In this blog post, Jillian Amyot — Unito’s marketing intern — shares the approach that took her from bright-eyed new hire to a full collaborator on the marketing team.
Starting a new job is always stressful. You have to remember a bunch of new names, learn new workflows, and carve out your place on a team with a pre-existing dynamic and culture. Add to that the challenge of starting your first job in a new field, and you’re looking at a huge mountain to climb. That’s what starting my marketing internship at Unito felt like.
But after some experience working with the marketing team, I feel like I have my own place at the table. I’m now able to collaborate on projects just as well as anyone else. Even though my learning journey is far from over I now have more confidence in my work. Here’s how you can do the same.
Break out of your comfort zone
When you’re fresh out of school, your comfort zone is understandably pretty small. You’re probably used to doing things a certain way, and you’ve just gotten the hang of a few dozen business acronyms (spoiler alert: you’ll hear about 50 more in your first meeting). So as you’re starting your new job, you might be looking to stay within the confines of your comfort zone to impress your new coworkers with the few things you already know how to do.
But that strategy won’t work the way you think it will.
Coming to Unito, I decided that I wanted to take this opportunity to learn a little bit about everything. There were some avenues I hadn’t spent as much time on in school, like design work and SEO writing, that I wanted to try out after getting hired. So when our designer needed help with blog headers, I volunteered. I started learning his process and techniques, and now I’m designing many of the headers you see on the blog.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to remember. If the idea of taking on a project makes you feel uncomfortable, it probably means you should pursue it. When I started designing blog headers, I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I had an interest in design and that there was an opportunity to learn from an established designer. The projects you take on don’t necessarily have to fit into your role exactly, either! If you’re working at a smaller company or a startup, everyone will be happy to have some extra help. Always push yourself to do something that makes you step out of your comfort zone.
Seek out feedback proactively
Feedback is essential for learning. If you work in a vacuum, you won’t know if you’re getting better. Breaking out of your comfort zone is great for learning new things, but it goes hand-in-hand with getting feedback from someone who knows better.
When looking for feedback, don’t just sit on your hands and wait for it to come to you. At Unito, we schedule regular one-on-one meetings between managers and their reports. If these meetings exist in your organization, take advantage of them! Come to the meeting prepared with specific work you want to get feedback on. Be ready with follow-up questions, especially if your manager gives you constructive criticism. You need to use these opportunities not just as a barometer of your performance, but as a path to improvement. And if your organization hasn’t set up regular one-on-one meetings with managers, set them up! Your manager should have a direct interest in your success, and having dedicated time to give you feedback is a great way to promote this. Want to know how to do this? Here’s an article all about it.
Keep in mind that your manager isn’t the only person who can give you feedback. Reach out to other people on your team regularly to ask them how they think you’re doing. If you work in a cross-functional team — like our marketing team — you can get guidance on projects sitting just outside your comfort zone.
Build your own library of resources
When you’re just starting out, every new day will bring new questions and expose new gaps in your knowledge. This is why being in close communication with coworkers and managers is so important. You should always be ready to ask them questions, even if they feel like stupid questions. Do you know what’s actually stupid? Not asking a question and pretending you know the answer. That’s a lose-lose.
But not every question should have you running to someone else for help. After all, you want to eventually get to a point where you’re self-reliant. Having your own resources to answer questions as they come up gets you closer to that goal. Here are examples of resources you can rely on:
- Friends in the same field: If you’re fresh out of school, you’ll probably have plenty of friends who are going through the same motions you are. Stay in touch with them, and consider asking them questions when you run into a new problem or situation. As you answer each other’s questions, you’ll help each other grow.
- Google: You’d be surprised by how many of the questions you have can be answered with a quick Google search. Remember that there have been many people in your exact position before, with the same questions you have. That means there are answers out there somewhere.
- Your company’s resources: Depending on your role, the team you’re joining may already have a host of resources designed to help you do your job. Marketers need editorial guidelines, sales reps have scripts, and so on. When you start, ask your manager what kind of resources the people in a role similar to yours are using on a day-to-day basis. Make sure to bookmark them, or otherwise make them easily accessible.
When you start, it’ll feel like you’ve gotten dropped in the ocean with not much in the way of a raft or a paddle. But remember that many have come before you, and few of your questions will be entirely new.
Join the team
Starting that new job comes with plenty of stress, but worrying about improving shouldn’t be one of them. Everyone around you has a vested interest in your success; once you become a full collaborator, their job will become that much easier. So don’t be afraid to rely on your peers and managers, constantly look for opportunities to break out of your comfort zone, and build up your library of references and guides. You’ll find your place at the table in no time.
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