Mastering a New Job

The first 90 days will set the tone for your tenure with a company

Starting a new job can be both exciting and daunting.

Often lingering in the back of your mind are the inevitable questions about whether you made the right move, whether your contribution will be valued and whether the reality of the new job will live up to its expectations.

What happens in the first 90 days of your new job will set the tone for your tenure with your new company. You have a limited window of opportunity, so you need to try and make the most of it.

There is no magic formula that will assure a smooth transition, but the following steps can help you make the most of your new opportunity:

  • Do your homework. Much of your success during the first 90 days comes before you report for work on the first day. Take the time to learn all you can about your new company. Ask for materials such as information about the company’s products and services and/or business strategies. Jot down key questions you have for when you start.
  • Start with a clean sheet. Conduct an in-depth personal inventory of your skills, behaviors and attitudes. Think about previous jobs and experiences including what worked, what didn’t – and why. You’ve got an ideal opportunity to build the new and improved professional you. Write down the personal characteristics that you’d like to improve and develop a strategy to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
  • Orientate yourself. As part of your orientation, your company should do a number of things to bring you up to speed and get you plugged in as fast as possible. But you can’t always bank on the company taking the initiative. Sadly, few companies recognize the value of making orientation a priority. If necessary design and implement your own orientation program. Set up meetings with the key people you will interact with, find out what departments you will need to work with and look for resources you need or that you can draw upon.
  • Stay grounded. Companies exist to serve customers. Find out all you can about your new company’s customer base including what attracts them to your company, why they stay and why they leave and try to base your decisions on what the customer wants.
  • Get cultured. One of the most important ingredients of success in any new job is how your skills mesh with the corporate culture. Look for clues about how the company operates. Does your boss like information relayed through impromptu face-to-face meetings or via email? Is it an open-door environment or are formal meetings preferred? How are they conducted? Who needs to be involved? Who do you need to keep in the loop and when? How flexible is your new company when it comes to lunch hours, time off and work arrangements? The more you know and understand about the unwritten rules, the more effective you will be.
  • Listen up. Your short and long-term success depends on other people. The team you are joining was in place before you arrived. Look for ways to fit in, build a sense of camaraderie and become a part of the team. Understand the personalities and capabilities of those above you, below you and beside you. More important, initially, is not what you do, but rather how you do it. People like to work with people they feel a connection with. Find out about their likes and dislikes, expectations, goals, disappointments and concerns. Treat everybody as equals with an air of cautious openness and don’t be too quick to align yourself with anyone.
  • Avoid politics. Keep your hands clean and your nose to the grindstone. Hard work will be recognized and rewarded. Getting caught up in internal politics or turf battles is a no-win proposition.
  • Share credit. One of the quickest ways to gain acceptance for you and your contributions is to include other people. Involve them from the get-go and they will help you steer through political minefields, polish your ideas and make for a better contribution. When it works, give them the credit. If it bombs, shoulder the responsibility. When you make mistakes, take responsibility for them immediately. Replace “I” and “me” in your vocabulary with “we” and “us.” You will quickly engender a flood of support and good will.
  • Do your chores. One of the most effective ways to learn about an organization is to roll up your sleeves and do the menial tasks that are necessary in any job. How are the phones answered? How is printing done? The mailroom? Showing a willingness to understand and be involved in these tasks will enhance your standing and provide a better understanding of what it takes to get the job done.
  • Be tactful. Don’t rush to judgment. The idea or strategy you’re knocking is likely somebody’s pet project. Let go of your own preconceived notions and try to understand why it was developed and how it has been implemented. You may learn something. Even if you don’t, by showing your understanding and support you may be able to make thoughtful enhancement.
  • Set the right precedents. In your rush to please, you may be prone to tackle more of the workload, work long hours or involve yourself in areas beyond your sphere of influence. Be mindful that precedents can be hard to overturn. When you scale back or slow down, it could be perceived as a waning of commitment or enthusiasm.
  • Keep balance. Don’t forget the other priorities in your life like family, health, hobbies and friends. If all parts of your life are not in alignment, there’s no way you will find fulfillment on the job.


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