The guest post for The Works was written by 2012 NU communication studies alum, Chris Garland. Since then, he’s worked as a Corporate Trainer for both Sysco Foods and Halliburton Energy Services, where he flies around the country supporting thousands of employees. His work mostly deals in Corporate Training and Change Management.
Barely a month after graduation, I flew to the middle of nowhere Alabama – by Alabama standards – to support a local Sysco Foods’ office in implementing a new sales platform. Did I feel ready to support and advise them? The answer didn’t really matter. What mattered was that I learned how to make myself a valuable resource for them. I learned how to get off to a great start. If I didn’t, I was nothing more than an Independent Contractor, who could easily be fired at a moment’s notice without even the requirement of a reason.
Now that I’m on my third project as a Corporate Trainer, I’ve learned just how important it is to get off to a great start at work. The two ways I shared can be easily adopted and used in your own careers, co-ops, and anything else you may pursue in your professional life.
#1: Set A Benchmark
We’ve all had assignments that restrict us to completing them in specific ways, i.e. 10 pages, APA format, 5 sources, 7-minute speech with a PowerPoint, rubbing your stomach and head with different hands while standing on one leg, etc. How often have we been asked to complete an assignment with no standard way of doing it?
When you start a new job, chances are you will be asked to do tasks that have no benchmark. Each predecessor before you probably whipped together their own version of completing whatever assigned work task, and while each version may have been completely satisfactory work, they weren’t done to the point that a standard was a set. Be the one to set that standard.
My first job after graduation I was contracted to work on a Corporate Training team with Bluewolf for Sysco Foods. Bluewolf was finishing up a Salesforce.com implementation and my Project Manager asked me to work on a tip sheet for their new custom developed mobile version of the application. This app would not be taught in a class like the web version, but it would be used by thousands of sales employees throughout the United States. A simple tip sheet would have been enough to do the job, but instead, I made a full-blown user guide. I made sure to receive feedback from employees that would use the guide as well as the developer that created the app to ensure it was not just an abundance of information thrown on a page, but something that was user friendly. I can honestly say I put 100% into that assignment.
A couple of weeks later, I was contacted by a Bluewolf employee asking me for the non-PDF version of the guide for Bluewolf to use for two reasons. The first one was no surprise as they wanted to use the guide as a template for future use. The second reason was for something I did not expect. They wanted to use the guide as an example of work that can be provided during sales meetings with new clients.
#2: Become A Subject Matter Expert
Think about some of the smartest, most insightful teachers you have ever had throughout your college career. They challenge their classes to ask question after question and to critically think about the topic at hand. Occasionally, the discussion reaches the inevitable point where the teacher just does not know the answer.
When you start a new job, you are bound to ask questions – I honestly don’t think there is such a thing as too many questions or stupid questions – and if you ask enough, you may eventually venture into subjects no one has the answers to. Become the Subject Matter Expert.
I recently started a second project with Halliburton — yes, that Dick Cheney company – and from day one I was asking multiple trainers question after question to learn how the new application I would soon be training worked. Eventually I found an area of the application that no trainers had learned how to use yet. I made it my goal to figure out this functionality of the application, which led to me meeting with one of the developers to discuss all of the intricacies from a software standpoint and a training perspective. Before long, I became the local Subject Matter Expert for all of the other trainers to learn about this topic. So while I only recently joined my team, I was already able to become a valuable resource for both my colleagues as well as my project managers.
Setting a Benchmark and Becoming a Subject Matter Expert are both ways to get off to a great start in a new position. However, when I started brainstorming and listing every single way to get off to a great start I could think of, they all had one simple thing in common. They are all about taking the initiative.
Chris Garland graduated from Northeastern back in Spring 2012 with a Communications degree. Since then, he’s worked as a Corporate Trainer for both Sysco Foods and Halliburton Energy Services, where he flies around the country every week to support thousands of employees in places that have ranged from Denver and Los Angeles to Des Moines, Iowa — where “I had such a great BBQ sandwich that I almost finished eating it without even realizing I didn’t put on any of the provided BBQ sauce on.” His work mostly deals in Corporate Training, Change Management, and finding cool new places in cities he’s never been to. Reach out to him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.