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I have been in a situation before where I was essentially thrown into a job position with no training whatsoever. It was very much a "sink or swim" environment where I was expected to become productive and figure out my place basically on my own. This was a very, very large company (Fortune 50) with lots of employees, tasks, and highly-matrixed teams; the simple fact was that most people didn't have a lot of time to spend to walk me through some of the basics that everyone there took for granted.

The result of this was that I spent an hour trying to figure something out that one of my coworkers or bosses would have been able to explain to me in five minutes or less.

Is there a way to handle this without being a nuisance to your team (i.e., constantly asking for help and explanations) while still being effective and adding value to your assignments?

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If you are effective with figuring things out in an hour, you'll be 12 time more effective if you ask )) You could ask different people, it won't be difficult in a big company. –  superM Sep 12 '12 at 13:24
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Don't keep going up to people if you can avoid it. Make a effort to predict (as much as possible) what you need to ask. I'd much rather someone came and asked me several questions at once (even if it took an hour or two to get through) than coming back every few minutes with a new question. –  Manatherin Sep 12 '12 at 16:14
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5 Answers

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Reasonable people will expect you to be a nuisance; new people are an investment.

Meet with your manager (or team lead, or whatever level assigns work and knows the systems) to get an outline of what you need to know. Break it down into a list during the meeting, and get a contact for each item on the list (the manager should balance competence and workload/availability).

Set up a meeting with each within their schedule and have them walk you through the thing(s) they are supposed to be experts in.

Once you have met with a person, if they don't have time (or desire) to answer future questions as they come up, bundle a day of questions and ask them all at once (schedule a time). This way you only interrupt their normal work once instead of 5-10 times in a day.

Final thing: Write down both questions and answers. As someone answering questions, I'm happy to answer once, I don't really mind answering twice, and every time after I will answer but make it exceptionally clear that I'm not happy about the situation.

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New people always take time to come up to speed. If management chooses not to make your training someone's responsibility, then you'll have to make it happen on your own, by asking your co-workers. That's the price the organization is paying for hiring a new person and not making your training someone's responsibility.

Yes, you WILL be taking their time away from other tasks. Be as polite as you can about it, and be SURE to take notes so you won't have to ask the same question twice. But don't beat your head against the wall too long on any new problem before asking for help - 5 minutes of your co-workers time can prevent hours of lost time on your part, and overall that means higher productivity for the organization as a whole.

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See, with a new guy in the 'barn' there's always a question what will he/she be working on. It's up to the manager to assign, so naturally your peers won't be filling you in on everything (nor would you want it in the beginning).

Once your manager moves beyond fulfilling the head-count and gives you initial assignment, then you would interact with your peers on the subject without becoming a nuisance.

Meanwhile, invest your interest in the people you'll be working with. On human scale you'll learn more than just technicalities, perhaps even in wider team/company scope.

No worries, when it'll come down to work load - you'll get the share.

Helping a new guy is not a nuisance, it's a leadership experience!

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Just ask. Everyone understands the new guy will require some ramp up time, and see that there's no formal training (which is IMO less effective than just asking teammates anyways).

As long as you're not asking the same thing over and over; and as long as you're sensitive to taking other people's time don't worry about it.

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I would ask but not all the time. Make sure you get an idea when is a good time to interupt. Gather up several questions to ask at once.

It takes people some time to return to a task after their concentration has been broken. Although your company may not be utilizing your time to the fullest, pulling Sr staff off of an important project is not worth 55 minutes of your time.

Just be thankful they didn't throw you off a cliff to see if you could fly.

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