How to Avoid Being Overlooked by Your Distracted Boss
The tech industry moves at an accelerated pace. In my experience, startup life is simply not for those who inherently value stability above all else. If you’ve just started at a tech company and you’re looking for some semblance of stability, try to make a good impression on your new boss. Getting noticed can be tough, but it’s extremely important. Studies have shown that how much we like someone plays a big role in how competent we perceive them to be.
Making a good impression can be especially hard in technology startups where bosses are known for being both demanding and often more focused on ideas and numbers than on the people around them. Still, there are plenty of ways to stand out and get noticed as long as you make the effort.
Since bosses in tech tend to be focused on ideas, come to them with an idea. If you can come to them with a tangible idea, whether it’s just an adjustment to an internal process or an entirely new product, that’s going to make an impression.
Often, the easiest way to do this is the most direct. Simply ask your boss for a one-on-one meeting. You’ll be surprised how often this works. Yes, the boss’s time is valuable, but so is your idea. Don’t be afraid to push a little for those few minutes you need to explain it. Good bosses value input and want to hear from their employees. If, however, you can’t talk to them one-on-one, bring it up in a larger meeting at an appropriate time.
Look outside the office.
Many tech companies and startups offer a variety of perks and extracurricular activities, from fancy break rooms to company clubs or sports teams. In some of the more open-office environments that have become popular now, workers congregate, take breaks and get to know each other. Some of these organizations have a flatter structure and the boss fancies himself or herself as someone who can "hang" with workers.
This is often because they are around the same age or, in many cases, even younger than the employees. You may be able to steal a minute or two with them once in a while to get to know them.
If that doesn’t work, maybe the relaxed air of an office party might do the trick. Be careful though. The line between fun employee and inappropriate can be dangerously thin. Make an impression, but make it a good one.
Take care of the little things.
It’s easy to think you need some big, impressive plan to get noticed by the boss, but just as often it’s the little things that make a big impression. Show up on time every day looking sharp, with a great attitude, and do all your routine daily tasks promptly and accurately. More often than not, this is all you need to do for your boss to take notice.
Just as importantly, if you don’t do these things, the boss might take notice in a bad way. It’s all too easy to become the late one, the sloppy one or the one that makes typos in reports. These are not the things you want your new boss to associate with you.
Figure out their preferences.
Every boss is going to have a certain way of doing things. The faster you adapt to their style, the faster you can get noticed in a positive way. For instance, some bosses will want you to be five minutes early for everything, whether that’s the start of a workday, a meeting or coming back from lunch.
Figuring out the right mode of communication is especially important. Does your boss prefer email? Daily meetings? Phone calls? Maybe they want you to bounce ideas off them via email first and then follow up with a face-to-face. Find out how they like to operate so you can communicate effectively.
Take advantage of technology.
This is a big advantage of working at a tech company. While someone working in finance, manufacturing, retail, etc. might have a boss that distrusts texting or social media, your boss will (hopefully) embrace all forms of digital communication, even the newer ones.
Tech companies are increasingly using internal social networks to foster communication and collaboration. If you can’t seem to be noticed by your boss in the physical world, maybe you can make that good impression with a post in the digital realm.