It used to be the case that you had about 90 days to get “up to speed” and begin adding value at a new job. The expectations were relatively low that you would or could be able to competently do your job before that point.
Times have changed. The need to fast track the ramp-up time is greater than ever, and very rarely will an “employee handbook” or “how-to manual” answer the most important questions (if such a document even exists). But the nice thing about being new is that you can ask all types of questions and co-workers are generally quite gracious in responding.
In my own recent new job experience, I’ve found the following 12 questions not only crucial to my ramp-up, but in many cases also beneficial to those I ask.
1. Where is the supply cabinet?
And the coffee pot, creamer, copy machine, scanner, bathroom, emergency exit, front door key, and any other obvious but not always stated need for functioning in most offices. Get these things out of the way on your first day and you’ll feel less at sea when the inevitable ambiguities arise.
2. What’s your preferred mode of communication?
Some people like email, others prefer phone, and still others face-to-face. Find out now for as many of your key internal and external contacts as possible, and you’ll save yourself a boatload of frustration later on.
3. What are you working on?
This simple question accomplishes three cool things: you get a feel for the pace and type of work (both organizationally and with individuals), you show respect for your colleagues by taking an interest in their activities, and you can begin over time to identify potential gaps that might need to be filled by you (or overlaps that you don’t need to take on).
4. Where do folks work out, socialize, get coffee, etc.?
The social and cultural aspects of a work environment are as important (and frequently more important) than job descriptions, titles, and org charts. It’s while breaking bread or breaking a sweat together that you’ll find out what’s really keeping the machine oiled.