As a product management professional, starting a new role can be a make-or-break matter. You can almost feel the pressure the moment the offer is signed.
Start off well and set the tone for a growth-oriented employment experience. Underwhelm everyone and be relegated to mediocrity in the eyes of your colleagues for the duration of the job.
Not only are you given an exceptionally short learning curve in your new product role, you are also expected to contribute something new, exciting and innovative right away. Pick up where your predecessor left off, but also contribute strategically to the future.
While there is no single formula for success, you can take a strategic approach to your first few weeks that will wow your boss and have your co-workers singing your praises.
Starting Off Right
Working hard at your new role is only part of the equation. You also have to make a great first impression. The following tips will help.
1. Prepare Before the Job Begins
- Call your new boss personally to let them know that you plan to accept the offer. This is too important to delegate to your HR contact. Use the opportunity to ask to meet for lunch or coffee before the job begins. Now that you are part of the company, your boss can tell you things that were off-limits during the interview. You will have an opportunity to better understand what your new role will be, what mutual expectations are and to confirm each other’s communication styles.
- Learn about other key people you will work with and, if possible, meet them ahead of time. Set the tone early so that your colleagues understand you are eager to contribute and be part of the team. Bonus: you’ll have some familiar faces when you start your first day.
- Request your computer early and ask for reading materials. At one job, I asked my new employer to ship my computer to my hotel while I was on vacation in Hawaii. With early access to the company intranet, I felt much more prepared by the time I actually started the job. Even better, I completed most of my HR documentation on the flight back home.
2. The First Couple of Weeks
- Make a plan for daily wins, especially during the first week. They don’t need to be explicitly job related. Wins can range from mundane things such as getting your IT/HR/compliance matters resolved to having lunch with new colleagues to learning the company lingo. You should feel like you have accomplished something each day of the first week.
- Have your elevator pitch ready when you walk in the door on your first day so you can introduce yourself with confidence: “Hi, I’m [name]. I am the new product manager for [product]. I am very excited to be here and looking to learn how to grow the product line. What is your role?”
- Getting to know your colleagues is your top priority. Ask your boss whom to meet, both within your team as well as cross-functionally. Then schedule one-on-one meetings with them during your first two weeks. When you do meet, listen keenly and ask yourself, “How can I solve their problem?” You probably won’t discover an answer, but you will gain an understanding of their challenges.
- Pay particular attention to the parlance your colleagues use and learn the work language as quickly as possible. It might help to make a personal dictionary and review it each day. Use the new work lingo in your casual conversations to help build credibility. It may feel forced at first but will quickly become natural.
- Build yourself a 30-60-90 plan, a set of goals for your first 30, 60 and 90 days on the job (Figure 1). I can’t emphasize enough how important this one is. Ask for buy-in from your boss and schedule formal monthly checkpoints with them. Next, circulate it with the key people you will work with. The details of the plan will vary with your situation but you’ll be seen as collaborative, strategic and proactive.
- One other item: make friends with IT.
Figure 1: Hypothetical 30-60-90 Plan
3. Establish Your Presence
- As a new employee, you will be given a pass for the first week or two (if you’re lucky) but your colleagues will expect you to contribute quickly. That’s where the 30-60-90 plan is critical. It’s a roadmap to guide you while also managing expectations.
- One of the key items in the 30-60-90 is to create a strategic plan for your product or functional responsibility. It should include your vision for the product, your goals, expected business outcomes, a prioritized path to meeting goals, as well as a summary of key issues and challenges that stand in the way. Outline your short-term goals (three to six months) as well as long-term goals (12-plus months). I prefer succinct PowerPoint slides to heavy Word documents. If you cannot summarize your plan in eight slides or less, you are probably getting hung up on unnecessary tactical details.
- When you socialize your goals with relevant executives, they’ll want to know how your plan delivers business outcomes, so make sure your plan is strategic rather than tactical. Get their buy-in before you execute.
- As a new employee, you have been given a gift: For a limited time, you are in the unique situation of having a perspective untainted by organizational bias. As a result, your colleagues will be willing to hear your fresh ideas. Just make sure you are heard without coming across as arrogant.
- Find a mentor within the organization. I suggest someone outside your immediate functional area so you can get impartial guidance. Your HR partner may be able to connect you with someone.
- Don’t forget to smile!
Special Considerations for Remote Workers
As a remote worker, you face a set of unique challenges but the above advice still applies. I have implemented it successfully with two separate employers. Try starting your first week at HQ if you can. I also find it helpful to turn on my webcam during meetings so that I am more than a random voice on the phone. In addition, I recommend visiting the home office once a quarter to establish personal connections with your co-workers. Invite them out to lunch; it’s worth the extra time and money.
Abdul Rastagar is a B2B marketer, fierce customer advocate, digital and future enthusiast, and all around curious guy. When not expounding about all things marketing, he can usually be found outside climbing trees with his kids. Connect with Abdul at www.linkedin.com/in/rastagar.