Last month, I started my first post-grad school job. So far I’m really enjoying it—the work is interesting, and the people are friendly and supportive. It has definitely been an adjustment, however; no matter how great a company is, figuring out the lay of the land when you’re new is always a little tricky.

Of course, there are several standard things you’re supposed to do when you’re in a new position: determine the expectations for your role, build a relationship with your manager, and figure out the context for your projects, just to name a few.

However, I’ve also found that there are a few important things to learn that aren’t directly related to your job—but can be crucial to your success as you begin your new role.

1. Other Teams’ Priorities

In addition to figuring out how your own team functions on a daily basis, it’s also important to get a glimpse into how other teams work. In a business, virtually no one operates in a vacuum, so it’s crucial for you to understand the priorities of the people you’ll be collaborating with. This will help you better understand where they’re coming from when they make a request of you, and it can go a long way toward helping you successfully propose and execute joint projects in the future.

For example, I work at an education technology company on a customer-facing team, and I often get feedback about ways the business could improve its product. In order to successfully act on this feedback, I need to have a very clear picture of the engineering team’s priorities, so I can share information with them that’s relevant to what they’re working on.

2. Fun Facts

I know that icebreakers are the cheesiest things around. They serve an important purpose, though: Learning something unique and personal about your new co-workers is one of the best ways to start building good relationships with them.

So, don’t be afraid to start meetings by asking people about themselves and what they like to do when they’re not at work—it will help you get to know people across the office, and it’s a fun way to take a break from all of the information-heavy conversations you have at the beginning of a new job.

3. The Company’s Org Chart

This one is short and sweet: Take a careful look at your company’s entire organizational chart sometime during the first week of your new job. Understanding how teams are structured and who reports to who is very helpful as you try to get a sense of how you’ll fit into the organization. I’m also an extremely visual person, so looking at an org chart really helps me remember who people are and what they do.

If your company doesn’t have an org chart, I recommend creating your own by keeping track of the people you meet and how they’re related to one another within the organization. Prezi can be a great tool for this because it lets you create an infinite number of layers, so you don’t have to start from scratch every time you discover a new group or team.

4. Full Scope of the Day

Given the choice, everyone likes to work slightly different hours during the workday. Before you get too settled into your routine, however, I recommend spending one (long) day in the office to experience the full scope of the company’s hours—by coming in when the first person usually gets in and staying until the last person leaves.

This will give you a complete picture of how your new organization flows day to day, which could impact when you choose to work. For example, I’m usually a start early, leave early type of person, but after staying late one day, I found that most of the product and data teams start later and leave later. Everyone is usually busy with meetings during the middle of the day, so I learned that if I ever want uninterrupted time with certain people, then I should wait to go by their desk until after 6 PM.

The nice thing about being new is that you have a built-in excuse to ask your co-workers questions about how they operate. Take advantage of it! Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so once you get the conversation going, you’re bound to get great information—which will help you succeed in your new role.


Photo of office table courtesy of Shutterstock.