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How to Onboard Yourself When Your Company Won't

Kristen Buchanan

Think back to your most recent onboarding experience. How did it go?

More often than not, I hear from new hires that they felt confused, left out, anxious, and even ignored throughout their first few weeks and months.

Even if there was company-level onboarding, it left a lot to be desired — and there usually wasn’t a technical onboarding program.

Over the years, I have found it’s not just the small startups that don’t onboard well, it’s even the very large (think 100,000+ employees) companies too.

So when you can’t rely on your company to set you up for success, how can you ensure you have what you need to thrive in your role?

Well, there’s a worksheet for that!

I made a quick tool you can use for onboarding yourself (it’s like the MVP Onboarding I made for companies, but from a new hire perspective). Use it whenever you join a new company to ensure you get a thorough onboarding process, even if one isn’t clearly laid out for you.

There are some simple steps employees can take to effectively onboard themselves, and the process can start during your job interview. Even job seekers can set themselves up for a great onboarding process by asking really good interview questions.

There are some great examples of these types of questions in the worksheet, so take a look at it before your next interview.

Now, let’s say you’ve landed the role (congratulations!) and it’s your first day. You can catalyze your own onboarding by asking your manager a few key questions and finding out who your main stakeholders are.

Many companies will ask new employees to direct their own introduction to stakeholders. Typically a manager will tell a new employee who they’ll need to know and collaborate with, and they’ll leave it up to the new hire to schedule introductory meetings with those people.

Scheduling meetings with stakeholders — often an expert or the older team member can be really intimidating as a new hire. The worksheet includes a bit of copy that you can use to set up those first meetings, and you can tweak the language as much as you like before sending it.

What’s most important for this onboarding step is to make sure you have an agenda for the meeting. Prep the person who is going to be sharing information with you about the meeting and tell them what you want to learn from them. Ask about their role, ask about how they connect with your role, ask about all kinds of different things.

Again, there are examples in the worksheet to help with this process.

Those two strategies — asking key questions (try Socratic questions) in your interview and taking the lead in your introductory meetings with team members — will be instrumental in expediting your own onboarding.

If you want to use the worksheet, make a copy of the Google Doc and drop me a line to let me know how it worked out for you!

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