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When you get a new position, either because you’re joining your employer for the first time, or have a significant role change, the first 90 days will set the scene for how you’re perceived within the organization. Your first 90 days will often afford you opportunities to do things that will become more difficult as time passes.
I’d like to break this into 3 areas.
- How can you understand your new role as effectively as possible, in the first 90 days?
- How can you make the most impact in the first 90 days?
- How can you ensure that you build on those first 90 days, for the rest of your time with your employer?
Understand your new role in the first 90 days.
Often employers have an induction process, but it’s typically quite skeletal, and in your first 90 days you want to get fully up to speed with the job. Too often I see recruitment processes where the job and person descriptions are very explicit but then, when you start work something very different is expected of you.
In your first few days, walk through your job description with your immediate manager and perhaps other team members. Write down a checklist of all the things that you need to know and detail what you must do to be fully up to speed. Explicitly identify what aspects of your job description are critical to your success and seek to explore in more detail some of the more generic responsibilities specified in the job.
Often you will be expected to operate in a differently than what you are used to elsewhere. Sometimes some processes require you to get to know people outside your immediate area of work. Very often you need to get an explicit handover from your team because the person you’re replacing has already moved on. It may also be that there is training that you require or need. Make sure this is within your first 90 days, because if you miss the annual training cycle, then you may miss out for a whole year.
So, use your job description to understand what it means to get up to speed, but also use your job description to ask other questions about what the job really entails. In most organizations, the on-the-ground realities do not match the formal expectations of how a job is done. Very often, there will be informal processes that you need to understand that are vital to your success.
Build yourself a detailed plan so that within the first 90 days you are confident that you fully understand what the job is, you’re fully equipped to do that job, and are well-positioned to succeed.
How to make the most impact in your first 90 days.
It is all too easy to get lost in the getting up-to-speed and then you find that after 90 days your immediate manager, or more senior managers or people in the team think ‘What have you really done?’.
I recommend you see the first 90 days, as a project where you’re trying to establish two or three areas where you will be able to demonstrate significant impact by the end of this time. They appointed you for a reason. Often that reason was they wanted change to happen. You need to be very clear about defining the impact that you want to make in collaboration with your manager and team. Ensure you fully understand what is necessary for that success and run a project for those two or three significant impacts that can be demonstrated successfully within 90 days.
As you execute this project, make sure that people know the progress you want to make. Ensure you’ve got the buy-in and support of the people around you to achieve your outcomes and ensures that the impact you want to achieve remains aligned to the organisations needs as time passes.
You want to avoid the scenario where you go full ahead with an initiative. Then six weeks, something happens which makes your outcome irrelevant, and when you deliver, nobody cares.
Build on your first 90 days, for the rest of your time with your employer.
It’s important to build clarity about your development path within the organisation. You’re not only moving forward with intention, but the people around you support you towards your destination. With the success of your first 90 days, you are firmly positioned to have significant conversations about what the future could look like for you.
Look at other people who are 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, or 2 years ahead of you in the organisation. Is that where you want to get to? Is that the next step for you? Or are there other paths that are more interesting to you?
Now you’ve arrived and understand how things work. You’ve got beyond the honeymoon period; what are the realities that mean you want to renegotiate your future career path, change the balance of your responsibilities, or work your way out of one job into another?
Have a plan for how you want to move forward. Recognise that plan will evolve, as you better understand your opportunities and challenges within your organisation. But make sure you’ve got a plan and you’re working on that plan.
When I became a senior manager in Business Consulting at Arthur Andersen, I was told that you need to spend a year doing great stuff, and another year telling everybody about it. If you did that, then within 2 years you would be a candidate for partnership, so it appeared.
Get stuff done, and make sure people know that you’ve been doing it. In the event, it was 3 years until I became a partner, but that intermediate year was an important time for me to better understand what I wanted out of a partnership role.
You’ve got a new role, either a new job with a new employer or a new one with the existing one. The first 90 days are crucial to establishing yourself in that role, demonstrating the value you can bring, and supporting your plans for the future.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.