Back in my twenties (this was not too long ago I promise you!) I made a vow to work in as many industries as possible. Why? I wanted to gain a vast array of experiences as well as find my niche.

Now that I’ve successfully delved into industries spanning from advertising, finance, market research, design and now content marketing, I’d like to share my tips on how I’ve survived and thrived in daunting new environments.

Recently, for example, I had to liaise directly with a Chinese client in Mandarin and written Traditional Chinese for my role in a product design agency. Even though I converse fluently in Simplified Mandarin, I can’t say I’ve dabbled much in Traditional Chinese characters, which are far more complex. Somehow, I made Google Translate my new BFF and have since built up an extensive knowledge of Traditional Chinese terms not commonly used in Singapore.

Even scarier was my training at a financial brokerage firm where I had to pass an exam to be certified as an interest rates broker. For this, critical trading skills had to be mastered in under six months. It was nerve-wracking stuff. But the hard work paid off when I became the only female trainee to graduate from the programme.

So how can you soothe your fears as you venture into a scary new job in an unfamiliar industry? Just follow some simple rules.


1. Be Curious

Following your curiosity is a great way to start in an environment where you feel like a fish out of water. Jargon will be thrown around with gusto and many times you’ll swear that your new colleagues are speaking in Russian (or perhaps Traditional Chinese, if you do actually speak Russian!) Don’t be scared. Be curious.

I’ve been very lucky to have colleagues who were always very patient with my relentless questioning. I remember asking my Novus Asia colleague, client services manager Chrizette Larin what a ‘listicle’ is and what a photo editor does. So don’t be afraid to ask. You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how many people enjoy sharing and teaching. And if you meet someone who does not enjoy sharing or teaching, you may want to skip right to tip number three.


My personal mantra is: “better to look stupid in front of your own colleagues than to embarrass yourself in front of the client.”


Two key questions I ask when I first get to a new company are:
- Are there any company resources or online publications I can look at to get me up to speed about this industry?
- Who can I approach to get a better idea of the role each department plays in the company or in a specific project?


2. Be Involved

If you have not been asked to sit in at meetings (both internally and externally), ask your reporting manager if you can shadow her or another colleague in the same department. I find this is the fastest way to learn about a project where you’re able to better understand and clarify the jargon being used and also get up to speed with ongoing projects with which you may later be involved.

At Novus, I learnt very quickly the definitions of A/B testing, boilerplates, schemas and meta elements. Don’t be afraid of big financial terms such as fixed and floating Rates, cross-currency rates, forward rate agreements (FRA) — you can just as easily find glossary lists on Google specific to your industry.

Another good reference point is to study past presentation decks to the client. This quickly gives me a big picture view on the client and the scope of work.


3) Be Thick-skinned

Earlier on in my career, I was always too shy to ask questions with the fear of coming across as stupid. The backlash to waiting is of course having an even longer list of questions later on which might put a roadblock on your learning curve.

My personal mantra is: “better to look stupid in front of your own colleagues than to embarrass yourself in front of the client.” I recall an introductory meeting with a telecommunications client just days after I started with a design agency, where I was asked what human-centred design was. I was completely stumped for words and as you can imagine, there was a long awkward silence where I wanted to dissolve into a mass of green goo. Not a great first impression, and I still get queasy every time I think about this incident.

Another tip: if you have issues speaking up at meetings, engage with your colleagues in a one-to-one basis in a more relaxed setting, like over a quick coffee in the pantry.


I can’t stress enough the need to arm yourself with compassion in any new situations. And the number one person you should be compassionate towards? Yourself.


4) Be Resourceful

What really helped me get started at Novus was reading the online publications related to Content Marketing. I’ve come across great resources from Content Marketing Institute (CMI), Marketo Blog, Contently Magazine, NewsCred Insights and even Flipboard, a social-network aggregation site for a wide range of topics.

One of the more interesting articles I read on content marketing from CMI is titled “Why You Shouldn’t Care That One-Third of Readers Despise Your Content” . I’m sure there are tonnes of articles out there that will not only pique your interest but also help you get different perspectives on the topics related to the new role.

Don’t forget to ask your colleagues what they are reading to keep up-to-date on work-related content. On that note: a shout-out to our Director of Content Strategy Joseph Jones for recommending Flipboard to me!

Speaking of which: prior to joining Novus, I wanted to learn more about the company. Luckily, there were hundreds of blog posts that helped me understand what they did and how they thought. It’s where I got insights to what my colleagues were interested in and what piqued their interests. I almost felt I knew my co-workers before my first day; something that actually made them much more approachable when I introduced myself. 


5) Be Compassionate

I can’t stress enough the need to arm yourself with compassion in any new situations. And the number one person you should be compassionate towards? Yourself.

Beating yourself up when you don’t know something does not help. Quite honestly, it creates a mental block because of the internal stress you have to handle on top of learning all these new skills at the workplace. If you ever feel overwhelmed and doubt your ability to master your new job, remind yourself that it’s akin to going to a new school. It feels intensely scary on the first day, but somehow we always manage to make new friends, master the advanced classes and find a few subjects we are passionate about along the way.

I hope you find the tips useful for your transition to any new industries or job roles. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Andrea Edwards, our Director of Content Marketing and Training, for walking me through the process of starting my blog. So here it is, my first blog post!

You can read more about my interview with Andrea here: “Birth of a Blogger Part 1: Finding Your Voice”. Don’t forget to email me at if you’d like to share your experiences at a new job or foray into a new industry!



5 Simple Ways to Ease into a New Job in a New Industry

BY Jade Alphonsine Tuan

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