An old friend and reader of this blog sent me the following email with some strategy and communication lessons he’s picked up trying to climb the ladder in his current company:
It’s been a year since I joined the company and in tech a year is a long time. Now the company is scaling up, new management, chaotic transition time, and I’m feeling a bit left out. I believe I made the mistake of not communicating about my work enough and showing the value I have added. Its a terrible feeling. I managed to swing enough references and objective proof of my contribution for my next job interview – and obviously during the interview I’m confident my learnings will show. Here are a few things I feel I should have done:
- Clarify the management structure. This was a small company (100 people) but even then the guy I worked with every day was not the guy I reported to. Make sure you know who is responsible for your paycheck/promotions/
- Weekly reports. If you’re very new you might get time during work hours or have to sit back later, but write a half a page with bullet points covering the important work you’ve done. Try to be quantitative, if you’ve learnt something quickly, or helped speed up something 1.5x, etc. Pay special attention to cross-team initiatives that you volunteered to lead.
- Every month, go through your daily report and write up a long form summary for yourself. This will also help clarify your own understanding, given some distance from the issue, and serve as a launchpad for new ideas.
- During evaluation time, or when you need to ask for a raise or a move to more interesting assignments, bring up the top three contributions you’ve made. Focus on bottomline, and stick to numbers where possible. Avoid general words like “facilitated.”
As I begin my job hunt, I hope not to repeat these mistakes. I made them because I worked for a professional large company in the past, which had experienced managers who scheduled check ins and kept an eye on their reports. If you are in a young rapidly growing company you have to do this yourself.