On my first day at Microsoft, my manager left for a 3-week vacation.
My entire onboarding was a 30 min conversation before he left for the airport.
I had no guidelines, no goals, & no one to tell me what to do.
I stared at the walls of the empty office and wondered:
What am I going to do now?
I was determined to make an impact during my first 30 days and nothing (including a missing manager) was going to stop me!
I just knew making a big impact during my first 30 days will set the tone for the rest of my time with the company.
I spent the first week reading company resources to learn about my business unit, the market & the audience we were targeting.
Next, I set up introduction meetings with every team member. My goal wasn't just to introduce myself, but to ask questions and complete my research.
After two weeks of learning and collecting feedback I was able to:
1. Identify the key marketing challenges for my unit
2. Reviewed the existing resources and find the biggest gaps
3. Create a (simple) plan with immediate actions that will allow my team to fill the gaps
Obviously, I didn’t solve every problem we had and I didn’t create a yearly plan that covered every aspect of the marketing role. Instead, I found a quick win. Something I could do in a short amount of time that would make an impact.
Why did I go through all that trouble?
> Your first 30 days help build your reputation internally.
> Showing initiative puts you in the driver seat of your relationship with your manager
> You surprise people - no one expects a newbie to deliver a win within the first 30 days. It sets you apart.
I’m sure you’ve been given the age-old advice that worked for your parents (or their parents): “Be humble and keep your head down, spend your first few weeks just learning and observing, you don’t want to upset anyone”...
Yep, I got the same advice, but I decided to ignore it. Turns out I was right to try something different. Taking a different approach to my first 30 days positioned me as an invaluable employee.
Here is the process that I use to start a new job with a bang:
1) Independent onboarding: instead of waiting for the company to train you, educate yourself through deep research (I’ll show you how in the next email).
2) Active networking: initiate "agenda-free" meetings with everyone at the company/business unit. Map out the most important stakeholders for your role and nurture those relationships.
3) Set up expectations: treat people the way you want to be treated and define boundaries. The most important aspect of this step is to speak up in your first 30 days. You want to set a precedent that your voice matters. Not to mention, as a new employee you have an unbiased perspective and a fresh view. Use it to spot problems the team is oblivious to.
4) Get a quick win to make an impact. If you want to be perceived as a doer, complete a task or a project within your first 30 days. Find a low-hanging fruit that can be executed quickly and drive value immediately.
Your first 30 days can make a big difference so don’t waste them sitting in the back of the class waiting to be asked to speak. Set yourself up for success by being proactive and taking action!
It’s time to get down to business and start planning your first 30 days.
Whether you are starting a new job or moving into a new role - independent onboarding is your secret weapon for success.
Let me guess, you think your company should be responsible for your onboarding. You think it’s better to wait and go through the proper onboarding process, and spend your first 30 days “learning”.
You can do that and be like everyone else, or you can initiate an independent onboarding process and set yourself apart. Imagine showing up on your first day ready to hit the ground running when everyone else is still trying to remember their manager’s name.
It’s a no-brainer.
I know what you are thinking. “Okay Maya, I’ll do it, but first can you explain what you mean by “independent onboarding”?”
Happy to give you the spiel.
Independent onboarding means that instead of waiting for the company to bring you up to speed about what they do, you educate yourself through deep research.
You learn about the company from every aspect - their business model, customers, financials, and even messaging. You learn about the people from the CEO to your direct manager, you research the culture, and you learn about their challenges - the ones you are supposed to help solve.
1. Google the company and read the latest news (you can also search for the “in the media” section on their website.
2. Look at the financial reports that are available publicly (just google the company name + yearly report, or check out SeekingAlpha).
3. Listen to earning calls. In these calls, the founders usually talk about the company’s status, their future plans, and the obstacles they’ll have to overcome. This is a goldmine for identifying opportunities.
4. Identify the company’s business model: how do they make money? Do they sell directly to consumers or through a partner? Do they have a subscription model? An e-commerce store? What is the price range? How does the company acquire customers?
5. Identify the company’s target audience. Who are they selling to? What can you learn about the company’s customers? What do they care about? (you can use customer reviews to get some of this information).
6. Check out the company website and social media channels to learn more about their story.
7. Learn about the market & industry. Use websites like G2 and Capterra, as well as Gartner and Forrester to identify competitors and learn about the industry or category.
8. Map out the main stakeholders at the company via LinkedIn and review their profiles. Identify 2-3 key team members you’ll be working with (including your manager) and Google them. Read things they wrote, listen to interviews they gave, and get to know them and their point of view.
9. If you already have access to company resources, review any existing documentation from your predecessor or team to get up to speed (if you don’t have access, you can ask for it).
10. List questions that come up during your search. You’ll ask your manager or colleagues to answer these questions for you later on.
All in all this process can take 10-15 hours, depending on how deep you want to go and how experienced you are with this process. It may sound like a lot of work (and it is) but it will pay off. These 10 hours will allow you to hit the ground running, which means you’ll start gaining experience faster, you’ll deliver results faster, and climb the corporate ladder faster. Not to mention, you’ll position yourself as a high performer from the get-go.
Tip: document some of your research. It will be a great resource you can come back to further down the line. You may even be able to use some of this information to inform your work.
About a month into my role at Microsoft I had an opportunity to travel to the mothership (a.k.a. Microsoft headquarters in Redmond). I planned on making it a short visit but my colleague suggested I try a different approach. He thought I should take at least a few days to network and meet with people.
I thought that was odd. I have been with the company for just a few short weeks, I didn’t know anyone so what was I supposed to do? Ask strangers to meet me for coffee?
Yes. Apparently, that’s exactly what I should have been doing.
You see companies are made of people. If you don’t know these people, it’s harder to make things happen. You need people to get buy-in, approve your budget, gain access or collaborate. If you want to do well, you need to know the people around you and let them get to know you.
And the sooner you start, the better. This is why I include active networking in my first 30 days plan. I think it’s crucial to set the tone for your most valuable relationships from the get-go by being proactive.
Instead of waiting to be introduced, initiate "agenda-free" meetings with everyone at the company or business unit. Make it your mission to have at least one conversation (lunch or coffee are both great ways to do that) every day.
1. Get your hands on the company’s org chart and map out the most relevant stakeholders for you and your role. Start with your team members and expand into other teams.
2. Send out a personalized email to everyone on your list inviting them to jump on a quick introduction call or meeting. Use a friendly and not formal tone. This is not a business meeting, your goal is to get to know them as people.
3. Fill your calendar with meetings - one 30 minute meeting every day (you don’t want to overdo it...you still have to get work done in your first 30 days).
4. During the meeting focus on getting to know your counterpart - personally and professionally. Ask questions and get curious about them, don’t spend too much time talking about yourself.
5. After the meeting follow up with a short thank you email and some reference to the conversation to make it clear you were listening.
6. If you want to take it up a notch, keep a spreadsheet to track those meetings, collect your notes, and set up follow-up dates. This tracking system will allow you to manage your most strategic relationships.
7. Every now and then, usually when there’s a trigger event (someone got promoted, a product launch, something you saw on the news), send out a friendly email to your contacts. Congratulate them on an achievement, complement a job well done, or share an article you came across they may find interesting. Make sure you send something that adds value, not just a random email.
This is a long-term strategy that will allow you to build a strong network, but kicking it off in your first 30 days sends out a message that you are a team player. It also allows you to make sure everyone knows your name.
I ignored this advice for years and I don’t want that to happen to you.
Start building relationships early and set the tone for your relationships.
You have probably heard it before, but the first 30 days at a new job can completely change your ability to succeed with the company. It's an opportunity to set boundaries and shape how other people treat you. If you set an example by treating people the way you want to be treated you’ll essentially teach them what a relationship with you should look like.
Sounds strange, I know, but here are a few examples you can easily apply:
1. Ask your colleagues how they are doing, inquire about their weekend or bring up a shared interest. Don’t wait for them to initiate the conversation, set the tone for your relationship by making the first step.
2. Speak up early and often so people learn to expect your opinion and eventually seek it. I know it may seem counterintuitive or even scary to speak up when you are new to a company, but this is what most people don't realize:
When you are new to a company you see everything with fresh eyes, you have an unbiased point of view and that is priceless!!
When people work at a company for a while they adopt certain thinking patterns and "rules" that affect how they see the world. You, on the other hand, are not affected by this groupthink phenomenon so you have the ability to see things your team is completely blind to.
Take advantage of this grace period and use it to make small suggestions that could lead to small wins for the company (and for you).
Start by listening, asking questions, and observing
Identify broken processes, overlooked opportunities, small problems
Speak up: Share your insights and suggest a solution
Pro tip: frame your suggestion as a question: "Do you think if we do X instead of Y we'll be able to get results faster?" to avoid stepping on any toes.
3. Design your 1:1 meetings with your manager to establish a strong foundation for your relationship and make sure you get the most out of it:
Set the ground rules: in your first meeting tell your manager what you hope to get out of your 1:1 and work together to define the format.
Before every meeting prepare the agenda and drive the meeting instead of waiting for your manager to ask you about your work.
Work feedback into your weekly 1:1 agenda: some managers don't give feedback, others won't stop complaining. The way to mitigate both of these challenges is to ask your manager for constructive feedback about a specific project or task. You’ll need to guide them by asking questions like: What did I do well on this project? Where do you think I could improve?
While it’s easier to take the back seat and let someone else drive your onboarding, you should use this opportunity to make a good first impression. Design the work environment you want by setting an example, otherwise, it will be decided for you.
According to psychology, people mostly remember their first and last impressions of you. If you act just like everyone else in your first 30 days, if you don’t do anything remarkable, you may be forgotten.
If you want to be perceived as a high performer, there’s one thing you can do to stand out: complete a task or a project within your first 30 days. Find a low-hanging fruit that can be executed quickly and drive value immediately.
Employee ramp-up usually takes a few weeks, which means new hires are not expected to make an impact within their first 30 days. If you went through the process of independent onboarding and started building relationships with co-workers you have everything you need to deliver a quick win and exceed expectations.
Here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. Identify a small problem, a nuisance, a broken process, or an opportunity you are uniquely qualified to solve.
What did this process look like in my previous company? (is there room for optimization?)
Is there a process/channel/tool that worked well for me before that this company isn’t utilizing yet?
Have I heard the same complaint from a few people? (that’s a sign of a problem)
Are there any silos or lack of communication around me?
Asking these questions will force you to think about what you see and hear and allow you to notice opportunities. You don’t need to make a major breakthrough, you just need to make a small difference.
Here are a few examples:
1. Set up a weekly planning session to help your team be more organized
2. Create an email nurturing campaign for an overlooked customer segment
3. Write a valuable piece of content based on your personal experience
4. Create a tutorial for the tool your team is trying to implement (because you’ve used it before)
5. Introduce your team to a vendor you’ve used before that can solve a big problem for them
You get the idea. The key is to do something meaningful to demonstrate you can hit the ground running.
You only have one chance to make a great first impression so go out and crush it with my 4 step formula!
step #1: Independent onboarding
step #2: Active networking
step #3: Set expectation
step #4: Get a quick win
Your first 30 days can make a big difference so don’t waste them. Define how you want to be treated and speak up. Start building your reputation and set yourself up for success by being proactive and taking action!