The job search and interview process can feel grueling, but don’t rest your laurels on landing the job alone. Your first 90 days of work in a new job are your opportunity to shine and set yourself up for success. Even if your company provides a rigorous onboarding and orientation program, the onus is still on you to prove yourself, and a lot of simple behaviors can drastically improve your outcomes. Here are a five key areas to focus on along with pro-tips to get you on the right track, from day one!
Understand Organizational Structure Your new employer should let you know where you stand in the organization, and you should certainly be told whom you report into. However, that’s not always enough! If the details were not laid out for you during your interview process, make sure you take it upon yourself to understand the larger picture of your business. By crystallizing your understanding of the organization, a lot of your work can become more clear as well. It’s crucial to know who your boss reports into, and what stakeholders in the business their role impacts. When assignments trickle down, it’s often from the top. By understanding how each large and small – no matter how small – task impacts the organization, and for whom the final result is going to impact, you will be able to see the purpose of your role. Especially if you’re at a larger organization, this will help you understand how vital your position is, and prevent you from feeling like a cog in a massive wheel. A new employee who makes the effort to care about and understand what senior leadership is working on is going to stand apart greatly! Don’t be that person who fails to see the big picture and that sits heads-down waiting to be told what to do.
Pro-Tip: If you’re having trouble figuring out the nitty gritty and your boss is too busy to help you walk through it, ask them for an org chart so you can really see what the greater team looks like ー and make sure if any solid or dotted lines lead to you, you know who is on the other end!
Introduce Yourself to People There’s a time and place for heads-down productivity, but your first few months should be used to get to know your coworkers. Remain present in your new surroundings! Even if you have a lot of materials to review and documents to study, small things like saying hello at the watercooler, introducing yourself while waiting in line for the coffee maker in the kitchen, or just popping by the workstation of someone in close proximity to get to know them better can help you make a great impression ー not to mention teach you a lot about what others do. Try not to feel intimidated by employees with more seniority or that have been with the organization substantially longer than you ー chances are that multiple senior leaders had to sign off to approve your official offer, and that all of those people are thrilled to have you there. We often hear about candidates making great impressions during interviews, and then becoming a shrinking violet upon arrival. This can be detrimental, especially if you’re on a temp-to-perm assignment. If the outgoing, curious, ambitious personality you demonstrated during interviews disappears during your first 90 days, you may not convert, so use each day to be true to your best-self that was hired for the job!
Pro Tip: Be mindful when approaching new people at the office. Try not to approach them while they’re in a heads-down moment, deeply in concentration. But do say hello when the mood permits.
Be Proactive It takes a few days at least to get into your new routine, and usually much longer. However, you can pick up on cues starting on day one to help find your flow, and understand how your role can improve the lives of your manager(s), and ultimately your business’ bottom line. Observe your surroundings so that you’ll know how to develop the right routine, and anticipate the needs of your teammates and boss. By consciously taking note of office rhythms and where you fit in, you’ll be able to know what preparations are necessary before each weekly meeting, how action items should be distributed after a meeting, and how to keep track of all routine tasks and their status. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to train you to be efficient with your duties ー it probably won’t happen, and all that will happen is that you’ll fall behind. Pay attention, do your best, and don’t hesitate to ask questions when you really don’t know what’s next.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave your desk without a notebook and pen ー make sure you’re prepared to take copious notes at any given moment so you won’t forget anything. You can never take too many notes!
Be Resourceful In the same breath, if you’re asked to alphabetize an excel spreadsheet by column ー or something like that ー and your excel skills don’t cover that, google it first! Chances are you can teach yourself any basic excel feature ーand a lot of other things too! ー in about 5 minutes, and you won’t risk exposing an achilles heel when you’ve been hired as someone who said they could “figure anything out”. If your boss is notably busy all the time and in and out of meetings, it’s on you to seek out other resources to help you with fundamentals. Think of it this way ー if you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman and you forgot what time you report in to the rehearsal, you wouldn’t send 5 texts to the bride or groom that’s in a photo session asking them, would you?! They worked hard to make sure you have all the resources to get where you need to be, and have plenty more on their plate, so it’s on you to figure out who the right support contact is (whether it’s a fellow bridesmaid or groomsmen, or the IT helpdesk for a server issue)! Professional life sometimes involves deep training, but usually, you’re hired because you’ve shown you are resourceful and can figure out what it takes to get all tasks done ー don’t underestimate yourself, and don’t fear the unknown! Make sure in your first few weeks you collect all essential contacts for basic needs and tape a note on your desk so you never lose them.
Pro Tip: If you come up short on a google search to help you figure something seemingly simple out, communicate your roadblock to your manager. Make sure that if you need more time you say so, and can explain why. The last thing you want to do is waste time, or not complete an assignment.
Demonstrate Your Dependability Simple things like arriving a few minutes early, and choosing not to rush out the door exactly when your shift ends can speak volumes, especially in your first 90 days on the job. Experiencing an afternoon lull before you’re invited to take on project work? Ask your manager if there’s anything you can work on – simple as that! Whether by email, Slack, messenger, g-chat, or a good old fashioned drop-in to their office, show that you’re there to help, learn, and observe as much as you can. These are your three months to prove that you are indispensable, and quite frankly, optics matter! You want to be noticed for the right reasons: proactively offering your support, being a good listener, and proving that you’re there to make your team more productive. You don’t want to be known as someone who is indifferent, playing on their smartphone all day (unless you’re a mobile app developer or social media manager of course!), or that seems uncomfortable in a new setting or working with others.
Pro-Tip: Don’t wait until you’re walking out the door, with your bag in hand and commuter shoes on, to ask if there’s anything more you can do before the end of the day. Be genuine, and ask at an appropriate time that shows you’re truly willing to help!
If you bear all of these things in mind, you’re sure to earn your stripes in no time ー not to mention generally feel more engaged in your new job. A new job is always going to feel outside of your comfort zone, which is actually the best way to grow! These practices, when implemented right away, can help you develop habits in your first few months that will help you excel and be happy in your new position for the long run. Good luck!