The new kid

Jan 28, 2019

When your firm hires a young person to fill a newly created position, make sure you give them the support they need to grow into their role.

Starting a new job is intimidating. But starting a job – when you’re the first one to ever be hired for it at your firm – adds another level of stress.

Last year, I was hired as Pennoni’s first GIS analyst within our technology solutions group. Our team specializes in several GIS-specific areas, including asset management, transportation, spatial analysis, and municipal GIS. This position was a huge step for me, coming from the world of academia as many younger employees do. Fortunately, I figured out how to forge my own path at Pennoni and have some tips for how your firm’s younger hires can do the same.

  • Get involved. Starting as the first hire in a new division can be daunting. Your employee won’t have other direct co-workers, at least for a while, to bounce ideas off of at that Thursday happy hour. Step one is to encourage them to get involved with other employees, to get to know people around their age, those who do something adjacent to their work, or other new hires. By creating this network of individuals, your employees will not only be creating friendships, but will start marketing their skills in a different way. This association will help your younger hires grow within the firm.
  • Becoming a source of knowledge for others. Because your employee is the first hire within your division/group, they will ultimately become a go-to person. It’s incredibly important for them to be a knowledgeable source on as much as they can. It’s not as important to be an expert, but they should be able to listen, troubleshoot, research, and develop a plan. From my experience, I’ve been able to make many connections because I knew what I was talking about off the bat, or was able to follow through with my suggestions. It’s not always about having all the answers all at once, but encouraging your employee to be willing to always find the answers. This makes a powerful statement.
  • An open line of communication with upper-level management. Again, as the first hire, they’re the go-to person. By creating an open line of communication with upper-level management, they’ll be able to voice their opinions as this new group begins to grow. This employee will be in a great place for future management as they’ll have a unique view of their team and its placement in the firm. You want your group to thrive as much as possible. If you create an open-door policy, this new hire will be comfortable having conversations, easy or tough, and will ultimately make it farther in their role.
  • Listen and absorb everything. They are new to this field and to this position. The best thing you can do is to encourage them to listen to everything around them and absorb as much as they can. This goes for any position in any field, but especially in our industry with so many disciplines. They will be 100 percent more aware and knowledgeable by learning from those within your firm. Allow them to attend all the information sessions possible, take detailed notes, and connect with anyone that interests them. By learning, they will make themselves a better employee over time. You will help them grow so they can eventually take on higher management roles within your firm.

Julia Wolanski, PSM, GIS specialist, Pennoni. She can be reached at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.