How to make your first 90 days in a job successful

Author: Sue Timlin, Global Director of People & Culture, Hays Talent Solutions

If you think about it, the first 90 days in a new job, aren’t too dissimilar to the 90 minutes of a football match. Just like in football, every moment counts. This is your chance to prove your ability to perform, work well within a team and demonstrate to all of the important people watching that you have the potential to move upwards in your career.

There will also be times where you need to take feedback on board, be ready for curve balls and review your strategy. In this blog, I provide some guidance on how to make the most of your first 90 days within a new role. I will also seek advice from some our senior Hays executives based on their industry experience, plus some of Manchester City’s key players, who deal with similar situations on the pitch.

Start preparing before day one

Wouldn’t it be great if you felt like you already had a head start on day one? Before you start your new job, refresh your memory on the company background, and the products and services in its portfolio. Make sure you are also as clear on what your new role entails, and how it fits with the rest of the team and wider business goals.

Now start planning the more practical elements such as your journey, what you are going to wear, and if there is anything you need to bring. The night before, get a good night’s rest. Get up early, have a decent breakfast, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the office. I would aim to be about 30 minutes early.

Preparing for a football match is no different. In fact, Manchester City Midfielder, Fernandinho draws on some useful parallels here: “Before a game, preparation is key. Every small detail matters – eating the right food, sleeping well and warming up properly – it’s all important”.

So, the takeaway here is that strong preparation ahead of day one will put you in good stead, and sets the tone for the next 90 days in your new role.

Arrive with no pre-conceived ideas

Manchester City Women’s captain, Steph Houghton points out how in football, every game is different, and it is important not to dwell on the past. “Before every game, it is important to focus on the game ahead. Your team, the opposition, their tactics and training methods, will constantly evolve. Approach each game as a clean slate, and be ready to learn something new.”

The same can be said about starting a new job. Forget about your experiences at your previous employers, good or bad, and get rid of any preconceived notions which stem from them. Even if you are staying within the same industry, or going to work for a similar company, keep an open mind. No two jobs will be the same, so approach your first 90 days as a fresh start, and embrace the unknown.

First impressions count

David Silva notes “when you walk onto the pitch, you feel like the world is watching. It is important to hold your up head high and not let your nerves get the better of you.”

Of course, on your first day in your new job, you won’t have quite so many eyes on you, but you still want to make a good first impression. Understandably, you may be feeling nervous, so practice ways to act confident, from adjusting your posture to making eye contact and smiling as you talk.

As you are introduced to people, deploy name remembering tactics, like repeating their name back to them as you introduce yourself. For instance, if a new colleague was to say to me “Hi, I’m Laura”, I would reply with, “Hi Laura, I’m Susie”. If these introductions don’t feel rushed, and there’s a gap for small talk, then make polite conversation, for example, “It’s great to meet you, Laura, how long have you been with the company for?” This demonstrates that you are interested in them and personable to talk to.

Build a network of support

Following on from the initial introductions, it is important that you make an effort to get to know your colleagues in the upcoming days. A good network of support is as essential to your performance, as a good team is to that of a footballer’s.

Karen Young, Director, Hays, points out that “taking the time to meet each colleague individually, starting with those closest to where you are working, can pay huge dividends later. These are the people who can offer you guidance, answer your questions and help you to feel settled in this unfamiliar environment.”

On that note, once you get back to your desk after those first introductions, map out a seating plan and write down the names of the people who sit at each desk. From this point on, take advantage of any opportunities to socialise, whether it’s at work social events, or just being in the kitchen at the same time making lunch! If these colleagues need your help on something work related, willfully step up (granted your line manager says this is ok and your workload permits). The people can be your allies during those first 90 days, so it’s important to keep them on your side.

Celebrate early successes, but don’t get complacent

All of this hard work and preparation may well pay off sooner than you think, and you may experience a quick win. Congratulate yourself, and let this spur you on to continue along this trajectory, but whatever you do, don’t get complacent.

Kevin De Bryune states “sometimes, a player will score early on, which is always a cause for celebration. However, it’s important to not let this affect your focus and determination. Start as you mean to go on, and aim to arm your team with as many goals as possible, because anything could happen for the remainder of the game”. The bottom line is, don’t rest on your laurels and remember, your first 90 days can never be too successful.

Identify missed opportunities

On the flip side, you may experience defeat during your first 90 days, whether it’s failing to close a deal or meet a personal objective that you set for yourself. The key here is to learn from the situation, but don’t dwell, and certainly don’t let this throw you off the rest of your game.

Speaking from their experience on the pitch, Manchester City captain, Vincent Kompany quite rightly states that “during a match, sometimes you’ll miss opportunities and face setbacks. When this does happen, it’s important not to let your head drop. Stay focused, in control and confident and you’ll soon find yourself back to your best. If you’re finding it difficult, look to your colleagues and teammates for support.”

Stop and reflect

Think of your halfway point during the first 90 days as being like half-time during a football match. In both contexts, this is the chance to stop, reflect and readjust your strategy if needed.

Ilkay Gundogan says “Every game provides an opportunity to learn, develop and adjust your tactics. At half time, we regroup as a team, reflect on our performance and look at ways to build on the first half and hopefully go on to win the game.”

With this in mind, use your halfway point to assess what has gone well and what hasn’t. Ask your manager to provide some input and guidance. This is your chance to change tact and make the most of the second half of this period.

Plan your next steps

Once your 90 days are up, and you have experienced working life in this role and organisation, it’s time to think about the next steps and do what’s best for your career.

Robby Vanuxem, Managing Director, Hays Belgium, recommends that you “consider whether you enjoyed working within this organisation so far. Have the people been supportive and welcoming? Do you still think this company can offer you a promising career where you are able to develop yourself further? Ultimately, are the reasons that you joined this organisation still valid?”

If so, then brilliant. Sit down with your manager, and start planning the next step in what I hope will be a long and prosperous career within this company. If not, then have an honest conversation, explaining your concerns. With any luck, your manager will be able to address these concerns and put a plan in place to make the next 90 days a lot more promising.

To a large extent, your first 90 days on a job are only as good as you make it. If you can take a leaf out of some of the Man City players’ books, being a strategic, diligent and self-reflective team player, you give yourself every chance of making your first 90 days a successful one.

Thank you for reading. For more insights and advice about the world of work, visit our dedicated blog page here or click on one of the links below.