5 tips for your first day at a new startup

Posted on November 8, 2010. Filed under: JumpPost, startups, venture capital | Tags: , , |

First days at work can be weird.  I remember my first day at General Catalyst.  I got there super early because nobody told me what time to arrive, sat at my desk attempting to look busy and re-reading every page of the company website which I had already read 5 times, and sort of waited for someone to give me something to do.  I remember thinking to myself, “my job for the next few weeks is just to build relationships with all these new people.”  As much as I wanted to have an impact on day 1, find the next Google right our of the gate, and come up the curve faster than anyone before me, the reality is there is a period of acclimation and integration that precedes any truly meaningful contributions you can make to a new company.

Here’s a list of the top 5 things to do when you are starting someplace new.

1) Listen: Listen intently to everything anyone shares with you.  You’ll have plenty of time to speak and show your talents, but the beginning is all about absorption of the culture, knowledge, and people that have to date defined the environment that you are entering into.

2) ASK QUESTIONS: Keep a note pad, write down every single question that comes up over the course of your days, and then corner somebody when they have a minute and get all your questions answered.  No question is too stupid, admit everything you don’t know (even if you feel like you should know it already).  Don’t waste time pretending to understand things you don’t.  Nobody cares what you know the day you arrive, only how fast you pick up what you need to know.

3) Your work can wait: If anybody asks you to hang out and grab a beer or see a movie, even if you have a ton of work to get done, always say yes. Your work can wait, it’s super important to build relationships and get to know the people you’ll be working with every day.

4) Be yourself: It’s hard to let your guard down and be yourself on day one, but the sooner you can feel comfortable in your own skin, the better off your going to be.  You have an opportunity and a responsibility to impact the culture of your company in a positive way.  Allow the great aspects of your personality to shine, even if they are not represented or visible in the people around you.

5) TRY: The only thing you need to worry about in the first few months of a new job is putting everything you possibly can into it.  This is a time to make sacrifices in all other realms of life until you have come up the curve and are contributing at a level that you are proud of.  By definition, you are going to be inefficient at the onset of a new job.  The best way to combat inefficiency is through effort and hard work.  Long term, tunnel vision and an imbalanced work/life situation will catch up with you, but short term I think it makes sense to let your family and friends know that you are going to be MIA for a few months while you’re finding your groove.

I guess this is on my mind because we have two new team members starting today at hyperpublic.  Welcome Eric and Jonathan.  Can’t tell you how excited we are to have you both on board.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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