This might be one of the most important steps so far. Knowing you business is quite different from knowing how to do your job. As step 10 of my 12 easy steps to become a great employee, this one is about getting to know your company.
Let’s start with markets.
Do you know anything about the market segments where your company operates? What is the mainstream customer? What is the competition like? How do the markets work? Let us pretend that you are a car salesperson. You will probably know a lot about the brands that you sell. Do you know about the competing brands? Learn about them as well; take especially notice to their weaknesses, as it might be an ace up your sleeve. If you work in telecom, learn about the products of your competitors. How does your market evolve? Is there any trend you’ll benefit from knowing about? Are there new products out there? If there is any magazines about your kind of business subscribe to them. There is a lot of trends and happenings that moves around within your market, if you manage to keep up, you suddenly have the ace of spades in your deck.
The company hierarchy.
I do not know if you work at a large or a small company. This part will be easy if you have one boss and a co-worker. Do not need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who is doing what in the smallest of companies, but there are a lot of companies out there with hundreds or more employees, with different departments and even different locations. Is the latter is you case you might prepare to do a little research. Not all companies have a good structural map of their company, giving you an extra challenge finding your way in the maze.
Start by identifying key players. A key player might not be a key player for the company, but rather people that could help to get your job done. If some of your tasks get stuck in a bottleneck at a different location or department it would be nice to know who have the power to push it through. It will be helpful to know the flow of internal matters to identify these people. Make the right friends. Include them on MSN or some Instant messaging system. In this way you will be able to communicate if you feel the urge.
Learn about the alert routines. If some system goes down, you should know who to contact. If there is a fire, you should know who to contact, besides the fire dep. Take initiative to learn about all possible people that need to be contacted in case of emergency. This is very important if you are alone. I remember my first evening shift as a team leader. I work at a call centre and the phones suddenly stopped operating. I did not know who to call, and needed to call around to different managers, letting them know that I did not know the routines. This was on my very first night when I was in charge. I learned from this experience to always know who can fix what. Now you have a chance to get the head start that I missed.
Find the path. I recommend ALWAYS go first to your manager if you have a problem, even if the problem is with your manager. If that does not lead to a solution, and only then go to your manager’s boss. That is why you should know who bosses who around. It might also be nice to know people with influence and get to know them, especially if you have a thought of promotion in the back of your mind.
I love this one: “I look at what the phone company does and do the opposite.” – Craig Newmark
Know the trade.
You might be good at your job. You know exactly what to do. Still there might be more to learn about your trade. It would be nice to know more about engines if you sell cars. Or if you support broad band internet customers, it would be nice to know how the internet works, from server to dslam, ERX, nodes and cabels. You should know how traffic moves from A to B and why it does. The more you know about your trade, even more than necessary the more logic and sense it will bring into your job. And the best part, it will make you greater.
Company free time activities!
A lot of companies have their own social events; this can be a collectors club, sports club, and Friday night beer, bowling team or whatever. At my company we have pay day beer, soccer team and a fishing club, even internal golf tournaments. Find out what is going on and join in on the activities you prefer. Get loaded each Friday night at a local karaoke bar or smack a small hard ball far off into the woods each Sunday, how good you are at it does not matter. The important thing is that you socialize and meet people in your company, helping you to find your key co-workers.
Take interest and show initiative.
The bottom line is take interest in your company. How is the economy? How is the temperature in sales? What marketing campaigns are on the air? And is there anything you can do to help you company produce even better? In the end, that is why you are hired.