Transition is difficult. Most of the time, you go from being a subject matter expert with detailed knowledge of the inner-workings of your company to being a complete newbie learning new systems, processes, procedures and how to get things done.
1. Become a sponge.
While you no doubt have tremendous knowledge in multiple areas, the best way to ramp up is to learn as much as possible about everything around you. This can also include learning about hardware, software or various tools you need to use to be successful.
What are other people saying? What are other people doing? How do they describe your product? How do they communicate internally and externally?
2. Use the buddy system.
Ideally, you know one or two folks in your new company. If so, pick their brain and bombard them with any of the “dumb” questions you may not want to pester your colleagues with.
Where is the bathroom? Where do you usually go for lunch? How do I file an expense report? When do we get paid? What should I wear to the company holiday party?
Having a buddy to bounce the non-critical questions off of is extremely helpful. If you don’t have pre-existing relationships in your new role, buddy up with a peer or neighbor and establish a decent comfort level.
3. Read and do your homework.
While you obviously have some time to ramp up, fast-track the process by doing your own research and due-diligence. Take some key readings home. Read up on your products and competitors on personal time. Many companies will expect this, but doing it proactively shows that you take initiative and are eager to start jumping in on projects.
What documents are provided to new hires? Who are your company’s competitors? Have you scoured the Intranet? What documents do the Sales folks use?
Some companies are great at providing tons of resources when you start (thanks Red Hat!), but for those that aren’t, this can give you help you dramatically reduce the learning curve.
4. Take great notes.
Show up to every meeting with a notebook. Personally, I prefer a nice bound notebook as opposed to a laptop or tablet. There is never the perception that you are doing something else (unless you doodle) and I love going through old notebooks once I fill them up. There are definitely times where it makes more sense to take notes electronically, but a nice notebook is a necessity in my opinion.
What words do you need to look up later? What actions do you have? Who are the people in your meeting (look them up on LinkedIn after)?
Balance your note-taking time with active listening (cough cough eye contact) and capture as much as you can.
5. Meet new faces.
Everyone knows that networking is important. It is crucial when you are in a new place with tons of unfamiliar faces. Meet friends of your existing friends. Reach out to your peers in other offices. Connect on LinkedIn to tie faces with names.
Do you know everyone on your team? What folks are critical to getting things on the website? Who helps out on Project X? Have you asked, who all should I meet?
Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know as many people as possible to shorten the ramp-up time.
Do all of the above and make immediate contributions.
Try to share your expertise and experiences when relevant to become a valued member of the team immediately. You were hired because you bring something desirable to the team – make that clear by adding value.