Starting a new gig? Here’s how to make an immediate and lasting impact


Starting a new job always brings up a wide range of emotions, running the gambit from anxiety to outright excitement.  Too often, those in technical professions do not think through the practical methods to make the transition as smooth and beneficial as possible.  What steps can a new employee take to make a positive and measurable impact with the new company?

1) Learn/Train

Learning isn’t just for new grads (although it should be obvious that there is greater emphasis for them), this applies to all new hires.  While some companies provide more accessible and plentiful training courses, new hires should always make learning a priority.

There is always a transition period, and there are always new systems, tools, software, manuals, etc. to learn.  Take this opportunity to become a student again.  Sure, maybe you are a savvy veteran in the industry, and maybe the job description really isn’t all that different from your previous post.  But in engineering, there is ALWAYS new material to learn.  This is the perfect time to dig in and learn new cutting edge design techniques, perhaps study what products this new company brings to market, or maybe even brush up on some college fundamentals.

Large companies sometimes provide scheduled classes for advanced coding techniques, circuit design, market fundamentals, etc.  Take advantage while you can, because once the design cycle heats up, there won’t be ample time to brush up on your skills.

2) Network

Meet everyone.  At most companies, who you know can be every bit as important as the quality work you produce.  I’m not suggesting that you talk your way to the top and avoid doing real work.  The goal should be to align yourself with the best, highest-producing talent in the company.  This is your opportunity to make your own ideas, contributions, and designs known amongst that group.

Finding the best people will keep you sharp, on your toes, and raise your game.  Not only that, but you will almost certainly ensure that your work is respected, appreciated, and well-known throughout the organization.  Often times, it’s not enough to simply sit in your office and do solid work.  Getting your work out in the open and respected by those who matter will certainly result in career advancement and financial benefit.

3) 1 on 1′s

Set up a recurring meeting with your manager.  Whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, it doesn’t matter.  Just some kind of regular meeting with your superior is always a good idea to stay on track.  It’s important to have clear, achievable goals for your work upon which both you and your manager agree.

The recurring meeting is the ideal time to assess your performance on each of these goals, and adjust priority if needed.  This is also your best opportunity to feedback info to your boss.  Be sure to bring up what skills you are bringing to the table, what tasks are going really well (and why), and what tasks are going poorly (and why).  Also, this is where you can find out which of your contributions are the most important for the organization.

4) Track your work

This is a good tip for new hires, existing hires, and people that have been at the same company for 25 years.  Tracking your work is paramount to successful annual reviews.  Every company does reviews differently, but most folks have to go through some kind of review process.  These are substantially easier when you have a clear work history clearly showing each of your contributions.

I use a MS Excel sheet in which I log design work, documentation contributions, and new code.  It’s important to track what challenges you run into with each of these logged accomplishments.  It will help jog your memory when reviews come around.

I also find that this work tracker comes in handy when doing future design work.  I constantly find myself wondering, “Didn’t I write a script to do this once upon a time?”  Sure enough, I look up in my work tracker doc and I see a clear history of everything I’ve done (and it’s location on the file server).

Lots of these tips apply to new and old hires alike, but I find them particularly applicable when you have a nice fresh start at a new company.

I’d love to hear what tips you guys have for starting at a new company.  What made your transition easier (or more difficult)?

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