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Bleary-eyed and somewhat short of bushy-tailed, you arrived at your client site by 11 a.m. Monday (or sooner for sadistic teams). You parked your goofy Chevy HHR (GM made the Aztek and this, and didn't go bankrupt before today!?) so far out of the parking lot you count the walk as today's workout, eliminating a time-suck elliptical session. You called your contact, signed in with security and now sport a visitor's badge blazing your newness on a crisply pressed shirt. They directed you to the essentials, the coffee, cafeteria and restrooms.
Coffee is the primary objective here, as you nearly passed out reading trade magazines in the lobby waiting for your contact earlier. The Flavia-, Nespresso- or Tassimo-fueled companies with free quality instant are precious indeed; darn ye coffee vending machine and its 85-cent mystery powder. In that case, fire up the Starbucks Finder app on your phone.
Your workspace is likely a cramped conference room, out-of-date cubicle, dank basement or perhaps, for the seriously unluckily, the cafeteria (though it's usually reserved for the auditors). You have a 50/50 chance of even getting a phone. After a few minor introductions, the first order of business is probably filling out onboarding forms for a security badge, client e-mail, team file sharing site and signing what can often be draconian IT security policies. You may not even be able to access the internet yet. A laptop cellular card is a lifeline until the access issue is resolved. A week or two without access is not unheard of, though obviously it's a huge drain on productivity.
I hope you memorized everyone's name; say their names seven times in your head and use it when you speak to them until their names' electrons are laser etched in your grey matter. In your travel-induced haze, what did you observe about the team, the project and the client? Collect your insights and reserve judgment for tomorrow.
Now it is time to leave for the day—that's right. The first day is a day of acclimation and meet-and-greets, not analysis. What is the end of the work day, 5 p.m. (ha!), 6 p.m., 7 p.m., later? Clarification is necessary, or you will end up playing the sit-around-until-enough-people-leave game. Ask in ahead of time what the typical schedule is. That way, though your contact may be staying later that day for a certain task, you won't end up trying to unnecessarily mimic his/her timing but also meet expectations. I would say a good guide is until your work is done... or at least after the client leaves.
Now it's time to check in to the hotel ... and fall asleep watching Hulu on a jittery wi-fi connection.
- Taylor O'Neal is a supply chain consultant for a major consulting firm. He graduated from Miami University School of Business in 2005 and Indiana University's Kelley Masters of Information Systems program in 2006.
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