Joined a startup? Here is how to hit the ground running!

Joining any new job can be a little unnerving. But it is important to settle in quickly so that you can create impact quickly. Also – You will see that some folks adjust and adapt more quickly than others. What are the things that they do differently? Here are the top things you can do to start delivering quickly: 

Pre-arm yourself with research

This is a step to be done even before your first day. Some of it you can do as part of your job application and interview process. The rest to be done before your first working day.

  • Understand the company’s mission and values and be very clear about what the company is trying to achieve and what it stands for. This will help you align your goals with the company’s goals and understand how your role fits into the bigger picture. 
  • Learn about the products/services and the target customers to understand the company’s core business. It will help you understand the customers’ needs and how the company’s offerings meet those needs. Knowing the customers that the company is targeting will help you understand the company’s priorities. It will also help you understand how your role contributes to the company’s customer acquisition and retention efforts.
  • Know the competition. By understanding the competition, you’ll know what other companies are doing in the same space, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how the company is positioning itself to compete effectively.

Get IN with the company culture

Company culture encompasses the values, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that shape the way people work and interact with each other. While you will bring in your own style of work – every team has its unique dynamics and ways of working together. By quickly understanding the same, you can fit in with the team quickly.

  • You’ll know how to approach your colleagues, what their communication style is, and what their work priorities are – helping you build stronger relations with them. What is the tone to be taken with people? Is email the preferred mode? Can you reach out to folks on whatsapp?
  • Understand the set of norms and expectations, what’s acceptable and what’s not. This can help you avoid misunderstandings and conflicts with your team. How hard can you push? Can you call an impromptu meeting with people? Do you need to go through an assistant?
  • Startups often have a flexible work schedule, and it’s important to understand how people work. Is it ok to call people after office hours? Are people comfortable working over weekends? Can you setup meetings early in the morning or late in the evenings?

Be enthusiastic (with some limits!)

Being enthusiastic and proactive is essential to settling in quickly in a startup. Startups move quickly, and everyone needs to be proactive to keep up with the pace.

  • Startups are filled with passionate people who are excited about what they’re doing. By showing your enthusiasm and being proactive, you can fit in with the team. Demonstrating value and taking initiative to get things done shows that you are committed to the company’s success and can make a positive impact quickly. This will demonstrate your value to the company and also help you stand out. 
  • Startups are always looking for ways to improve processes and be more efficient. By being proactive, you can identify areas where processes can be improved or suggest new ideas that can benefit the company. Being proactive would also mean taking ownership of your work and being accountable for your actions. This will help you build trust with your colleagues and demonstrate that you’re a reliable team player.
  • The best resources create new opportunities for themselves and the company. You can identify new projects, take on new responsibilities, and create your own career path within the company. Offer suggestions for new ideas, and take on new responsibilities. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and take risks (Which you already have taken btw, when you joined the startup!). 
  • However it is important to not over-do it and step on everyone toes while you are being enthusiastic and proactive. Please don’t make it sound like no one in the company knew what they were doing before you came along! 🙂 Respect what people have done in the past – while proposing changes and tweaks which will make things better. Your ideas will gain more traction and you will be able to contribute more quickly 

Build relationships

In a startup you will be expected to work closely with your colleagues – which is why building relationships becomes essential. The folks who do this quicker than others, do the following:

  • They collaborate and learn from others. Startups often rely heavily on collaboration between team members. Building strong relationships and learning skills from your colleagues will not only help you work together more effectively, it will also help you develop new skills.
  • They quickly build a support and trust network with their colleagues. Trust is the foundation of effective teamwork and in a startup, things can be unpredictable. Having colleagues to rely on can help you navigate challenges more effectively. Also – In a startup, you may work closely with people in other departments or with external partners, and having a strong network will greatly enhance your efficacy in the system
  • As you join a team and look to build relationships, you will need to be proactive and attend all team meetings at first (However boring they seem!). If you can, offer to help on projects, and take the time to get to know your colleagues. The best way is to be approachable, and make an effort to listen and understand their perspectives. That’s easy right?

Be flexible and open to feedback (This is tough!)

This one sounds easy, but is usually very difficult to implement – thanks to our habits! As individuals we quickly develop a way of working which we are comfortable with – which then becomes our “default setting”. This not only tends to make us inflexible in a new environment, it also makes us closed to feedback. Here is how you can overcome this:

  • Startups are known for being fast-paced, with priorities that can change quickly. Being flexible and adaptable to changes becomes critical for success in this environment. Being willing to pivot and try new things will help you fit in with the team and make a positive impact on the company. Be open to change and willing to pivot when necessary (Easier said than done. But the best founders and startup folks do this extremely well!). Also – as mentioned in our earlier post, there is always a lack of structure in a startup. So the more flexible and open you are in seeking out new opportunities and taking on new responsibilities – the more valuable you will be to the company 
  • Feedback is hard. Most of us don’t know how to give feedback. Just like most of us don’t know how to take it well! But feedback is essential to improving your performance and contributing to the overall success of the company. While in a startup environment you usually will not need to ask for feedback (As you will get it automatically. And a lot!) But just in case you need to – directly ask for feedback. It’s the best way. Schedule regular check-ins with your supervisor and colleagues. Ask specific questions, and be open to constructive criticism. By asking your manager and colleagues for feedback, you can gain insight into how you can improve your work and help the company achieve its goals. By being open to feedback, you can also build trust with your colleagues and show that you are committed to your work and the success of the company.

The pointers above are a mix of research, social interactions and personal attributes. As a result, these actions are also a feature of how you are as a person. Some of us can be less outgoing and social than others. Some of us can be better domain experts compared to others. Some of us can draw better insights than the rest. Whatever your strengths are, ensure that you play on them and become THE startup guy who hits the ground running. 

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