“We’d like to offer you the job,” is a loaded statement.
When I heard it last spring, I went nuts. I got the friggin’ job! I won! I get to leave Toronto and be part of something awesome! I signed the contract, and a week later was surfing Amazon for an ergonomic desk chair. My new ergonomic desk chair, at my new office, at my new job.
New. That’s when the nerves set in. A new job, with new responsibilities. New people with new processes. Every new thing presented a new way of screwing up. Not only that, but there was the whole social dynamic. What if I don’t fit in? What if they don’t like me?? The cover letter, the resume, the interview. . . that’s the easy stuff.
Congratulations on the new job – now you have to make it work.
Introducing the “Don’t-Get-Fired Pyramid”
Posting your new job to LinkedIn is an awesome feeling. It’s like the adult version of updating your Facebook relationship status. It’s your chance to tell everyone in your network, “they picked me”. Now, imagine the humiliation of removing that job a few months later. . . there’s no coming back from that.
That’s where the Don’t-Get-Fired-Pyramid comes in. This is your road map to get through probation and lay the foundation for a solid career.
Level 1: Likeability
Growing pains are synonymous with starting anything new. One way to counteract the bad vibes associated with rookie mistakes is likability.
I’m not telling you to force friendships or be funny. Just be a solid all-round person who would pass the Airport Test with flying colours. This starts with eye contact, active listening, and thoughtful responses. Say “good morning”, when you come in, and “good night,” when you leave. Don’t look at the floor when you pass coworkers in the hall. Instead, do that awkward down-nod and say their name affirmingly. If you forget their name, just say “e’up!” or “eh!” under your breath – it’s basically the same.
If you’re introverted, talking to a new team can be tough. Just remember, they picked you for a reason, and your first impression was part of that. The ice is already broken. You don’t need an introduction. Take a leap of faith and ask someone about their weekend.
Level 2: Intangibles
Do the little things
In the early going you may struggle to line up a full day’s work. Training and onboarding require resources, resources that can get preoccupied with deadlines. Level 2 is about utilizing downtime and showing value between tasks.
Always be on time and never leave first. Keep a clean desk and take notes during team meetings. If someone else is taking notes, take notes anyways – you’ll use them in the next step.
Read blogs and brush up on old company work. Get familiar with the filing system and keep a straight inbox. These developmental and organizational tasks will contribute to good habits down the line.
But you can only read so many blogs. What else is there to do?
Remember when you worked in a kitchen? Put those skills to use and clean the office microwave. Rid the sink of dirty dishes. Someone’s gotta do it. When you’ve taken care of the real work, no task is beneath you.
There’s a reason my mom never let me wear headphones while biking.
This part of Level 2 is about keeping your ears open to stay on top of your surroundings. Call it productive eavesdropping, listening to conversations to stay in the loop and build context. When you hear someone mention a company, look them up and make a few notes. When you hear someone talk about software, find a tutorial. When I started with Stryve I heard a lot of “Hubspot this” and “Hubspot that”, so I spent a week watching Hubspot videos with dinner. Two weeks later, I was tasked with building a landing page using. . . you guessed it . . . Hubspot!
You know that phrase, “When you say jump, I say how high”? It’s stupid. If you’re attentive, you’ll know when to jump without being asked. As for the “how high” part? I’m pretty sure you didn’t get the job by half-jumping. . .
I don’t care if you think you work better with headphones. Open ears open opportunities.
Level 3: Development
Trust the process
See those people at their desks? They went through it too.
Remember when you learned to drive? You spent hours in a classroom reading, labeling signs, doing everything but driving. What if we scrapped the whole Driver’s Ed thing and went straight for the highway?
Your probationary period is full of boxes that need to be checked in order to move forward. Take these boxes seriously and check them off with the same moxie you’d bring to client work. While you can’t bypass these beginner steps, you can show character and potential in how you work through them.
Your career on your time
Learning the basics of a new role can take time. Software tutorials, case studies, and other newbie tasks are prerequisites for high level work. You can’t skip these steps, but you can speed them up through extended work hours.
Sure, everyone else leaves at 5pm, but everyone else is solid in their role. You have the power to establish yourself at your own pace. What you put in is what you get out.
I’m not suggesting 10 hour work days, but twenty minutes here and there adds up. Focus less on company time vs your time. Each of these distinctions exist within your career time.
Opportunity can appear in many forms, like surprise due dates or staff holidays. Let’s say the flu runs rampant and sidelines half the office before a big deadline – this is your chance to prove yourself!
In Level 2 you spent your downtime learning company processes and workflows. Watch it pay off when you’re able to seamlessly join a team without disrupting their groove.
But the deadline is Friday! There isn’t enough time to brief you in!
Wrong! By being attentive you’ve developed a general understanding of the project. You’re well-equipped to handle the low-level work, freeing up other’s time for high-level tasks.
Completing Level 2 opens opportunity. This step is about betting on yourself and generating forward momentum.
There it is
Work through the DGFP and give reason to look forward to your first review.