How to ask for help when new.

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How to ask for help when new.

Postby Ralf K. » Mon Nov 21, 2016 6:39 am

Hi all,
I am working in industry for almost 6 years now and changed the job 3 times. I am now in a new role and new field, not in the lab anymore but an office job. I struggle for the second time after a job change, that in the beginning that I have this strong desire to understand what we do to feel more comfortable. I know that it is normal when beeing new that one doesn't get to understand everything after 1 month, but whats the right approach?

How can I get someone to train me in a new job? Shall I write down all the questions and ask some co-workers? Shall I ask my Line manager? Am I entitled to have a "mentor"?

I tried different sources like intranet, book and wikipedia. But there are some job & company specific things that someone needs to take time and teach me. But everyone is super busy and caring about him/herself. I always get the answer: "Can you ask someone else / my calendar is blocked the entire week".

Thanks for some insights in your how-to-behave as the "new guy".

Ralf K.
Posts: 48
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:32 am

Re: How to ask for help when new.

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon Nov 21, 2016 8:46 am

If you haven't done this yet, meet with your supervisor to determine what your priorities are. You don't want to spend a lot of time getting trained on something that you might do once a quarter.

For the important stuff, you could try inviting someone who you think knows what's going on to a "working lunch". If people are too busy for lunch - especially if it's free - you've got bigger problems to worry about.

Also, don't forget that your coworkers aren't your only potential mentors. I'm assuming the product of your work is 'consumed' others outside your group. Contact some of those consumers and find out what they need and expect.

Finally, there is a lot to be said for the idea that "it's easier to ask forgiveness later than it is to ask for permission now." Do what you think is best for the things that seem fairly routine, but be alert for any feedback that suggests something is missing. If it's an important item with a large 'public' impact, you probably should insist on getting clarification in advance.
Rich Lemert
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Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: How to ask for help when new.

Postby D.X. » Tue Nov 22, 2016 5:52 am

Hi Ralf,

In Addition to what Rich said, ensure you have a open Dialog with Supervisor. I understand some questions can be a bit embarassing.

Try also identifying Company SOPs if any. This will help you understand by formal process how things "should" work and what is formally expected.

Many companies have what is termed a "Rabbi" or "on-Boarding Coach" that they will assign, usally a member of you team, they will not tell you how to do your Job but they will orient you. Talk to your Boss, one way you can Approach you Boss is that you can mention you have a number of questions on procedure and ways of working that may be best served by a peer and ask if can direct some one to assist.

Other than and observe alot, you get alot more by talking less and listening but you've Switch companies a few times so you are probably a pro at that.


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Re: How to ask for help when new.

Postby PG » Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:30 am

Your supervisor is probably a good start to make sure that you are focusing on the correct things. Other than that use the fact that you are new and ask questions and try to learn as much as possible. As long as you dont keep repeating the same question about the same item over and over again most people will be happy to help. This is especially true when everyone knows that you are new since this is the perfect excuse for not knowing how they do things.

When you are no longer new the willingness to answer questions and provide support sometimes goes down. If this happens and how long it takes Bbore you are no longer new is different between different organizations. In the best case scenario people will always be positive to help.
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Re: How to ask for help when new.

Postby Raphael Mueller » Fri Nov 25, 2016 1:14 am

Thanks a lot for the replies. I received finally some feedback in the last days. Many said my motivation and attitude was the right one.

So the hint for food was a good one. My boss had no time as he is constantly travelling, but he asked spontaneously for dinner as it was already 7pm and we were still in the office as I approached him. And I got alot of details during the dinner and could build a personal relationship.

For the other team members, I usually put together 5 questions on their last presentation and approched them. Lets say 15-20 minutes max. they were willing to help and this opens doors for "hey I am having this presentation shall I invite you?"...

HR was not so helpful, they said: I won't get rabbi or / coach. - To me this is not very effective as I might learn the wrong things, but I guess I need to play the game.

Thanks for the hints. Another question: I know less than the rest, however I have been hired to lead a certain project and drive it (cross functional - engineering, regulatory and marketing).
How can I be perceived as the leader even though I know less the details than the colleagues in their respective fields?

Raphael Mueller
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2015 10:06 am

Re: How to ask for help when new.

Postby D.X. » Fri Nov 25, 2016 1:54 am

Hi Raphael,

Regarding your question on perceived leadership. Its not your Job to know all the Details or know more than the functional experts in your cross-functional Team. Your Job is to steer and leverage thier Expertise to deliver.

It can come down to basic Project Management which at a first step is to get everyone together (Workshop/kickoff) to align around a common objective (strategy maybe). From there define together each fucntions contribution to the Overall objective/strategy.

I would first propose that you define the objective/strategy based on your Research/analsys of what's needed, the pressure test that with your Group as part of your kick-off. Alot of it Comes down to not only what your propose but how you gather Input. And in my experienes a great tool here is leverage your Workshop faciliation or presentations faciliations skills. Talk to your Boss on methods to collect Feedback.

Don't Forget off-line stakeholder Management, i.e. you 1:1 Meetings with your Team before the Overall Meeting to get insights/and pressure test any hypothesis you may have and get some insight into what they are thinking.

This is something I had to a few times over the past couple years as i've been leading a couple cross-functional Teams.

As for me, I've been in your boat, and have had to lead a brand Team where the I had to aling everyone on taking and pressure testing a certain direction for the brand - organizational structure did help in that it was defined that my function is an integrating fuction responsible for owning and Setting strategy for other functions to align against. However that means that all the other functions contribute to the strategy, they know the objective/strategy which we all defined together, and thus take responsiblity to operationilizing against the strategy which we all agreed on. I did the Standard Approach, aligned with bosses and pressure tested ideas, did off-line stakeholder Management to get views, did my homework, and organized my Workshops strategically to get the Information and alignment I Need. Pulsechecks and follow-ups are fundamental.

One tool you can use, that I did was take the most impacted stakeholder of your strategy (ie. your customer) for me it was "Sales". That Person become my "Sponsor" and he was my advocate when I started the process. He was also Long tenured and highly respected in the Company and I had him serve as my co-lead in many things. When you have endorsement of a well respected Team member or Boss, then you also get "soft but relevant" acknowledgement that you're the empowered leader.

So key Points, don't Forget your Project Management, practice good Workshop faciliating and presenting skills, dont Forget active-listening and asking clarifying questions, get a "Sponsor", and do your off-line stakeholder Management. Leverage Expertise of others and enjoy the ride. Leadership by influence is not easy and much harder than direct leadership, its a competency you will Need as you advance in your career.

Good luck,

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