Are you starting a new role and want to make a great impression from the get-go?
There are lots of reasons why the first 90 days in a new job are crucial. People form opinions very quickly, even if they have limited information, and those opinions are harder to change than to create.
A completely new situation is also the perfect opportunity to create new work habits that will really set you up for success.
A lot of what happens in the first 90 days is self-perpetuating in other words. I learned a great deal of it the hard way, so if you’re about to start a new role, do yourself a favour and read this article to learn from my mistakes.
1. Your early wins and mistakes are self-perpetuating
This point is really important – all your actions and behaviours, which includes your wins and your mistakes, are likely to reinforce each other. For example, if you’re late for meetings in the first week, or write sloppy emails, people are likely to quickly infer that you’re lazy and disinterested. This is just how the human psyche works, we like to make quick decisions about other people, often without knowing all the facts.
Likewise, early wins will make you shine! So look out for opportunities where you can achieve something that is valuable to the company, especially when it doesn’t require too much of your effort.
In short, do your very best to show yourself in your best light and fix the bad habits you might have developed in your previous role.
2. Focus more on connecting with people rather than the technical skills
A common mistake people make is that they focus too much on the technical skills needed in the job, rather than on creating relationships with people.
Build relationships from day 1, and that includes relationships with your boss, your peers, the receptionist… there’s hardly a relationship not worth having, not just because it will make working there more enjoyable, but also because you never know when this relationship might come in handy.
If you want to learn more about effective Networking, read my previous article.
I’m a big proponent of seeking out a mentor. Is there someone who has done the job before you, who you can invite for a coffee, and maybe offer to help with something in return? Have a think about what you’re good at, and what comes easy to you. Chances are that you can offer this up in return for the help you’re asking for.
Equally, make friends with your colleagues, especially the ones you’ll be working closely with as well as the ones you sit in close proximity to. Ask them out for coffee or lunch, and offer to be helpful in all sorts of ways. Don’t discount the perceived value of something as trivial as making the coffee for your colleagues. Not only does this create a good atmosphere, but social ties actually make us more productive.
Remember, your colleagues also have to adjust to you coming into the new role, so try and look at it from their eyes. Be generously thankful for their help and their patience, and tell them so.
3. Watch, listen and prioritise your questions
Don’t make the mistake to think that you have to prove yourself from the get-go by having strong opinions on matters. It is far more valuable if you take your time to watch how things are done in the company, and if you listen before you speak.
Prioritise your questions, and make sure you ask a lot of them, at the right times. For example, when I started a new role I found it useful to keep a list of all my questions, and have it ready at hand once the person I could ask had a free moment.
It’s also really useful to pick up on your colleagues’ and managers’ preferred style of answering your questions – do they prefer email, in person, scheduled meetings or something more spontaneous? You’ll quickly develop a feeling for this.
4. Put in 10-20% more time and effort for the first 90 days, but be ready to set boundaries
I’m a big believer in setting boundaries, and if you want to learn more about how to set them, read my previous article about setting boundaries at work, with confidence.
However, for the first 2-3 months, I would advise you to dig in, be proactive and work the hours. As mentioned earlier, first impressions stick, and you’re expected to be engaged and hungry to learn and contribute in a new role.
Hopefully this shouldn’t be too difficult as starting a new role and learning new stuff is exciting. At the same time, once you start feeling more up to speed, it’s important you start thinking about what your boundaries are, and act accordingly. This could be leaving work at a fixed time, or saying no to requests that aren’t within your scope of work, or that you simply don’t have the time for.
So be mindful of getting the balance right. Reflecting back on your week and thinking ahead is a very useful habit, which I’ll explain in more detail now.
5. Reflecting back at your week and improve the next
One of the best times to start a new habit is when you’re going through a big life change, such as starting a new role. And in my mind, one of the most useful habits you can adopt is to set aside a fixed time every week, where you reflect back on the week, and ask yourself some questions that will remind you of what you have achieved, and what you can do better next week.
For me, Friday is a good day, as it’s literally the end of the working week, and usually a bit quieter. These are some of the questions I ask myself:
- What did I accomplish this week? (make sure to give yourself due credit)
- Did I accomplish everything I wanted to, and if not, how can I change things around next week?
- What could I have done better?
- What made me go for a certain decision, and was it effective?
By doing this every week and keeping a written record, you can track your progress and see how you develop over time. It’s very motivating and rewarding to see how far you’ve come, and to notice how your decision making matures. It also means you become a lot more productive as time goes on.
As a bonus, mark your 45th day in the new role in your diary ahead of time, and check in with yourself that day. Now you’re half-way through the first 90 days. How are things going, and do you feel a need to change up your tactics?
This is a great time to get some input from your boss as well, so you can make sure the next 45 days are even more successful.
6. How to get on with and impress your boss
I’ve kept some of the best for last – the relationship with your boss can really make or break your experience in a new role.
A very useful habit to adopt is to try to always see business matters from your boss’ perspective. The easier you can make your boss’ job, and the more you remind yourself that when it comes to decision making, they likely have more information than you do, the better you’ll feel and perform in your new role.
This doesn’t mean that you should never disagree with your boss, but in the first 90 days it’s especially useful to watch and learn before you voice your opinions.
One of the first things to get clear on, is what is expected of you in this role. It’s crucial that the work you do matters to your boss. Don’t just do the work you enjoy. Whatever is priority to your boss, should be your top priority – especially in the first 90 days.
Try to get to know your boss’ preferred style of working as soon as possible. Do they prefer scheduled meetings, or more spontaneous get togethers? What about when presenting them with options, do they prefer a couple, or many options? Also, do they like to communicate using facts and figures, or are they more elaborate and figurative?
The more you can match your boss’ style, the better. Forget about trying to change them, that’s likely not going to work.
If you disagree with him/ her, share your observation, and phrase your proposed solution as a question, rather than a fact.
See it as your job to make the relationship work. Be proactive, and reach out to your boss. Ask if it’s okay you check in regularly, and agree on the method and frequency of doing so. Does your boss prefer weekly or monthly meetings? In person, or via email?
Make sure you set up a review after 90 days. Again, initiate this yourself, and make this review the goal of your weekly check-ins with yourself. This is also a great motivation booster!
I hope you have found these strategies of how to prepare yourself for the first 90 days in your new role, useful.
It might be a cliche, but it’s nonetheless true: Make sure you also take care of yourself, get enough sleep, eat healthily and do some exercise that makes you feel good. This is going to add massively to your confidence, which is half the battle won.
All the best in your new role, feel free to check in with me and let me know how you get on 🙂