I’ll be starting a new contract position today. The position comes with more responsibility than I’ve had in a while, but my approach on the first day won’t be much different from how I act on the first day of any other job.
Yes, I am being brought aboard as a consultant, but the customer’s needs come first. Before I can contribute, I need to know what I’m getting into and what they need from me. I could go in guns blazing, but that would strike some as arrogant. For the first week or more, I will listen more than speak. That also helps with…
For the next few weeks (or months), I will be in “sponge mode,” trying to absorb all the information around me from subject matter experts and printed materials. In my experience, there are three primary fields of study for any job: people, process, and product. People include, subject matter experts, managers, their personalities, and how they interact (“politics” would be another “P”). Processes include both how the content affects the customer as well how I am expected to function in the workplace. Product is simply the content itself, which is perhaps one third of what needs to be learned in the process of technical writing.
This “quiet” approach going into a new workplace isn’t just a professional attitude, but it’s more or less a function of my introverted personality. For instance, I’ve got a bit of a quirky sense of humor, so I try to tone that down until I understand what sorts of humor are acceptable in a workplace and when it seems appropriate to let one of my quips fly. I don’t clam up completely–I do try to be friendly with everyone, from the bosses to the administrative assistants at the front office. I consider friendliness to be essential to how I do my work. It reduces friction and is more likely to result in a good first impression.
These seem pretty basic, don’t they? Now I just need to practice what I preach and get down to business.