I've been waiting for what seems like forever and finally it's my turn to ride on one of the newest roller coasters at my local theme park. All strapped in and buckled up, the ride begins to slowly pull forward and I hear the telltale clank, clank, clank, clank, clank, as we make it up the first hill. My heart is pounding. Even though I can't see it, I know what's coming next…THE DROP! We are off, speeding through turns, whipping around corners and in some cases going backward. Then, just as quickly as it started, the ride is over and off I go to the next ride.

Getting ramped up on a new assignment can often feel like you're on a roller coaster. You wait to be badged by security and to get access to the systems and applications you need to use by IT. Then slowly you begin to make progress by gathering as much information as you can and soon you're speeding through your project, navigating the twists and turns of inter-office politics, and sometimes having to take steps backward to move forward and before you know it, it's all over and you're off to the next project.

Mastering the art of ramping up can take time; however applying the tips below on your next engagement will help you add value day one, no matter how challenging the situation.

Do Your Homework: Learn as much as you can about your new client, the company, and anything you think you need to know to successfully start your new engagement.

  • Review the Statement of Work (SOW). Understand what is expected of you and how much time you have to accomplish your tasks.
  • If you know the name of your client contact and new team members, you should be able to find out a little more about them and their backgrounds from LinkedIn.

Expect the Unexpected: It is rare that the first day on a new client engagement goes according to plan.

  • The Procurement Department may still be working out the details.
  • You may have equipment with no access or vice versa.
  • You may not have a designated location for you or the team to work.

Be a Sponge but Bring Your Own Point of View: Soak up as much relevant information you can from as many sources as you can, while at the same time providing your unique point of view on the topics at hand.

  • Ask for soft and hard copies of documents that you can review.
  • Ask your team members, clients, desk mates, etc., questions. They may have a wealth of knowledge that you may be able leverage or at the very least point you in the right direction as to where to find the answer to your questions.
  • Reiterate any crucial information you receive or give to ensure clarity and reduce the chances of miscommunication.

Learn From the Past: The obstacles you may face may be very similar to ones you've faced on prior engagements.

  • Leveraging your past allows you to take inventory of recent successes and apply a method that will be equally effective in your new role while also helping to decrease the chances of repeating past mistakes.

Know the Lay of the Land: Internal politics can quickly derail even the most well-intentioned efforts.

  • Learn the best way to interact with your clients, team members, SMEs, etc. Some may prefer email communication to formal meetings; others may prefer quick pull ups to 30 minutes or hour long meetings, while with others you may have to be more persuasively persistent.

While each client and situation is different, the one consistent factor is YOU! Applying some or all of these methods as you ramp up on your next project will help you make sure you get off to a great start.