In this essay, I’m going to take a break from discussing my usual subjects of product management and SaaS. In fact moving forward, I hope to write more about other subjects as well such as productivity and general management.
This essay is on how you can ease the process of settling into a new job. When you join a new company, it is only natural that folks in the company you join look at you with anticipation and a bit of trepidation. Each one trying to figure you out to understand how you operate, how much you know etc. So what should you try to do in your first few days of joining a new organization?
I speak about this topic from the learnings I’ve had in the five companies I’ve been associated with so far in my career. Wherever I’ve not followed the principles below, I’ve noticed that adjusting to the new job was more difficult than what it should have been.
Here are the four principles from my playbook that I follow to settle into a new job and start working with new people.
Do you tend to trust any new person you meet? Probably not. The same applies if you’re joining a new company. You need to build trust quickly with your manager and your colleagues in order to gel with the team and become productive faster. I speak about trust as an all encompassing umbrella that covers various skills and traits such as how sincere, hardworking and honest you are, how eager you are to learn, how committed you are to the job, how diligent you are about projects you take up etc. The sooner you can display these skills to your managers and peers, the sooner the trust gets established. And the sooner the trust is established, the sooner your working relationship with your managers and colleagues becomes productive.
I’ve generally not had any difficulty in establishing a good rapport with my colleagues. However, in at least a couple of instances early in my career, I realized that I was unable to establish a good rapport with my manager in the initial few days even though I was able to establish a rapport with my colleagues. This then affected the working relationship I had with my manager and it took a few months for us to adjust to each other, leading to unnecessary loss of productivity. I now realize that it’s important to understand very quickly how your manager and colleagues operate, your manager’s working style, your manager’s general expectations of you etc. in order to build the rapport. This doesn’t mean you have to always connect with people on a personal level. Not that there is any harm if a personal connect were to develop. Personal and professional relationships can be kept apart. Rapport can be built even on the basis of professional relationships where you are able to genuinely understand each other and work effectively with each other.
No one likes a person who speaks without understanding context or without knowing enough. Therefore, you need to listen and absorb in any way you can — understand the market, the customers, the product, the competition, the people in the company, the power dynamics in the company etc. Schedule 1–1s with your peers, managers, other leads or whoever can help you understand things better. Join a group of people from your company regularly for lunch even though you might not know them. You’ll get to know them and it will even help you establish your rapport with them. In the past, I’ve been guilty of speaking without knowing enough about the subject or the context. It wasn’t effective and it probably didn’t leave a good impression of me with my peers and manager. Unfortunately, you’re always being judged. Especially, when you’re among a group of people you do not know. The more you can absorb and the more knowledgeable you are, the more respect you will command among your peers. In summary, spend time in any activity that can help you absorb information around you better.
Understand Goals & Objectives
I cannot stress this enough. It is critical to understand your manager’s expectations of you in the early days of your new job. You need to understand your objectives and goals, write them down and share it with your manager to confirm that the right expectations are set and the expectations are clear to both parties. Schedule your daily or weekly check-ins. Once the trust and rapport is established, the daily or weekly check-ins could perhaps even become fortnightly check-ins or ad-hoc check-ins. If daily check-ins sounds like an overkill, just remember that over-communication never hurts. Daily check-ins with your manager in the early days of your new job will even help with the principles I’ve mentioned above such as building trust, building rapport and absorbing information.
This brings me to the end of this essay. I’ll get back to writing about SaaS and product management in my next essay.