Starting a New Job? Follow These Tips on How to Succeed 30, 60, and 90 Days In
M.M.’s Director of People shares tips on setting realistic boundaries, getting the most out of onboarding, and establishing yourself as an expert.
Congratulations, you’re hired! After all the resume touch-ups, networking, interviews, case studies, offers, and negotiations that come with getting a new job, you probably feel like you could use a vacation. But oh, right—you have to actually start the new job. While onboarding is a major focus for many companies these days, it’s important to take ownership of your own career—especially at the very beginning of a new role. As a Society for Human Resources Management-certified Director of People at M.M.LaFleur, I’m here to share a few easy tips on how to get the most out of your first 90 days in a new job.
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The first 30 days in a new job should be focused on getting settled, learning, and adapting the role to fit your needs and boundaries.
Prepare for your first day by picking a killer (and comfy) First Day Outfit, getting yourself a shiny new notebook, and maintaining an open mind. Your first week or so will be pretty heavily structured by your company—there will be onboarding, HR paperwork, and basic trainings. During this time, pay attention to the onboarding you receive. You may want to rush through the training sessions to get to work, but it’s important to pick up company norms, expectations, and procedures during this time. You can learn a lot about your new company and team from the onboarding process, including things like communication style, strictness of deadlines, order of operations, and key values. If you have to clock your time or use a new HR system, make sure you take the time to learn while you’re fresh and don’t have other work on your mind. You’ll thank yourself later (and your HR rep will thank you, too!).
Whether your work is in-person or remote, take time in the first 30 days to meet as many colleagues as possible. Of course, you should grab coffee with your boss, join a Slack thread with your teammates, and make small talk with your cross-functional partners, but also pay attention in large group meetings or presentations and see if you can get time with anyone at the company who seems interesting. You’ll get a more well-rounded picture of the company, the culture, and the tips you won’t find in an onboarding packet. If developing social relationships at work is important to you, try to participate in as many “company fun” activities as possible, whether that’s chatting in an off-topic Slack channel about last night’s Bravo shows, debriefing your weekend near the coffee pot, or making the rounds at a company happy hour. This is the most time you’ll have to focus on making social connections.
If the company’s onboarding process is rushed, incomplete, or disorganized, make sure you ask for what you feel is missing. Realistically, it can be a struggle for a manager to balance their own day-to-day responsibilities with completing the perfect onboarding, but you still need to get the information somehow. If you try to power through with incomplete information, it could make your life much harder later on. Plus, trying to recoup the knowledge after the onboarding period will be more disruptive than asking for what you need in the moment.
Finally, establish boundaries. If you have to be finished working by 6:30pm on Wednesdays to take the kids to swim class, be clear about that. You may feel pressured to “make a good impression” by shifting your priorities to fit an employer’s expectations early on, but those boundaries aren’t going to magically appear a few months down the line. At M.M., we try to espouse the value, “Bring your whole self to work.” We know employees are people who have entire lives outside of our operations. Let the routine develop with your needs in mind.
You’ve gotten the lay of the land, and it’s time to start building. Hopefully, you’ve fallen into a comfortable rotation of everyday work outfits as well. Remember my previous advice, though: Don’t try for total independence too quickly. At what other point in this job will you be this free to try things with backup, get close feedback on your work, and make mistakes in the pursuit of learning?
Don’t try to be the fastest learner or the department’s “kid genius.” Take advantage of the fact that you probably still have extra face time with your manager and that peers are happy to walk you through procedures and systems. Make sure it makes sense, ask where it doesn’t, and note areas for later improvement.
Communication is key during this phase. Clarify expectations, verbalize deadlines, and get to know the unspoken work style of your team. Does the team value speed the most, or can you push a deadline by a day in order to provide a more well-thought-out product? What is the most effective way to get a response from that uber-busy marketing analyst to double check the numbers in your upcoming presentation? Take stock of what resources you’re expected to use to perform your tasks, and if you think something is missing, ask for it. Remember, it’s so much simpler to ask for help when you’re learning something than it is to assume you’ve got it, do it wrong, and have to re-learn it a few months down the line.
You can start to put your signature on things during this period: Set up team meetings in your own style and build the foundations of new systems, but resist the urge to tear things down while you’re still getting the full picture. Build trust and be intentional as you make your mark.
By this point, you’re pretty well-established in your day to day, and you’ve developed a good rhythm. Now is the time to turn your growth outward. Wear that bright color you’ve been holding back. Be confident in meetings and put your work out there. Collaborate with your peers and nurture ties across the organization. Be sure you are getting the right eyes on your and your team’s work, and become an expert in the metrics related to your role. Track your deliverables and find key performance indicators that you can share, even if your function is a less numbers-driven one. Translating your team’s successes into terms other stakeholders can appreciate will help you establish yourself as a trustworthy partner and leader. You’ve nurtured relationships and paid close attention to the processes you’re learning—now is your chance to try variations on the norm. Try out your skills and see what sticks. Seek advice often. (Pro tip: Ask for advice instead of feedback, and people will give you so much more information, because asking for advice encourages them to share what they’ve learned throughout their own experiences and gives them the space to help you without feeling like they are criticizing you.)
As you near the end of this period, reflect on the last 90 days. Hopefully, you feel…normal. There’s no graduation ceremony for work, and you’ve been developing skills and systems over time. You’re in your role now, and you’re going to continue moving forward. Does it feel good? Is there anything else you need to be successful? What goals would you like to set for yourself next? Get to work!