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Keep cool: how to survive the first 90 days in a job

March 23, 2015
Borderless Leadership
The first three months in a job can be the hardest. Here’s our guide to surviving them.
 
After the application, interview, second interview and scoring a new job, the start date can almost seem like an anti-climax.
 
However, if you’ve put in the hard yards to get into your coveted role, you’ll want to make sure you continue to make the right impression in your probation period.
 
In February the unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.3 per cent, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing 15,600 people employed in full-time and part-time jobs.
 
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But with experts predicting the unemployment rate could rise to seven per cent by the end of 2015, if you’ve snagged a new job you’ll want to make the most of it.
 
Career Consultancy founder Catherine Cunningham says to make a great first impression you need to act in the first week as you intend to continue.
 
Business Women Media founder and brand strategist Amanda Rose agrees.
 
“Those first three months will establish your brand in their eyes, after that that they won’t change their opinion of you,” Ms Rose says.
 
“You should be working hard, observing your surroundings and making sure you understand the hierarchy, the workplace jungle.”
 
She says before you even start, give some thought to how you want to be seen: how you speak, dress and the hours you want to work.
 
Here are their top tips on how to make an impact in the first 90 days.
 
1. Make haste slowly
 
It might seem counter-intuitive, Ms Cunningham says, but going all out in your first few weeks will only lead to burnout.
 
“Learn to say no, you don’t want to get the reputation of someone who always says yes; you need to establish boundaries in the first few months.”
 
2. Be friendly … but not too friendly
 
One of the most damaging things you can do is be seen as someone who talks too much, Ms Cunningham says.
 
You also don’t want to divulge too much of your personal details, or even your ambitions within the company. Don’t mistake your new job for a social club.
 
3. Listen to more than words
 
“Try to pick up what is said beyond the words being said; have your antenna up so you listen to what’s being said through body language, tone of voice,” Ms Cunningham says.
 
“For example, if you ask ‘How am I doing?’, your boss might say you are doing well, and if you listen to the words you’ll think you are doing okay. But check: are they looking you in the eye, do they have a nervous gesture, does their voice lack conviction? If yes, then the message is different to the words they are saying.”
 
4. Find the power players
 
Try to find out who the influencers are in the company, Ms Cunningham says.
 
“Influencers are not necessarily matched with their roles. Somebody may not have a senior role but may be very influential.”
 
How to find them? Observe.
 
Ms Rose agrees, saying that this is also the time to write down your “gut instinct” feel about colleagues.
 
“You might think that this person is shrewd and ruthless, then you become friends and lose perspective, and are shocked when they do something ruthless.”
 
5. Set benchmarks
 
Ms Rose recommends finding out in the first week what the benchmarks for your new role are. This will allow you to compare your work to a set standard – and hopefully excel.
 
6. Make an impact
 
You might not want to be the chattiest staff member on the floor in your initial weeks, but you’ll want to make people take notice of what you do say.
 
“When you are in a meeting don’t speak the most, say one thing and make an impact,” Ms Rose says.
 
By Melissa Mack
 

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