So you just got a new job — Congrats! You convinced them you can do it! A signed contract, night of raging with the crew, and a week or two of vacay later — Oh crap. It suddenly hits you. Now you have to actually do that job — Eek!
Ok, the good news is, unless you completely lied on your resume and interview, your company probably knows exactly how skilled you are (or how green you may be). Now, you just need to deliver what you promised. The best way to ensure you do that is to onboard quick and well.
Whether or not there is a clear onboarding process, you need to find a way to make it work for you. In this blog post I will share with you the strategies I used to successfully onboard at my current job.
Step 1: One Place To Rule Them All
During your first week, you’ll have a whole lot of people asking you, “Oh! Have you heard about [X]? You should look into it!” What you don’t want to happen is finding yourself writing the random tidbits you receive from people onto post-its. As your pile of chicken-scratch post-its accumulate, so will your stress.
What I suggest is having one document where all your tidbit notes and questions live. You will be able to add tasks as they come up and easily search for keywords to keep similar tasks together. You’ll also appear very put together, as opposed to a post-it covered hot mess. #ComposedVsComposedofPostIts
Pro tip: Make sure this doc is digital so you can add screenshots and hyperlink all those important links you’ll get. Here’s an awesome template to get you started!
Step 2: Buckets Work Best
In my previous career, I was a middle school and high school teacher. If I learned anything about getting students to learn effectively it is to 1) Chunk instructional content into manageable parts to increase completion and 2) Group topics into thematic units for better retention.
Here are the main themes/buckets I categorized my onboarding tasks into:
- Day 1: Welcome to Your New Home: Learn and set up your physical work space.
- Begin to Understand Company Culture: Learn the Mission & Vision, company structure, & how to use the common office specific tools.
- Get to Know Your Cross Functional Partners: Learn the structure, identify the people you need to know, and mark down the meetings you will need to attend.
- Study the Business: Try to find company goals, study competitors, and learn how metrics are measured.
- Learn the Product: Ask about personas, connect with Data & Customer Success, and do a product audit. (Blog post to come on How to Conduct a Product Audit.)
- Set-up for Design Work: Make sure all your accounts are setup, find any documentation available, and learn and play with the design system.
- Ramp Up For Projects: Familiarize yourself with what your team has been working on, request any prior user research, and schedule time with your manager to discuss future projects.
Pro tip: Use that template I told you about from Step 1!
Step 3: Be Productive, Not Busy
What I want to remind you here is to focus on the task at hand, one step at a time. You grouped your tasks for a reason. Respect your groupings, schedule when you will work on that topic or task, and don’t think about it until that scheduled time. If you are focusing on all you have to do, you’ll paralyze yourself. Stressing about one thing at a time is way better than having a meltdown about everything at once. To put it plainly, schedule your stress out sessions. #BiteSizedStress
Pro tip: To make sure you are utilizing your time in an efficient way, keep a section in your doc titled “Eventually” or “Resources.” This way, if something is not immediately necessary for you to spend time learning now, you can always refer back to it later and not worry about losing it.
Step 4: People Over Product
I know, you have a lot to learn. How can you afford to go on lunch dates and grab drinks with co-workers? Trust me when I say learning who you work with is just as important, if not more important than learning your company or product. Schedule lunch dates with people to start building individual relationships. Sure, you can ask some of your burning questions about processes, but be an actual human and get to know your colleagues. Establishing a personal relationship with your team members can make all the difference in your job. #PrioritizePeople.
Pro-tip: Embrace this window of being a new person. Be bold and ask all your questions. Really, ask them ALL! As a newbie you have a free pass. Also, force yourself to meet strangers. In about a month it’ll get much more awkward to get certain questions answered and introductions done.
Step 5: Pass It On
One of the best things you can do for yourself is find ways to provide value early and often. Lucky for you, by outlining all the stuff you’ve done in your onboarding process and hyperlinking all the relevant information, you just made a personalized onboarding doc to share with future new hires! Look at you, adding value right away.
I hope this document helps you onboard in your new role quick and well. Again, here is a helpful template to get you started. Congrats again on your new job, and best of luck!
Big thanks to the following people —
- Tiffany Ferguson — for helping me create the template and being an amazing mentor during my onboarding process. I met her through Hexagon, a community of women and non-binary individuals in UX who support each other by sharing stories and fostering growth at all stages of our careers.. Apply to be a mentor or mentee!
- Andy Stattmiller — for these awesome illustrations. You can follow Andy on Instagram (@astatt)and buy a rad phone case designed by him here.
- SurveyMonkey Fam — for welcoming me to the troop and helping me onboard successfully. #trusttheteam #youareaccountable #celebratethejourney