The Fortune 500 Insiders Network is an online community where top executives from the Fortune 500 share ideas and offer leadership advice with Fortune’s global audience. Secil Tabli Watson, executive vice president and head of wholesale internet solutions at Wells Fargo, has answered the question: How do you ask for help in a new job?
Asking for help is the best way to accelerate your learning curve. And there is no better time to ask questions than during your first months in a new job.
Since most people won’t expect you to know everything from day one, asking for help gives you an excuse to reach out and meet as many critical people as you can. Reaching out to others allows you to observe the unspoken rules in your new workplace and start to pick up on the thought processes of those whom you will be working with most. The added benefit: Asking questions immediately demonstrates your enthusiasm and motivation for succeeding in your new role.
Here are some tips to help you maximize the first few months at a new job:
First, identify your new allies. It’s best not to direct all of your questions to your manager, but rather let your manager tell you what she/he thinks you need to know. Then, ask your manager for a list of the top 10 people you should meet at the company. You should also add to this list your peers, direct reports, and some critical two-downs. Just as important, identify a handful of customers and external advisors—such as vendors, consultants, and even old colleagues and professors—who can provide unique insights. The different perspectives will help build out a critical network as you grow in your career.
Second, come up with your personal elevator pitch about your intentions. What goals do you hope to achieve in your new job? What help and professional growth are you hoping to attain? How do you plan on acting on your newfound experience and knowledge? Knowing the answers to these questions and always having them in the back of your mind will help keep you on track as you progress in your new job.
Third, set up each introductory meeting in a way that best suits the person with whom you are talking. It may be a relaxed lunch for some, and a phone call for others. You may be talking to two dozen people, so make sure you organize your time well, and prioritize if needed. Most importantly, share your intentions from the outset and seek their guidance on how best to maximize your time together.
Now, for the most important tip: Practice active listening. To get the most out of your meetings, make sure to ask a few open-ended, thoughtful questions, as opposed to a dozen detailed ones. Some great questions you could ask: What would the person do in your role if he or she had a magic wand? What is the person’s biggest worry or problem and how can you help him or her solve it?
Another useful habit is to note during your conversation whether the person emphasizes the object or subject in a sentence. This tool will give you important insight into whether this coworker is a “people person,” someone who can give you a good understanding of the people you will be working with and the power dynamics, or if this person is task-oriented and can give you insights into projects, technology, or business goals.
After your meetings, go back and share with these individuals how their perspectives have shaped your thinking, strategy, or approach. People like to be recognized for their intellectual contributions and appreciate when you’ve taken their wisdom to heart. The more you can connect the dots between their ideas and the work you are doing, the more they will want to support your cause and be your advocates.
While I’ve been at my current company for 14 years, I still use these techniques to learn about a new business, market, discipline, or technology. Not knowing is understandable, especially if you are actively trying to remedy it, but not learning will certainly stymie your growth as an employee and as a leader. So, hold onto the “new job” mindset as long as you can, and you will never stop learning throughout your career.
Secil Tabli Watson is an executive vice president and head of wholesale internet solutions at Wells Fargo. She leads digital channels for wholesale banking, responsible for supporting more than 80 business applications and guiding the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s award-winning Commercial Electronic Office (CEO) customer portal.