Chill, Learn, Ask.

3 Tips For Starting A New Job

I started at a new job for the first time in more than seven years when I joined Parthenon last month. Here are three ways that I made the most of my first few weeks:

1. Pack frozen lunches

Chill, Learn, Ask.

Making time to meet your new colleagues is crucial. Lunches at nearby restaurants can be a great opportunity to learn more about the folks you’ll be working alongside, and about the company’s history and culture.

Even if you normally like to save money by bringing a lunch (I do!), I’d recommend planning to eat out as often as you are invited during your first few weeks.

Since I couldn’t usually know in advance if folks would be heading out for lunch and I hate wasting food, I froze a few healthy home-made meals at the beginning of the week. That way, I can  just save my home-made lunch for tomorrow in the office freezer and go spend time with new folks!

2. Write everything down— twice

With any new job, there will be a ton of information to absorb.

Most important processes will already be documented centrally, but all sorts of random bits of knowledge and experience may be floating around in peoples’ heads and email chains. Write every single piece of information like that down on a pad of paper. Don’t worry about organization yet, just collection. There’s probably a lot to learn, and you don’t want to miss anything.

For your second pass, compare the information in your notes to your company’s official process documents and knowledge-base. Rather than keeping your notes in a drawer for your own reference, request permission to update the company’s documentation. Now the information you’ve absorbed will be available not just to you, but to anyone who needs it.

3. Ask the right questions at the right time

Asking questions is a must, but I’ve learned that not all questions need to be asked as soon as they spring to mind. Here are three categories of questions I handle differently:

  • Requests for process clarification have the highest immediacy.
    If I don’t understand what someone training me is demonstrating, that moment is the best time to seek clarification. After being trained, if I’m unsure about part of a process, I’ll first consult the documentation and my notes. If the answer isn’t written anywhere, I’ll flag the right person down or shoot off an email right away to keep things rolling.
  • Brainstorming is one of the most fun parts of creative work.
    When I see a new process, my mind often jumps to suggestion/questions (sugquestions?) like: “Have you considered a particular alternate approach?” Always write down these ideas immediately, but remember that you need to understand the current approach fully before you suggest a process change.
  • “Is there a good daycare nearby?” and other neighborhood questions are best saved for breaks.
    The answers may take longer than you’d expect, and you don’t want to disrespect your co-workers’ time. During lunch, however, these can be a great conversation starter.

These question categories are definitely an area I’m still feeling out, so don’t hesitate to chime in on this in the comments section below with your thoughts and suggestions. Thanks for reading!