By Mariah Braxton, Washington, D.C.
Going to a client site for the first time, trying to make sense of your responsibilities and trying to understand how you fit in within your team can be overwhelming as a recent graduate. I just finished my first week on my first client project and initially I was perplexed by everything that was going on. I was trying to decode all the acronyms, remember who the different stakeholders were, and adapt to the culture of the project. I felt like “the new kid” that arrived to school in the middle of the year after everyone else had figured out their way around. But, the great thing about being “the new kid” at IBM is that your team wants to help you and fill you in on all that you missed before you started. There was no need for me to be worried about being perfect and picking up on every project detail on the first day. That’s unrealistic – and not what is expected. What is expected is a willingness to learn and engage with your colleagues. Here are my lessons learned from week one:
- Make an effort to learn what you don’t know
The client I am working with does a lot of work with desktop virtualization and cloud storage. These are topics that I knew next to nothing about, but as a member of the strategic communications team I needed to be able to speak intelligently about what the client was doing. To get up to speed, I did some of IBM’s internal online training on Cloud and read all the news articles regarding my client and virtualization. I am by no means an expert on these topics, but I now know what my co-workers are talking about and can be a more productive member of the team.
- Ask questions
Sometimes it’s intimidating to ask your colleagues questions. What if I should already know this? What if they’re too busy…I don’t want to bother them. Your colleagues are there to help! They want you to do well because your success contributes to everyone’s success as a team. No- you don’t want to ask a question every five minutes, but asking is necessary to understanding. I took to writing down my questions on a post-it as I went a long and then asking all my questions relating to a certain subject/task at once. This process allowed me to get all my questions answered without interrupting the workday of my colleagues every five minutes.
- Engage your coworkers
Work is important, but I realized that not every discussion had to be related to the project. By the second day, I had come out of my shell enough to start asking people about their weekend, family, and interests. People like to talk about the things that are important to them and it was refreshing to get to know my team members on a more personal level. I really enjoy traveling, so it was exciting to hear about some of the places my colleagues have been and where they plan to go. Sharing this common interest increased my comfort level with my coworkers and made me feel more like I was part of the team!
I hope my lessons learned from my first week of work can help some of you stay cool as you venture on to your first client project!