How to manage your first 90 days in a job
9th January 2015
By. J.T. O'Donnell
CEO, CAREEREALISM Media & CareerHMO | Employment Branding | Career & Job Search | HR/Recruiting | Consulting & Training
My First 90 Days: Please Don't Strive to Be the Office 'Golden Child'
Years ago, when I first started in HR, I remember my boss warning me, "Whatever a candidate does in the job interview, multiply it 10X and that's what you'll get 90 days into the job."
For example, if a candidate made a comment that felt a little inappropriate for our corporate culture, it was more than a little possible this person might be offensive in the workplace once they got the job and could let their guard down. Or, if the candidate was so quiet and barely gave more than one-word answers in the interview, they'd be so shy on the job that coworkers wouldn't feel they could communicate effectively with this person. (Even worse, they might be hiding something and just trying to get through the interview to land the job.)
If You Got The Job, You Scored High On...
Some of you might think the hiring advice above is discriminatory. You would be correct. That's because hiring IS discrimination. The employer is trying to find the best candidate for the job based on these factors:
Personality:Would this person fit in the culture and get along with teammates
so productivity would remain high?
Aptitude:Would this person be able to adjust to the way we do things without constantly comparing us to their old employer's way of doing things?
Experience:Does this person have the skills and knowledge to be able to hit the ground running, or at least get up to speed quickly?
Affordability:Will this person be happy with our pay and benefits, or will they be disappointed and feel like accepting a job with us was a step down?
The above factors are what ultimately determine if you get hired. It's tough to win. If you get the job, your combined score on the above turned out to be the right number for the employer.
Congratulations! You're a winner... for now.
NOTE: The Rules ChangeAfterYou Get Hired
Once you are in the job, a different set of criteria determine if you are seen as a good hire with lots of future potential. Sadly, I've seen many new hires, blissfully unaware of the change in rules, short-circuit their success in the new role.
Here's what you need to know:
You aren't "the" best. You're now part of, "the best" organization ??? and should act accordingly. In the first 90 days, it can be easy to want to come in and be the golden child of the office. You so desperately want to prove the company made the right decision in choosing you that you offer your help and advice to everyone in the office. You chime in with ideas, offer to take ownership of projects, and have no problem putting in some extra hours and burning the midnight oil to help the company succeed. You openly share everything you get done so everyone within earshot knows you are working hard. The problem is, you're acting like a tornado, and that will have lasting effects. Some of which could include:
- Being seen as a know-it-all who is trying to be management's new favorite.
- Stepping on the toes of employees who have been there longer and getting the reputation of being insensitive or ignorant to all that's been accomplishedbeforeyou arrived.
- Creating the persona you'll always be willing to work overtime.
- Giving the impression you have no problem taking all the unattractive jobs nobody else wants.
- Letting people think you will immediately help them whenever they ask.
Play A Long-Term Game. Here's How...
I'm not going to suggest you be lazy or hold back in adding value to the organization in the first 90 days. I also don't think you should keep your head down and let the work speak for itself. How well you integrate into the company in those early months matter greatly. There's a direct correlation between being seen as an exceptional new hire and having an opportunity to fast-track your career growth with an employer. Management loves it when a hire turns out as good, or even better, than expected. However, you need to play a long-term game to make this happen.
Here are my 12 tips for creating a strong first impression and powerful office relationships:
your manager's communication style.Set
a meeting with your boss and get clear on the best way to update her on your
progress. Some managers want to meet in-person weekly. Others, prefer an email
update as you go along. It's very important that you determine how to
communicate with your boss without taking up too much of her time. You need to
be able to get answers and show you are getting things done without
overwhelming her. The sooner you know the best way to stay connected with your
boss, the better.
(and get management sign-off!) on your 30-60-90-day plan.Outline in writing what you plan to accomplish each week/month in the
next 90 days. It should have specific milestones highlighted to reassure your
manager you're getting up-to-speed and adding value as efficiently as possible.
By showing this to your boss, you can open up the discussion to ensure he
agrees with the goals on the timeline. If he feels it's too aggressive, or too
light, you'll know before you get started and can adjust accordingly.
clear on each coworker's job AND professional agenda.Each coworker you collaborate with is a stakeholder in your
success, and you are a stakeholder in theirs. It's important to take time to
get to know their goals as a professional at the company. What are they focused
on achieving, and how does your role directly tie to their success? This will
help you support their efforts in a constructive manner. It will also show you
respect them and care about partnering with them successfully.
from making any 'fast friendships' with overly outgoing peers.Be wary of coworkers who rush to be your friend and start giving
you the inside office gossip. They usually pounce for a reason. Be nice, but
keep your opinions to yourself and don't let them bait you into commenting.
Just say, "Gee, I'm so new here, I'm just taking it all in for now."
You may find their reputation in the office isn't the best and that being
aligned with them isn't in your best interest.
out your core work and master it in less than 40 hours.Get clear on your tasks and responsibilities and become efficient enough
that you can do them easily in less than a full work week. This will show you
know how to work "smarter" not "harder." Better still, it
will free up some time for you to focus on the next tip.
your first "reach" project.A
"reach" project is a problem you've identified by doing your core
work that you feel you could help resolve if you put some time into it. This
should be something that saves and/or makes the company money so that you can
justify you spending time on it. The best part about a reach project is that it
should tie with a skill you are looking develop. This enables you to get the
company to justify letting you develop that skill, which makes you a more
off on any snap judgements or assessments of coworkers and company policies.Even though you chose to leave your last job, you will find
yourself naturally thinking their rules and ways of doing things were the norm.
Thus, when the new company or coworkers do something dramatically different
from what you are used to, you may feel uncomfortable. Maybe even a little
scared. Don't react. The worst thing you can say aloud is, "At my old
company, we did it this way..." Instead, take a deep breath and explore
why your new employer might have a different approach. Which leads to the next
don't tell.Smart questions are your secret
to success in a new company. When something doesn't seem right, you should ask
a question to better understand the situation. For example, if the team follows
a process that seems time-consuming, you need to fight the urge to say,
"That's a really slow process," and instead ask, "Why do you
follow this process?" Followed up with, "Does the extra time concern
you?" By asking questions, you can get a sense of the thought process
behind what's going on. You may be surprised to see that you didn't have the
answer. Or, your questions may lead to a pleasant discussion about possible
changes. Either way, you will have navigated the conversation in a way that
wasn't threatening to your peers.
your emails vanilla and your phone in drawer on vibrate.Everyone will be watching your technical etiquette. Emails should
stay professional. Don't send personal emails from the company account. More
importantly, put the phone away. Coworkers don't want to hear your phone
dinging, nor do they want to see you texting away. You need to prove yourself
as committed to making a good impression on the job. Being distracted by your
personal technology will get back to the boss fast.
in doubt, include anyone whose opinion might count.There's nothing more relationship-killing than for you to leave
out a coworker on an email that has a stake in something you are working on.
When it doubt, cc the person. Worst case, they'll tell you they aren't involved
and you can take them off the list. But leave them off and they find out, and
you could get an earful for not realizing their importance to the project.
a trustworthy 'new hire' buddy.You
are going to have lots of little questions as a new hire. You shouldn't go to
your boss with all of them. Instead, identify someone who is well-respected in
your department and ask if they might be willing to be your onboarding mentor
for the first few months. Explain you don't want to bother your boss with lots
of silly questions and hoped this person might be willing to help you out so
you can get comfortable and integrate into the organization well. It's a smart
way to create a new office relationship with a key player too!
12. Be the most reliable person there.Every employer's biggest fear is that they got snowed in the interview and the new hire is unreliable. Employers expect you to be at work everyday on time. They expect you to deliver your work on time and without issues. It sets off major warning bells if you are late repeatedly, calling in sick, missing deadlines, etc. Of course sometimes things can't be helped. But, I will tell you not showing a real respect for the need to be someone the company can count will make the employer very watchful of you. If they feel it's a trend that will continue over time, they would rather terminate you now then end up with an employee they've invested a ton of training and resources in who isn't reliable.
If you can leverage the tips above, you should be able to establish yourself as a effective team player with a desire to exceed expectations. You'll build positive office relationships and define yourself as a solid contributor.
The first 90 days on the job can be a career game-changer. Don't let a misguided desire to be the golden child ruin that opportunity for you!
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