Starting on the right footing is key to your success in any new role, from graduate right up to executive level. The opportunity in your first 90 days is fantastic in setting a new tone, in shaping your personal brand and how other’s view you and in making strategic alliances. Starting as you mean to go on, will allow you to grow in the right direction from the beginning. The same basic principles apply for a successful first 90 days plan, regardless of industry and level. It all starts with organisation before you start and having a structure in place to sustain that when you do start. Of course, being open and curious is important as is being strategic in who you get to know, what you can learn holistically about your new workplace, apart form the obvious technical elements of your new role.
What are the departmental goals and objectives?
Some learn about this in the interview process, some don’t, regardless, it’s important to get a good understanding of what the hiring manager and other members of the department identify as the departmental goals and objectives. Revisit conversations and start new ones to help you clarify what needs to be done. Be prepared to listen and observe to not only learn what is being said but also what is unsaid.
What are the position’s main priorities?
In light of the departmental objectives, get clear on your prioirities with the help of the description of your job. How does your position help the department and/or business achieve its goals? Based on what you are observing and learning, which of your priorities are the most important? Take the time to discover the answers to these questions then draft a plan that will show how you intend to approach these priorities in the first 30, 60 and 90 days of the job, we suggest using the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting model at the end of this post.
What’s a key way to make a good impression from the get-go?
People often focus too much on the technical job skills, the what, how, when and where and not enough on the company’s politics, culture and true power dynamics. Building key relationships early on is important, especially the more senior you go. Ask your boss, “Who is important for me to get to know?” And then invite those people to coffee or lunch and pick their brains. Don’t just focus “vertically” on managers above you—also create “horizontal” alliances with piers. You want to have relationships, knowledge sources and support at all levels.
Your behaviour in the first few weeks creates the impression your team have of you forever more.
Once the die is cast in one direction or the other, it tends to be self-perpetuating—and it can turn into a negative feedback loop if you’re not careful. For example, if you make early mistakes, people will look at you as ineffective going forward because they’ll be looking at you through a darkened lens. If you’re late your first week, you may be seen as lazy or irresponsible—and that reputation can be tough to shake. And if you make a bad call and the company loses money, your judgment may be called into question when it comes to future decisions.
I had a senior client who told her new director that she had confidence issues to work on, in their initial catch-up chat when he joined and since, felt that sealed his impression of her from the very beginning. His perspective of her, she found immovable since, regardless of her excellent standard of work and positive feedback. So be careful in presenting yourself as you want to be seen and treated from the very beginning.
Who are the people I would need to meet with to help me reach my goals?
Work relationships are invaluable when it comes to your career and having the novelty of ‘newbie’ is something you can capitalise on, so use it. Get to know everyone in your department and what they work on. Not only is this good information to know generally but it will likely help you in your responsibilities. It’s also good to familiarize yourself with departments outside of yours and who the key people are in each area. This will help you connect the dots and see how your role relates to others within the larger organization.
What are the “quick fixes” and what requires more time?
‘Quick wins’ are not only key to the impression you make, but to your own confidence levels which ensure further success. In the early days of a new job, it’s beneficial to identify the ‘quick wins’, those tasks that can be completed easily in a short time frame and will visibly improve some part of the department or company. Work with the necessary stakeholders to determine which projects can likely be addressed immediately, versus those that need more time and planning.
Work-life Balance v.s Total Immersion
For most, I would say total immersion for the first 90 days is most beneficial. Of course, those who have families, single-parents, carers, this can be challenging, but build in extra support, as this stage is crucial and only temporary. Investing now will pay dividends for your career far into the future.
How will I measure my progress?
Measuring your progress is key. How will you know you’re succeeding and on target in the first 30, 60 and 90 days? It may be setting up weekly or biweekly meetings with your supervisor or utilizing performance metrics to track your progress along the way. Regardless, the idea is that you will want to establish a system to help you understand how you’re doing and whether any changes need to be made.
We suggest our clients use SMART to create their action plan prior to starting their new role, and refine as they go. Scheduling a weekly 1 hour meeting with yourself, to check-in, refine and adapt is also something that works very well. Starting a new role can be overwhelming and having this structure in place before you begin will benefit you sustaining it, no end.