5 Ways to Survive and Thrive in a New Job
“Here. This map is going to be your guide to North Shore. Now, where you sit in the cafeteria is crucial, because you got everybody there…” — Janis Ian, Mean Girls
I try not to go more than a day without quoting Mean Girls, slyly adding “I have a fifth sense” or “Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries” into everyday conversation. A prospect and I once dissolved into hysterical laughter during a demo because they asked about a feature in Marketo and—true story, cross my heart—I replied “The limit does not exist!” without realizing what I’d just said.
The movie’s iconic status is no accident. Anything in the pop culture hall of fame gets staying power from deep emotional connection with loyal fans. The Mean Girls fan base, in particular, is interesting because I have yet to meet anyone, regardless of gender, age, or other identifying characteristics, who didn’t love this movie and find it deeply relatable (and quotable. So fetch.)
Over the past few years, I’ve been particularly interested in studying the nuances of human behavior, specifically decision-making, and power dynamics; topics that are both cleverly addressed throughout the movie.
If you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick summary: the main character goes from being home-schooled in Africa to attending a suburban Illinois high school. Hilarity ensues as she attempts to adjust, thrive, and make her way.
Like the Mean Girls main character, Cady Heron, when we start in a new workplace there are many things we need to adapt to as time goes on. Here are five lessons I’ve learned throughout my career so far that I believe will help you be successful in a new job.
1. Stand Back and Observe
It’s your first day at work. You’ve carefully picked out your outfit, received your laptop & badge, and filled out piles of paperwork. You’re sitting at your new desk, hopefully with some cool first-day branded swag. We are a social species, and it’s only natural to want to jump in and make friends right away. However, there is definitely something to be said for exercising caution. Observe different departments and how everyone interacts. What are the main team & individual priorities? What goals are they working towards? In your first 30, 60, and 90 days, what are the top areas to check off your onboarding list so you can help drive success and have a short time to impact?
The best advice I ever received in this arena: when you’re in a new role, soak up everything for one month. Shadow every call and show up to every meeting. Take copious notes. You’ll probably never read them again, but they work wonders for your retention and processing capabilities.
2. Play Full Out
I know I just suggested that you dip your toe into the water to test its temperature—from a relationship building and company dynamic perspective. This is because ‘playing full out’ is far more important when it comes to your actual role. In my first 6 weeks at Marketo, I hunkered down in various conference rooms with a few key mentors and increasingly large piles of typed notes, annotated with my scribble-cursive and yellow highlighter. My goal was simple: learn the product as fast as possible, get on calls, and close deals. I quickly realized that marketers spoke a foreign language to me (what is TOFU/MOFU/BOFU?) and that the hardest part of my job would be taking their questions, interpreting them, and mapping them to actual technology. Upon having this realization, I started to show up to every single sales call and write down, verbatim, every question that marketers asked, then read and re-read them until I understood them and could respond. I may not have been the most social co-worker during this time period, but I was playing full out as I ramped up in my role.
3. Find Some Friends
Don’t worry, I didn’t stay anti-social forever. I was just focused! Once I started joining sales calls and had some repetitions under my belt, I balanced my focus and growth with a truly extraordinary group of friends at Marketo. I firmly believe that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with—a philosophy often attributed to personal development expert Jim Rohn, but paraphrased and repeated by others in similar fields.
At Marketo, I have the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated, smart, fun-loving people I have ever met. My iPhone camera roll and Snapchat stories are full of pictures of Marketo people—at dinner, at company events, and at events of our own invention, such as paint night and Giants games. As a team, we genuinely love spending time together and it has a huge positive influence on the quality of work that we produce. Marketo is an incredibly special place, and I’m grateful to have found my tribe.
4. Practice Self-Care
In this arena, something clicked for me in the past year. I used to eat well and exercise purely for optics—to fit into my clothes. Eventually, I realized that was a perfectly fine result of my efforts but certainly wasn’t my goal—I like to feel physically strong and energetic. When my nutrition and exercise schedule are locked down, I feel sharp, clear-headed, and less susceptible to outside influences changing my mood and focus. This tiny, 2mm, change shifted my internal conversation from “Get up and go work out so you’ll look good” to “Get up and go workout so you can be on your ‘A’ game and have the absolute best day at work”.
5. Pay It Forward
Arnold Schwarzenegger recently wrote a compelling foreword to Tim Ferriss’s latest book, Tools of Titans. In it, he talks about the myth of the self-made man. It is so easy to look at a successful person and give them all the credit for their status and accomplishments while glossing over every roadblock, failure, and frustration. However, no one is truly self-made. Each and every one of us, no matter where we are in our lives, have stood on many shoulders to get there. Every incredible athlete, executive, and top performer have had mentors, heroes, and coaches. It is impossible for one person to do everything. But each and every one of us can do a little bit to extend a hand and give someone a leg up. Look around your workplace. Find someone who reminds you of yourself or even better someone who doesn’t, and go out of your way to serve as a sounding board, teacher, and champion. Ask just one thing of them: that they one day turn around and do the same for someone else.
So what should you do now? Surviving and thriving at work doesn’t have to be a daunting road. If it all feels like too much, you could always just go to Taco Bell.
Pour your favorite beverage, grab a bowl of popcorn, and settle in on the couch to watch Mean Girls for the first, tenth, or 30th time. Then come back and let me know what parallels you’ve found between the movie and real life. I’d love to hear from you!