How to Rock Your First Day at a Startup
Image Credit: http://tech.co/
Congratulations! So, you knocked your placements out of the park and bagged a good first gig, completed the formalities and sported the boring wait for the joining date. But as the date closes in, you’re muffled with mixed emotions - excitement, fear, anxiety and the biggest of all - QUESTIONS! Questions, NOBODY talks about. It's easy to find answers while looking out for a job, but once you get one you're on your own baby. If you're feeling clueless, trust me you're NOT alone.
By now I am sure you must have googled "what to do on your first day at a job" and have been disappointed by the generic "Be Confident - Be Yourself" BS by American blogs. Nobody gets to the real pressing issues that need to addressed especially for someone for whom this might be the FIRST job!
What should I do to make a good first impression? How should I dress? Who will be my team members? What should I do for them to like me? Should I speak upon chance or observe at a distance?..should I be friendly or professional?…and the list goes on.
If you’re lucky, you might have a structured orientation with a guideline to help you through the initial weeks or have seniors or friends in the company to talk to and seek help from (if you haven’t, do it), but for the rest of us it kind of boils down to company website and online reviews if at all.
A year back, I struggled with these questions as I started my career at a fast paced, Delhi based startup. With no insider help, I decided to put my research skills to test to find information that could comfort my desperation for answers. So, here's the low-down on the 5 tasks I undertook, which I think can help plan your first day at a startup better and hence give you that first impression you seek.
Devour that Company Website/Blog - Look for Specifics that Might Help
I cannot emphasise this enough. It is the default - but the most overlooked exercise. A company website specially the jobs/culture blog section helps you keep abreast of crucial company developments that you should know of and can also help you gauge the everyday stuff. For example, I didn't know how to dress for my first day. Even though it was startup, I didn't know how much is good enough. So I went to the website and scouted for office pictures/press articles. Lo and behold, I saw multiple pictures of employees in office setting wearing smart and bright casuals. Sorted.
Start Stalking - Personality Profiling is Key
I think one of the best and unbiased insights that you can garner for an Indian startup is through three sources:
1) Quora/Medium: Honestly, this is starting point for all your answers about speaking up or observing or in general understanding what behaviour will be appreciated. Most CEOs or leadership of Indian startups actively talk about their company culture and work ethic specially on Quora. Read up all the answers and you will most likely get a lot of information to work with.
2) LinkedIn: I am assuming you know the name(s) of your TL/boss who interviewed you. Find them on LinkedIn and follow them to know about any updates about work or new projects in your department. This will help you have a context or maybe a headstart in conversations on your first day. Don't stop at the TL, scout the profiles of your potential team members too!
3) Twitter/Facebook: While LinkedIn will give you the professional personality of your future team mates, their personal profiles will help you understand the cohort better, about their preferences, issues they care about and their social behaviour. If you find your future lead/colleague tagged in a rad party on a Facebook post, you know you can try being slightly friendly with them on the first day. (Been there, done that :D)
Make a Buddy - But Don't Get Clingy!
I think this might be crucial for you to get an edge on your first day over others. Whist many startups have a formal buddy program (Mine did - Yay!), a lot of you might not be so fortunate. So what? You could make one. Once you've figured out your potential future team mates on LinkedIn, and narrowed down on someone you feel you might hit it off with (similar interests, college alumni?), drop them a request asking to connect and discuss. (Keep your questions terse and relevant coz they are sure as hell busy!). Do reach out to them on your first day and hang around/lunch with them for a bit. You never know this person might be your go-to for several months to come.
It's Day 0 - Review Your Checklist
Tomorrow is the big day and you're at the pinnacle of anxiety. Well as much as I would've loved to advice you to destress at a bar, I can't coz you've got work and you've got to sleep early. (No one likes a hungover groggy head on the first day - even at a startup!) Review any documents that the HR must have asked to bring along, make sure you have your transport planned. If you're not sure of the location, it won't hurt to pay a random visit today just to ensure a smooth first day. If you have any last minute questions don't assume, just call HR.
It's Day 1 - Arrive Early, Observe and Seek Opportunities!
So here comes the moment of truth! Arrive at least 15-20 minutes early and not because I am stating the not-be-late-on-your-first-day obvious, but because it might give you precious networking time with fellow newbies or who knows even the CEO, walking into the office with you! Be nice and polite, especially to the admin, guards and office staff - you need them to like you to get that extra cup of tea at 2 a.m probably a week from now.
Observe the activities and people around you, pay attention to detail, try and spot your LinkedIn buddy to say hello to and in general bear an excited and interested disposition. Try and look for opportunities - helping a colleague lift a chair, opening doors - small things get noticed when you're trying to leave a good first impression. On my first day, we had induction planned for the entire day and were not asked to work. However, when I went to meet my boss, she tasked me with some small job to get me started. I spent my entire day juggling between induction sessions and work and skipped my lunch, such that my buddy had to interrupt the Co-founder and pull me out of a running session, to have lunch with my teammates! There was my spotlight! (Not sure a good one though!)
To conclude, do everything you can but don't forget to enjoy, after all it's your first day! Although you're set for the win, even if you don't ace it now you'll have a lot of chances to do so in the incoming ride of a startup!