Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: The No. 1 mistake you cannot afford to make at a new job

Suzy Welch: The one mistake you cannot make at a new job
Suzy Welch: The one mistake you cannot make at a new job

You've landed a brand new job. Congratulations! Now you can sit back and wait for your start date, right?

Wrong. Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch says there's a major mistake people often make just as they're starting a new job, but it's one you can avoid.

"You're excited. They're excited. What could possibly go wrong? Well, a lot, if you make this incredibly common mistake: not learning the history of your new company."

It's imperative, she says, that you do your research before starting a new position.

"Do a Google search. Take a company veteran to coffee. Find out who started the company, and why. Who propelled its success and how? Who screwed it up along the way and what happened to them? Who owns how much of it and who's really in control of what?"

CNBC contributor Suzy Welch

Approach your new company like you're entering a partnership. "You wouldn't get married without knowing your partner's life story, right? Your new company also has a past and you'll be savvier — and more effective — if you come on board knowing it."

Welch admits that she learned this lesson the hard way. In 1981, as a recent college graduate, Welch was working as a crime reporter at the Miami Herald. In the beginning, she says, "I wondered why so many police officers, whose information I desperately needed every day, were unfriendly to me. I hadn't done anything wrong yet!"

A few weeks later, at a party with some colleagues, Welch says she finally learned why she was receiving such treatment. "We were replacements for reporters who had been fired after going on strike," she says. "The police, who were also unionized, saw me as a traitor — and I'd been oblivious."

She immediately dug in an learned everything she could about the company's history and culture.

"I discovered how contentious that recent strike had been," she says. "I learned that my own boss had refused to walk out, losing dozens of friends in the process. This small fact, importantly, really changed our relationship, because I finally understood him."

Going forward, Welch says, "I never took another job again without doing my due diligence."

"Context shows us where we enter into the narrative of our organizations and often prepares us for what lies ahead," she says. "Make sure you face your exciting future better by researching — and understanding — your company's past. You may be a newbie, but you don't have to act that way."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at

Video by Claire Nolan

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Suzy Welch: Why this common mistake can be a 'career killer'
Suzy Welch: Why this common mistake can be a 'career killer'