Working at a Small Company, Part 2

Working at a Small Company, Part 2You’ve decided to join a small company, so you sign the contract and celebrate with some friends.  The next day, amidst a pounding headache, the stress sets in.  A new world awaits… what’s going to happen?  What do they expect?  Was that the right decision?

To help ease tensions, in Part 2 of our interview with Patrick Hillas (read Part 1 here), we focused on creating a roadmap for the first 6 months of employment: What you’ll be doing, what people think you’ll be doing, what to do to get through it and how stressed you’ll be at each step.  For reference, a 10 on the stress scale is just before having a complete breakdown…

First two weeks:

What you’ll be doing:
Reading papers and reports to get you caught up on the background of the project.
Learning what processes, assays, protocols, etc., are needed for your part of the project.

What’s expected of you:
Getting up to speed with the responsibilities you were hired to do.
Find your way around the facilities.
Learn your coworkers names.

What to do to get through it:
Read for a while.  Get up and walk around.  Ask questions.  Ask more questions.  That will help you get familiar with your coworker and show them you’re trying to get involved.

Stress level:
4-7.  Mostly self-imposed.

Weeks 3-4

What you’ll be doing:
Getting more involved in the project day-to-day work.  Picking up more of the work load.

What’s expected of you:
Showing that you’re competent in the areas you were hired to perform.

What to do to get through it:
Work alongside your coworkers.  Don’t be shy about asking where things are.  Ask more questions from your supervisor.

Stress level:
6-8.  Now you’re getting a bit more pressure to contribute.

Months 2-3

What you’ll be doing:
You should be in full swing for a few tasks at this point.  There are always more aspects to the project to learn, but for now having shown your competency for your areas should be established.

What’s expected of you:
Again, show your competency by 3 months.  Usually by this point if the company is not satisfied with your performance they can dismiss you.

What to do to get through it:
Show you can function somewhat independently on your tasks.   Fewer questions, but still on the learning curve.

Stress level:

Months 4-6

What you’ll be doing:
Doing your tasks independently.  Possibly becoming more involved in other areas.

What’s expected of you:
Function with fewer mistakes.  For the first few months as you’re figuring out how things work, mistakes will happen.  By now you should have a good handle on things.

What to do to get through it:
Talk with your supervisor.  Ask him/her for an informal evaluation at 6 months.   Even if it’s standing at the bench and just talking, get some feedback from your boss.

Stress level:
4-6.  You should be comfortable with your job and coworkers by now.

Had a similar experience in your own company?  Any suggestions to help make it through the transition period?

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2 comments so far. Join The Discussion

  1. Working at a small company, Part 1 | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on August 5, 2009 at 9:40 am

    […] part two of the interview, Patrick provides a specific breakdown of the expectations you can expect in a small company for […]

  2. Science Career Development Resources | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on December 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    […] Working at a Small Company, Pt 2 – what to expect for the first six months of working in a small company- from expectations to stress to how to survive […]

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