You were chosen to be a part of the team for a reason, so you already have qualities to be proud of. You have the opportunity to learn from the best of the best. Be grateful that you have been thrown in the deep end. Here's a quick guide on learning how to swim.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Think like your leadership. Learn to anticipate their wants and needs and expectations and worries. Making the effort and taking the time to learn about them with help you not only help you serve them better, but you will also become a stronger individual and more knowledgeable of what is expected from you and them for the sake of the company.
Standing in these big shoes, you will begin to understand that the executive work is incredibly busy. Blackberrys and iPhones buzz all day long, your mind is filled to the brim with ideas, concepts and strategies, and efficiency is the name of the game. When you go above and beyond in your preparation, you'll be able to maximize the time you get with these important people and really impress them by demonstrating that you put in the time to really know your stuff. It's also reassurance for them that they hired the right person.
Ask Good Questions
Ask questions period. Do your research but don't try to pretend that you have all the answers. If you do, instead of demonstrating your competency, you’ll demonstrate your inexperience—and come across as a bit presumptuous (never an endearing trait). So humble yourself. Ask really good questions. Absorb everything like a sponge. Asking questions is not a sign of weakness or an incapability to do a job. First off, you have to be smart in the first place to be able to ask the right questions, and they will begin to appreciate your eagerness and humility and you’ll also learn a lot.
Bring a Notebook and Pen
Whenever there's a meeting, take notes. Not only of what is directly being said, but also everything that is not being said. Listen for non-verbal cues, read their body language and how everyone conducts themselves and most importantly each other.
Some leaders even like to have a follow-up emails that summarize what was discussed in the meeting and the next steps that need to be taken. That way they know that you understood what they wanted and they know what to look for from you next. You’ll be making their job easier, which makes your job easier!
Know Your Value
You are where you are for a reason. Someone believes in you, sees value in you and wants to help you develop your skills. If you feel like you may have less experience, you do have some experience, even if it’s just in life. So be confident in that. Also realize that you are learning fairly quickly. The first few days are always the hardest. But once you get acquainted with your job, your team and what you are capable of, you will find yourself accomplishing great measures. It just takes time and patience. Everyday you'll grow into your pond and before you know it you'll fit right in. My favorite quote my father has always said to me was "Dreams always come in a size too big, so that we may grow into them."
Photograph from Nathan Williams