Career Advice from The Commercial Appeal. First Three Months on the Job Are Critical to Success

“First 90 days on the job crucial to success or failure at work.


You got the job.  How will you be successful in it?  What you do during your first 90 days will determine your success or failure.  It’s all about first and second impressions.

The first impression that you have to make involves your manager.  It’s a two-way impression.  You need to find out two things:  1. her/his expectations relative to assignments and priorities during your first 90 days, and 2. the manager’s style.  Number 1 tells the manager that you want to hit the ground running.  Number 2 tells you how you have to manage your boss.  Let’s look at each.

1. With the expectations and priorities, you also have to ask about related procedures and people resources (i.e. the go-to people).  Ask about the backgrounds of the go-to people, especially those in other departments.  Also, ask about the projects on which they’re working, and if some areas overlap your assignments.

Read the procedures before you talk with the go-to people.  You need to show them you did your homework based upon the specific assignments and priorities the manager gave you.  Knowing the basics of the processes opens the door to asking for their assistance in following them when executing your tasks.

When talking with your coworkers, show your interest in helping them, too.  You want to know about their jobs, how they do them and areas where they require assistance.

Mention the areas where your assignments may overlap theirs, and ask if you can collaborate with them on the overlaps.  Ask for copies of their proposals, projects and presentations.  These will give a better impression of the ‘how’ of their work and provide a frame of reference for building communication bridges.

The ‘how’ impression becomes your first step in alliance building.  Your immediate coworkers and those with whom you’ll interact in other departments are your network.  Their willingness to help you do your job and your reciprocation is a key to success.

Beyond telling you about the job, they’ll also tell you about what works and what doesn’t in the organization.  Align yourself with the make-it-happen people.

2. Relative to determining the manager’s style, the answer to one question – “How often do you want progress reports?” tells the story.  If the manager’s responses are along the lines of “Let me know if you run into problems” or “Keep me up to date”, etc. then you’re dealing with a delegator, not a micromanager.  You can double check your take on the manager’s style by asking the go-to-people about their interactions with the manager.

Managing your boss isn’t difficult.  The first thing to remember is that no manager likes bad surprises.  If you are having problems, or it looks like the timeline has moved out, let your manager know.  The same goes for priorities; if your manager changes them, ask what effect the change will have on the timelines of your other assignments.

Managing up is tied to frequency and depth of communication.  Micromanagers want more frequent communication than delegators.  Give them written updates a couple of times per week.  Make sure you include why you’ve done things a certain way.  Delegators like to know why, too, but they are only interested in summary information.  Weekly updates are usually fine.

Managing up also involves asking:  “What’s up?”  “What’s changed?”  “What’s new?”  and “How can I help?”

Some cautionary words for new supervisors:  Don’t make changes until you know how such changes would impact other areas.  Make your own judgment about the capability of your staff.  Absorb and observe; listen far more than you talk.

After 90 days, you’ll be  a teammate, not a newbie.”

Source: Pawlak, J. (2016, December 18). First 90 days on job crucial to success or failure at work. The Commercial Appeal, 175(353), p. 4C.


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