans loved the time that they served, but there were definitely things they wish were different. They transition, thinking things will, have to, be different in the civilian world. But every organization and company has its quirks and imperfections. How you respond makes all the difference. The savvy professional knows this.

So what are some things that Dan could have done better? 

  • Notice that Dan’s bosses became petty not because Dan was not being a team player, but because they perceived him to be cozying up to their superior. Just because everyone uses first names in the civilian world doesn’t mean that hierarchy and respect doesn’t matter. It’s great that Dan was networking and building a strong relationship with someone high up in the company. But understand that every relationship counts where you work. Wouldn’t you feel slighted if one of your juniors were constantly chatting up your superiors, but not you? 
  • When you’re assigned a task, you have to perform, even if it’s stupid. Dan talked about a project he didn’t think was worthwhile, so he didn’t commit to doing it well. He thought he was getting away with it. But he gravely miscalculated. There were times in the military that I didn’t love the assignments I was given by my superiors. Still, I did it to the standard that THEY expected. If I had a differing opinion, I would bring it up, tactfully. And if they still told me to do it, I shut up and colored. The nice thing about the civilian world — no one NJP’s you for insubordination. But you may have to deal with bullshit, or worse. Which leads me to my next point.
  • Your employer’s view of what a good employee should be is what you should be. If you don’t agree with it, then understand that the consequences could be that you are not looked upon highly. When you joined the military, you had to assume its culture. Don’t forget that it’s the same at any company. The company succeeds because it has like minded people working toward the same goals. Your search for where you end up working should consider the culture of the company. Will you fit in? Do you want to fit in? The nice thing is, you do have a choice in this. Make the right decision for you. 
  • Always have an exit strategy. Some people are concerned with their transition because the civilian world generally does not have the job security of the military. I have the opposite thinking. How freaking awesome is it to have the freedom to move around if you don’t like your current job prospects? This gets into a whole other discussion about having a solid pipeline for job openings (through networking and staying in touch with your recruiter), managing your finances (keeping a budget, investing, and having an emergency fund), and developing the skills (negotiation, interviewing, networking) that help you find a job in any environment. That’s a talk for another time, but my point is, don’t forget to be proactive. You may or may not have your dream job lined up. It may not be that way forever. Give yourself the best opportunity to succeed, no matter what happens.

Thanks for reading! I started this site to help veterans and service members with their transitions after the military. To find out more about me, check out the Contact page. Feel free to leave comments, below.