I asked my boss 6 key questions during my first week working at Salesforce, and it made the transition to a new job much smoother

By:  Al Dea

  • Al Dea is a career coach and a product marketing manager at Salesforce.
  • When Dea started his new job at Salesforce, he asked his boss some key questions to see how he could achieve success.
  • Those questions included, “What is the performance-management process like?” and “What are your top priorities?”

Recently, I started a new job as a product marketing manager for San Francisco software company Salesforce.

Even though I’m a career coach and have advised hundreds of clients through career transitions, I still felt those first-day jitters.

I’d recently seen a survey that found 74% of employers said they’d made a bad hire at some point, and I was determined to not fall victim to that statistic. To get off to a great start, I focused on asking my manager key questions to help me understand what I needed to do to be successful.

Here are a few of the questions we discussed:

What behaviors are rewarded here?

I wanted to figure out how to incorporate these behaviors into my own working style, and begin to assimilate into the culture and build good rapport with my new teammates. My boss gave me some specific examples of behaviors I could start immediately.

For example, gaining cross-functional support from other teams was really important to success. So going into my first projects, I learned to shop my work around to my peers to get their feedback and support. This meant more upfront work, but it would enable longer-term success.

What does success look like for me?

Aligning your expectations with your manager’s helps you understand how you can meet and exceed expectations in the role. It’s also a chance for you to define your own measures of success.

Before I answered, my manager asked me about my own interests and strengths. Then my manager suggested some timely projects I could work on, such as managing an upcoming product launch and managing our presence at an upcoming conference, two things I mentioned I had interest and expertise in.

What is the performance-management process like?

Understanding how you will be evaluated is critical to performance, raises, and promotions. The process helps you plan your career development and focus on driving results. It also signals to your manager that you take your professional development seriously.

In addition to understanding the performance evaluation process, I learned that having the support of your peers on other teams is critical to performance and promotion. I also agreed to have monthly check-ins with my manager to make sure I was on track for the yearly performance review.

Who are examples of people who have been successful here?

In addition to identifying top performers, you can start paying attention to what results they deliver that have enabled them to succeed.

My manager gave me a few examples of people who had excelled in similar roles, then connected me to these individuals so I could network with them directly. During our conversations, they explained how they were able to take risks on new job opportunities and how that helped accelerate their career growth.

What are your top priorities?

It’s important to be aware of what your manager cares about. This way, you can begin to understand how your work fits into their day-to-day work.

Asking this question gave me a better understanding of how my manager saw their role and what they were going to be focused on. It also got me thinking about how my priorities and projects connect to theirs. For example, I was later assigned a project to launch a new product, while my manager was focused on revamping some of the product messaging for our entire product portfolio. As I built out the product launch, I made sure to speak with my manager to ensure my product launch supported her overall messaging for the portfolio.

What are you reading right now?

This is more of a fun question, but it can be valuable in giving you an inside look at what’s on your manager’s mind, either personally or professionally. It also gives you a chance to engage them on a topic that’s top of mind to them, which helps build your relationship.

In addition to hearing about good industry blogs and websites to review, I also got to know a bit more about my manager’s personality and their passion for non-profit causes and organizations.

My manager also asked me for any recommendations, and I got to share a few of my own, such as “Give and Take” by Adam Grant and “Love is The Killer App” by Tim Sanders. While a small gesture, it was a good initial step in building rapport and trust.

Al Dea is a product marketing manager and a career coach and author. He also is the founder of CareerSchooled, a blog dedicated to helping people develop and accelerate their careers.