Wednesday, May 10, 2017

4 Tips to Help You Come Down the Learning Curve

You’ve probably started a new job at some point in your life. Whether you floundered through the transition process or eased your way into them, you had to figure out your new role and new working environment. I’m here today to help you get through the transition process and help you ease your way down that learning curve.

My background: 
I’ve been in two rotational programs, lived in two different states, and worked four different jobs in the last three years. I’ve also jumped through three functions in this time frame.

At PepsiCo, I worked in Sales. 
At Boeing, I’ve worked in both finance and business operations/project management. 

Transitioning and overcoming learning curves are just a few things I’ve learned (and am still learning) how to manage through. Along the way I've picked up on 4 main things to clarify and figure out with your manager, team, and specific role.

1. Learn & Clarify Day to Day Expectations:
One of my biggest lessons in coming down the learning curve was not just learning my actual job, but to actually manage daily expectations. 

In my first job out of college with PepsiCo, I was a sales representative that managed and sold into 30+ grocery stores in the South Orange County area. In my first 2-3 months, I got in serious trouble for leaving work early. I did not realize that my manager and team did not count drive time as a part of the work day. So in my manager’s eyes, I was working less than 8 hours a day (even though I was driving for 2-3 hours day going from store to store).

It was never my intention to cut work early… after that lesson, I made sure to work at least 8 hours a day in stores and averaged a minimum of 50+ hours a week with my drive times. 

Advice: Ask your team and manager what a full working day looks like and what other day to day expectations look like.

Guided Questions: What does a full working day look like? Does our team take 30 min or 1 hour lunches? If I have a doctor appointment, should I take a sick day to attend to it or can I just come back to the office afterwards? How far in advance should I request vacation?

2. Learn how to communicate with: Your Manager.
Another lesson I learned from my first job at PepsiCo was that I needed to learn how to communicate with my manager. Since I worked out in field and my team did not have an office in southern California, I had to learn how to communicate with a manager I saw a few times a quarter. I ended up scheduling a once a week phone meeting with her. During our phone calls, I would sharing my accomplishments and places where I needed help.

Advice: Ask your manager how they would like to be communicated with and how frequently you should be meeting or tagging up.

Guided Questions: Do you prefer to meet one on one face to face or over the phone? Do you prefer to meet once a week or bi-weekly? Do you prefer to 15 min or 30 min tag ups?

*If you want some tips on how to build a positive relationship with your manager, read this previous post

3. Ask for Help:
My first 6 months at PepsiCo were difficult as I learned my selling style and became familiar with my sales territory. To help me ease into my role, I asked for additional training. I initially had 3 training days in Chicago with the rest of my rotational program and 1-2 weeks of job shadowing in San Diego and Los Angeles.

My manager let me know that I was not performing up to par 3 months into my role so I decided to ask for additional training. I ended up job shadowing one of the sales reps I looked up to in LA to see how he developed his selling style and how he manages his relationships with the grocery stores. 

Advice: Ask your manager and team for help. You can also ask what success or expectations look like at one month, three months, six months, and one year.

Guided Questions: Who should I reach out to if I have day to day questions? Can I please request additional training to help me learn my role? Where should I be performing in month one, three, six, or at one year?

4. Don’t Mistake Learning for Incompetence:
The biggest lesson I learned from my first job out of school and 4 other jobs since graduating is to not mistake the period of learning for incompetence. As I floundered through my first 6 months at PepsiCo, I came down really hard on myself. I questioned whether I was even competent enough to be in the role.

I ended up being ranked #1 salesperson by the start of the year, but I’ll still never forget the self-doubt I experienced. I felt this way as I started my two rotations in finance at Boeing too.
I identified my experience with imposter syndrome and finally shared my feelings of self-doubt and worries of competency with a mentor last year. She told me to not confuse learning for incompetence. She said that learning how to perform well in a new role does not make you dumb or unqualified to be there – you’re just learning. I took this incredible lesson with me into my 3rd rotation.

There you have it. Four tips to help you come down a new learning curve and help you transition into any new role. What is your advice on helping someone learn a new role?

Thank you for reading!

Photos: Holly Phan 

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