Navigating Your Onboarding

There are few high level differences in how companies tackle bringing on a new hire— aka, onboarding. Here at Greenhouse, we define the onboarding process as the time between when the new hire signs their offer to the point when they are fully contributing in their role.

The Harvard Business Review published a great article about effective employee (specifically executive) onboarding. One of the main points that resonated with me is the emphasis on the initiatives the new hire should take on themselves— doing what it takes to grow into a fully functioning member of the team as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Regardless of your level, taking initiative and managing above what the company does to onboard you is a great way to set yourself up for success at the start of a new job. Much of my own design practice centers around empowering product teams to make better decisions. To achieve that, there’s much beyond the ‘craft’ of design — it’s also about developing an understanding of the business’ organizational ecosystem early on. This early awareness became the focus of my own onboarding journey.

I joined Greenhouse Software just over a month ago. Coming from a company that I was at for over 3 years, it has been quite a journey to start fresh. I wanted to share some dos and don’ts that have helped me during this transition. I’m writing this as a designer who has spent time at a few different companies, but I imagine much of this can be applied to other tenures and roles as well.


Do: Reflect

I spent a lot of time thinking about the challenges I experienced in my last role. For example, in my last role there were stakeholders who did not understand the role of a designer — this dynamic improved over time but took longer than what I would have hoped. I gave myself an action item to make sure to keep this in mind at my next role. Write these down in whatever format works for you.

Ask yourself:

  • What worked well in your day to day? Why?
  • What did not work so well? Why?
  • How did [this process] affect my team?
  • What do I wish I had a bigger impact/influence on?
Example: As a Designer, when I am presenting designs, it is crucial to have my work reviewed regularly by my Engineering and Customer Success stakeholders, because this ensures a diverse perspective and well rounded discussions.

Don’t: Ignore Your Biases

Bias is something we all carry, and they are hard to recognize. Consider your own biases such as processes or workflows you favor over others. Realize that it’s totally normal to bring those biases, but be sure to reflect on them. Lean into those uncertainties, acknowledge them, and keep an open mind.

Ask yourself:

  • Why am I reacting negatively?
  • What about this was better? Why?
  • What does this remind me of?
Example: As a Designer, when I am unfamiliar with the product/process, I feel anxious because I don’t feel like I can contribute meaningfully.

Do: Be Proactive

Think about how you like to get to know people! I prefer getting to know others in a smaller setting, so I spend a lot of time asking my co-workers out for coffee or tea. Another way is to email or chat people to say hello. It may feel awkward, but this is a really great way to start understanding how the organization operates.

Remember:

  • Your manager and teammates also need to learn to work with you, help them!
  • Each relationship is different. Be proactive in figuring out what works best for you.
  • Give honest feedback. It feels tough to do this when you’re new, but acknowledging what is working well and what is not to the people around you will only help them improve.
Example: How might I communicate my goals to my manager more effectively?

Don’t: Go Overboard (ಠ‿ಠ)

I am a super impatient person — I wanted to get over being the new person on the team so badly that I scheduled way too many coffee and lunch events in my first two weeks. While valuable, those interactions require a lot of investment and can be very exhausting.

Remember:

  • Write down observations you make, and questions you may have and come back to them.
  • Try not to feel defeated if you don’t feel settled right away. Remind yourself that these relationships take time.

Do: Preserve Your Perspective

It’s normal to not rock the boat and try to assimilate at the start of a new job. Do what you can to preserve your observations in writing, you can always act on them later.

Remember:

  • People aren’t completely comfortable with you yet. They are probably wary of giving honest feedback as well.
  • Your new hire voice is very powerful — leverage it to drive impact.

This perspective you have as a new hire is super valuable and fades quickly so keep challenging yourself and question the system. Happy Onboarding!


Many thanks to my colleagues at Greenhouse who helped me craft this story, and Mina Jonsson, a friend and mentor who wrote a great piece on leaving a company that inspired me.

Also — we’re hiring!