Winning in the First 90 Days

*This article is also shared on LinkedIn Pulse: ‘Careers: Getting Started’ channel. You can find it here

Businesswoman climbing ladder.

Your first 90 days in a new workplace are crucial. Within that time you must not only prove you can perform the job, you must prove you were worth the investment. Rookie mistakes can unfortunately create lasting impressions causing challenges during your tenure or prevent you from making it to day 91.

Everyone is watching the “newbie”. Co-workers will question your background, your qualifications and quickly form an opinion about you.

When you start a new job it can be extremely nerve-racking, I know! So here are a few suggestions I give my clients to help them score big within their first 90 days.

Do Your Research! Find out anything and everything you can about the company you are working for and if possible, the department or territory you will be in. Research trends within the industry and find out how you can leverage your knowledge with colleagues and management.

Observe. Pay attention to how employees interact with one another. See how they engage during meetings and who speaks up more than others. Remain watchful of who agrees with one person’s view over another. This will tell you about who the influencers are.

Lunch time! See who eats lunch in the break-room; Who eats lunch at their desk? Who goes out with a group for lunch or by themselves? These little things tell you a lot about employees. The behaviors of employees during lunch hour can give you an idea of how they interact with one another.

Ask questions. To make a conscious decision about who you should and should not interact with, you will have to ask the right questions. See what colleagues say about the company by asking questions such as:

What do you like most about working here?

Who do you enjoy working with the most? Why?

These are light questions that will strike up conversation but also get you to know more about how employees view the company and who the influencers are within the organization. Notice, these questions do not encourage negative conversation. You don’t want to get into a conversation where one employee is bashing another employee, or even worse, the company.

Never Gossip. New employees often find themselves in difficult circumstances facing pressure to engage in gossip; comparable to high-school years and having the desire to be accepted within a particular group. This pressure can sometimes cause you to do things you may not necessarily want to do, but you do anyway just to feel included. Resist the urge. You don’t know anyone enough to have an opinion and even if you did, gossip never has a positive outcome.

Gossip = A distraction you cannot afford.

Remember, leaders don’t blend in, they stand-out and set the standard.

Problem Solving – Stay Positive. When a problem arises take time to digest the issues first, then provide positive responses and focus on the resolve. Diffuse any finger-pointing by reminding colleagues to focus on fixing the issue, not re-hashing details leading up to the problem. Forget fitting in. Instead focus on doing great work, showing confidence and delivering results. The rest will follow.

If you want to become a recognized leader, people must first know who you are.

Speak up…..Strategically. Yes, you are the newbie but that doesn’t mean you were born yesterday. Make sure the atmosphere is welcoming. Don’t over-talk someone or cut them off. Wait until the timing is appropriate and then share your thoughts, but be sure to begin with positive statements showing you respect the opinion of others as well. Just because you started a new job doesn’t mean you lose all your knowledge and skills. Get in there and be a voice!

If you’re in charge of managing a team of people, walk around and introduce yourself or have a meeting to get to know them. Share something about yourself, your leadership style and helpful ways they can best communicate with you. The best thing you can do in your new workplace is to create an atmosphere welcoming open communication. Sure, many employees will have to feel you out before they tell you anything about themselves, but I suggest you initiate the conversation first.

The bottom line

Don’t look at the first 90 days as a tip-toe situation requiring you to stay under the radar. Look at it as an opportunity to lay a solid foundation about who you are and what you can do to improve performance and sustainability efforts within the organization.

Mary V. Davids is Principal Consultant at D&M Consulting Services, LLC, a consultancy specializing in employee engagement, leadership coaching, career development and personal branding. Follow Mary on twitter @MVDavids.

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