Uncharted Waters

Sep 30 2014   3:45PM GMT

Your First 30 Days in the New Gig (and if You’re on the Old Gig, They Begin TODAY)

Michael Larsen Michael Larsen Profile: Michael Larsen

San Francisco Financial District

New opportunities are just a building away… or are they?

When I ask friends why they moved to a new company, the most common answer I get is they were “just looking for something different”. When salary, benefits and other side “perks” are not part of the equation, their answers tended to end up being one of these three things:

  • To learn something new.
  • To be challenged and do better.
  • To be surprised.

That tells me those things aren’t happening in their old environment, and the person believes they couldn’t make those thing happen — the change is impossible given the work, or the politics, or something else. The answer that comes to mind may be to pull up stakes an start over elsewhere. Sometimes, that is the right answer, but I have to wonder – how far did they push before coming to that conclusion?

Before you quit that old job, I’d like to offer you a challenge.

If you said to yourself “I just got hired today. I want to make the next 30 days a blueprint for success”, what would you do?

Making Yourself Productive

A few months into a job, most of us have a groove, a sweet spot of productivity. Vim, for example, was my editor of choice for years. I set up aliases to automate repetitive keystrokes. I keep a small set of virtual machines to keep my head in the game with certain operating systems. If you had to step away from your regular environment and start fresh, what would you want to have with you to ensure you would be productive as quickly as possible? Focus on creating or refining those helpers. It may be a solid knowledge of Vim and its eccentricities, or using windowing tools like screen and tmux. Whatever you use, invest some time to make yourself as productive as possible, and make a way to carry those improvements anywhere you go.

Tooling Up

No new job will be exactly the same as the one we leave. We have to get used to new or different bug trackers, story boards, case management applications, company wide work tools, and other applications. A new development stack, a new set of testing tools, or other elements of our work might be radically changed. Some of these things are given to us by management, and others we have more control over. If you are staying put, take these next thirty days to really get into the depths of the technology stack that your company uses, even if you do not have a strong programming background. Look to see what tools the programmers may be using that could help you in your everyday work, especially if it’s a set of tools you personally have never used before.

Coworking Arrangement

Meet your new co-workers, or perhaps, meet you co-workers again, for the first time.

Making Relationships

At an actual new job you’d restart most relationships at square one. You’d need to get a feel for how your coworkers like to work, and how you should interact with them. Each new day creates new opportunities to learn from your team, discover their preferred way of working, and get invested in what is happening. Guess what? You can do the same thing in a company you have been working at for years. It’s been my experience that, if you are up front and honest about this desire and approach, most of your co-workers will be happy to help you do this. What’s important, though, is making sure that this interaction is a two-way street. You need to use this time to likewise find out what your co-workers need, how they like to work, and if you can help them in the way they like to be helped.

It’s All About People

Not just my experience, but survey after survey reports that it is the people in organizations that create churn or stability. Ultimately, we want to be challenged, appreciated, and, sometimes, to see something new or surprising. Some of that is covered by technical skills, but most are enriched and enhanced by people skills and people interactions. Whether you stay or go elsewhere, your next thirty days should emphasize how you interact with the people you work with. Do that, and you may find yourself working a wonderful new job thirty days from now.

You might not even need to change desks to get there.

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