Starting a New Job

Steps

So you landed a new position put in your two weeks notice at your current job. You are busting outta this joint, and that pile of work sitting at your desk is someone else’s problem. You feel so excited to start your new job, and you just know its going to to be better than this hell-hole.

Now it’s Sunday night and you need to get a good night’s sleep before your first day at the new gig. So you go to bed early and wait for the Sandman… Now its 3AM, and you haven’t slept a wink. All you can think is that if you fall asleep right now, you will get 4 hours of sleep, and that will be enough to make it through your first day right? Right…

Lets assume you survive the first day and fast forward a little bit. What do you need to do to succeed at your new job? How do you make sure you fit in? And most importantly, how do you make sure you keep you new job? Here are some useful tips:

Your first day:

  1. Smile you poser!
  2. Don’t worry about not remembering that guy’s name you were introduced to in that other department. In 6 months you will know his name, and won’t be able to say it without rolling your eyes. Actually you will hate everyone in his entire department, and wish you could forget their useless, unhelpful names.
  3. If business casual is the dress code, leave the tie in the car, dummy. If you can wear jeans, leave the Dockers at home. If the dress code is business formal, ditch the pin stripe suite you pimp!
  4. Do you have anything to put inside that briefcase other than pens? No! So leave it at home.
  5. Don’t bring a lunch box on your first day, tell mommy you’ll eat out.

Your first month:

  1. If you want respect, work hard! Get to the office early and stay late. You have to do your time in the trenches before anyone will respect you.
  2. Your small startup does beer Friday’s? Good for you asshole. But don’t get too comfortable too soon. If you want respect, don’t abuse the awesome perks; less drinky more worky. There is no better way to show your worth than to ralph on the ping pong table during business hours.
  3. Focus on becoming independent, being able to do your work without constantly bugging other people.

6 Months to 1 year+

  1. Focus on the core skills/technologies. Those company specific monotonous daily tasks you do are worthless to a future employer. But if you are a boss at Six-Sigma/SAP/SQL/Java,etc… two words: cash money! In 2-5 years you will hate this job as much if not more than your previous job, and be ready to move on. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but the money is!
  2. If you like your job and plan on sticking with the company, it’s time to start thinking about what you need to learn to get to the next step, which may include management or another position/title.

I can’t guarantee that you will like your new job, but if you follow these steps, you can ease the pain of being a complete newbie, and prepare yourself for the next step in your career.

Steps (Photo credit: Joe Gatling)

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Beating the Interview Puzzle Game

rubick

Quick! You have a 5 gallon bucket, a three gallon bucket, and a water hose. How do you exactly measure 4 gallons of water using only these three things? This is a question that was asked of me at an interview, and even though I’m pretty sure I have seen this in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, I couldn’t answer it. It really isn’t that difficult to figure out, but when you are under pressure in an interview, being asked to solve a puzzle can throw you off your game and turn you into an idiot in 10 seconds flat.

Companies like Google are notorious for asking candidates to solve ridiculously hard puzzles that force you to think outside the box, and allegedly, companies use these puzzles to judge how you go about solving problems and how well you perform under pressure.

Does being able to solve a puzzle really determine how good you will be at a job? No. Most of the middle managers that are asking you to solve these puzzles are likely idiots in their own right, and they  probably spent all of 2 minutes on Google finding one.

Let’s say you have two applicants for a position, one who solved the puzzle and another who didn’t.  Maybe the applicant who solve it studied the most commonly asked interview puzzles and then some, but otherwise is a complete tool and also has an awesome collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer trading cards. Maybe the one who didn’t solve it just plain sucks at puzzles, but has experience solving real world business problems. Is an abstract puzzle and a real world problem the same thing? When was the last time somebody handed you two buckets, but only needed exactly 4 gallons of water…

So how do you beat the puzzle game? You really only have two options:

  1. Learn as many puzzles as you can.
  2. Say eff the puzzles, refusing to play their game while focusing on killing the rest of the interview.

Option 1: If you are die hard (no pun intended) about learning every single puzzle, you are a better man/woman than I, and good for you. But you aren’t out of the woods yet. You need to make sure that you play it off, and act like you have never heard the puzzle before. After being asked the brain twister:

  • Stroke your beard and look like you are thinking hard. If you don’t have a beard then you might as well just go home and cry (ladies get a pass, but just this once).
  • Don’t just blurt out the answer you poser! Walk through the necessary steps that would need to happen to solve the puzzle, throwing in a few scenarios that would occur when solving the puzzle for the first time.
  • Arrive at the correct (read: memorized) solution, appearing to have put some thought into, but also making it seem effortless.
  • If you really have some balls, challenge that hobbit to a duel: saying “I will answer your puzzle, but if I get it right I am going to ask you a puzzle, and if you can’t answer it, I get the job.” Proceed to ask the nastiest,  puzzle you know: “you have a Rubick’s cube made of other Rubick’s cubes…”

Option 2: Deny them their puzzle, and force them to judge you on the rest of the interview. Know beforehand that if you are asked a puzzle, you will NOT be solving it. This method may seem a bit crazy, but trust me, it’s better than drawing on a whiteboard for 15 minutes attempting to figure out their puzzle, failing miserably, and making a complete ass of yourself in the process. When presented the puzzle:

  • Yup… Lean back in your chair, stroke your beard and look like you are thinking hard, and this time you don’t get a pass ladies!
  • Do NOT get up and write on that whiteboard, even if they are trying to hand you the marker (I actually did this).
  • Smile and say “I’m horrible at these things, I give up. Whats the answer?” without even attempting the puzzle.
  • At the end of the interview crack a joke about the puzzle.

Congratulations. Although you technically failed the puzzle, you also did not make a fool out of yourself. When they think back on the interview, the puzzle portion only lasted about 30 seconds, and most of the time was actually spent… interviewing. If you spent 15 minutes drawing lines on a whiteboard only to end up at the same conclusion (you suck at puzzles), well that’s more memorable isn’t it? And in a very bad way. It’s far better to tell them that you suck at puzzles  than to demonstrate that you suck at puzzles.

By the way, I took option #2 and got the job.

rubick (Photo credit: lbalaguero// visca el 50mm)