Starting a new job, especially at a new company, can be daunting. According to one of my favorite books, The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins, it takes people an average of six months of learning and orientation before they can contribute to their organization. This is a long time! The faster you can orient to your new role, the sooner you can deliver results.
For example, my team has less than a month to orient to a new organization before we start making changes and delivering value, and we aim to complete each project in six months. These rapid integration projects have taught me the importance of three preparatory activities that have helped us get up to speed quickly and be successful. These activities are transferable to starting with a new company as well.
Understand the 3 C's (the Company, their Customers, and their Competition)
The 3 C's are the most fundamental and important pieces of knowledge you need to understand before you learn anything else. What services or products to they offer? How have they performed financially for the past three years? What are their goals? Their vision/mission statements? Who is the leadership? How are they organized? Where are they located, and where are their products or services offered/distributed? Are they business-to-business or business-to-customer? What businesses or customers purchase their products? Are they the market leader? Who are their competitors? Is the market fragmented or consolidated? What is happening within the industry right now? Answering these questions provides a foundational understanding of the organization and the world in which it operates. Most information will be available online, especially for publicly-traded companies. In cases where the information is unavailable in advance, you could ask these questions during orientation.
Prepare and Ask Thoughtful Questions.
Starting a new job entails a lot of questions, from the mundane ones about printing and office supplies to complex questions about your work product. For basic questions, find a peer or office manager to help you. For more complex questions, keep a running list that you can go through once a day in person with your manager for answers or direction on who to go to for answers. This approach helps you avoid sending a lot of emails to your manager all day and encourages dialogue and context which will help you orient and assimilate faster. Additionally, ask your manager for the names of five to ten people they recommend you meet with (and what you should get out of the meeting with each person) to gain a better understanding of the company and your role, as well as to expand your network. I've had the opportunity to use this approach at every new organization I've joined with great success.
Practice Immersion Learning.
If your orientation does not already include rotations with different functional areas and locations, ask if you can spend time shadowing people in different parts of the company. For example, I interned for a large retailer one summer in their corporate offices, and I spent my first week working on the sales floor at one of their stores to gain the perspective of the sales associates and managers and my second week rotating jobs in the distribution center to understand how products came in to the U.S. and how they were resorted and distributed to our retail stores in the most efficient manner. In consulting, I took tours of our client locations to understand how the information on the spreadsheets I was analyzing looked in real life. After transitioning to healthcare, I spent time with people in our hospitals to understand each functional area (e.g. revenue cycle, patient charging, finance, operations, medical executive committees, surgery, nursing, supply chain) and how our work intersected. This type of immersion learning gives you the opportunity to understand different perspectives and processes and will enhance your ability to be thoughtful in your work as you can better analyze and plan for the implications on different areas of your business.