Two Ways To Get Off To A Fast Start At Work

Set the standard! Source: tofurious.com

Set the stan­dard!
Source: tofu​rious​.com

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 Sales​force​.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 garland9​.​c@​gmail.​com.