Your first 90 days are critical for a number of reasons:
- It’s when all of your new coworkers will form their first impressions of you
- It’s when you’ll start to get slotted, or not, for interesting projects outside of your role
- It’s when you’re likely to make your new hiring manager look like a hero or a zero.
It’s not great, but first impressions are often the only ones that matter. So what can you do to give the best first impression over your first 90 days?
Cheat by starting early. Who says your 90 days has to start when everybody else’s does? Start early! Do the stuff you’d be embarrassed to do if you were actually in the office: deep dive product research, spend a lot of time on LinkedIn getting a feel for the other employees and sending out some friend requests, familiarize yourself with the origin story and get an early read on corporate culture, have some lunches with some future fellow coworkers and ask them about key projects or initiatives that are coming up.
One thing most people don’t think about: get some competitive intel. Until you’re working there you’re not working there and your LinkedIn profile and email won’t tip you off. Get a feel for your counterpart at comparable companies and you’ll have valuable insight on day one.
Hack the machine. Important things that most people neglect to learn while they’re still trying to set their email up:
- Familiarize yourself with corporate structure. Understand who reports to whom, how budget flows, which positions and departments have decision making authority for projects that might be relevant to you.
- Get a feel for the corporate culture. What motivations have the leaders put in place to move their teams? Competition? Cash? Social status? What kinds of things work best for you? Will there be an adjustment needed?
- What does success look like? What does your promotion and bonus cycle look like? What kinds of things do you have to do to get a top review? Do they even have a review process? If so, who are you going to be reviewing and reviewed by?
Forget your goals and ideas for the first quarter, go help someone else first. Despite your best efforts you’re still not going to know anything when you start. Not relative to what everybody else knows anyway. Do yourself a favor and don’t make a big show of picking some impossible goal only so you can spend the last 5 days of your first quarter with the company frantically trying to find excuses for why you’ve missed. Everybody knows why you missed: you didn’t know enough to pick a good goal, your manager may or may not know what they’re doing, and you got stalled out for resources or red tape and are dead in the water.
Save yourself the trouble: go find mentors, and fast. Get on their teams; make their goals your goals. You’re not going to get topline credit but it’s the fastest way for you to get the lay of the land. If you make yourself useful to smart people in month one they’ll help you with your goals in month two. This is how you build a network and networks are how smart companies and smart leaders get things done.
Most of all, remember to think about the long tail effect of everything you’re doing. The real goal of your first 90 days is to learn enough to start making something out of your first year. Get the fundamentals in place and in three months people will consider you a reliable resource and someone they who deserves to be riding shotgun on the most important projects.
By Jonathan Brill