How to Succeed in Your New Job: The First Week, Month and 90 Days
Congratulations on your new job! You’ve put in the hard work it takes to get to this point and that deserves a celebration.
There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with a new job. You’ll encounter new people, a new environment and a new set of responsibilities. To set you up for success, we’ve put together these tips to guide you through your first milestones.
The first week of a new job
Success during week one is about balance: you want to make great first impressions, but you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything right. The goal is to learn about your new workplace and feel out your place in that ecosystem.
In the first week:
1. Introduce yourself, relentlessly. Studies have shown that anxiety in new situations can come in part from not feeling confident in how to introduce ourselves. It’s a natural feeling — when you’re new, you don’t necessarily want to call attention to yourself. But in the first days of a new job, you want your enthusiasm to shine through. So, find the timing that feels right and give a quick, energetic introduction to the people you don’t know yet.
If meeting new people is particularly important to you, you can enlist the help of others. Mention to your manager that introducing yourself is a priority for you and ask for a list of people you should get to know. In meetings, you could ask the organizer to give you some time at the beginning or end to introduce yourself.
Here are some ways to ease into your introductions:
Prepare your opening lines ahead of time so you have a script at the ready when you encounter a new face.
Pay attention to your surroundings and other people. Don’t interrupt a meeting to introduce yourself or speak too loudly in communal spaces. As you’re introducing yourself, take note of how the other person is reacting. If they seem distracted, keep it short. If they seem receptive, you may want to get to know this person better. You can make a great first impression by making someone else feel heard.
Do your best to remember names. You can do this by saying the person’s name back to them and writing down a quick note about them when you part. Don’t get overwhelmed by needing to remember everyone’s name, though. If you forget someone’s name, honesty is the best policy: “I’m sorry, I’ve been taking in a lot of new information over the last few days. Could you remind me of your name?”
2. Ask well-timed questions. Research has shown that new employees perform better when they ask more questions. By asking your leaders and peers for new information, you’ll get up to speed quickly. But in your first week, you want to find the right time to ask questions. Here are some guidelines for how and when to ask:
Think about what you want to know. In some cases, you may need permission, while at other times you may need advice or validation. If you get specific, you’ll be better able to ask and less likely to waste time.
Prioritize the information you need. For example, if you can’t get your computer or access badge to work, that’s something you need help with immediately. If you’re not clear on the quarterly goals for your team, you can probably wait to talk with your manager about that over the coming weeks.
Write down your questions so you don’t forget. You can raise these questions during a one-on-one meeting with your manager. You should learn your manager’s preferences: Do they want to be asked questions via email or in person? If you have a lot of questions for one person or group, consider setting up a meeting rather than stopping by their desk or office. In the meeting invite, you can list out the questions you have. This gives them time to prepare responses.
3. Seek out a friend. Once you’ve made some introductions and have a sense of who you’ll be working with, ask a new colleague to lunch or coffee. It could be the person sitting next to you or another newcomer who started at the same time. Developing a trusted relationship will make you feel more comfortable as you’re getting to know this new workplace. In fact, research has shown that having social ties at work can make us more productive.
During this first week, you may not find your best friend or develop a deep relationship with anyone. But seeking out someone you can relate to even in the short term will provide some needed stability.
4. Learn how to navigate and enjoy your new workplace. Locate the restrooms, the coffee and water, the stairs and elevators, where you can eat lunch and take breaks, and seek out any other amenities this workplace offers. If you haven’t been given a tour, consider asking a colleague for one.
In this first week, you may also want to experiment with your commute: finding the right times to leave home and testing different routes or transportation methods. Identifying and establishing the routines early on will give you peace of mind.
Bonus first week tip: Add value
Most likely, your job was open and you were hired because there is a lot of work to be done. In your first week, your main priority should be to soak up information, but consider challenging yourself to add value in ways big or small. Here are some ideas of where to start:
Learn how to make the coffee. This task usually falls to the person who comes upon an empty pot. Be proactive and learn how everything works so you can make a fresh pot if you empty it.
Ask your manager what their biggest pain point is. Once you know the answer, spend your first week thinking about how to lessen that burden. Don’t force it or step on anyone’s toes, but if there’s something you can do, do it.
Think back to your interviews. Was there a specific need that came up? Consider writing up a short proposal for how you would take on that challenge.
The first month of a new job
After the exciting initial days on the job, it’s time to settle into your role. The goal in this first month is to learn how you can apply your skill set to the challenges and opportunities facing this organization.
In the first month:
1. Get to know your team better. It’s important to continue making new connections and allowing others to know you, too. By simply being around your new team and attentively observing how everyone works and collaborates, you’ll gain valuable insights about the company and group culture.
2. Get organized and set good habits. This job is a fresh start and a good opportunity to shed old routines. Take these first weeks to decide how you want to organize your calendar and to-do lists, how you’ll manage your time and the skills or practices you want to develop.
3. Define success with your manager. During the first few weeks, you and your manager should take time to clarify your mutual expectations. This includes understanding how you will work together, how you will get the resources you need to do your job well, and how your job performance will be assessed.
Here are a few guidelines for these conversations:
Come prepared and use time effectively. When you are seeking guidance or information, you should take on the work of driving that conversation.
Put yourself in your manager’s position. If you find that your expectations don’t align, try to see it from their perspective and find areas of overlap or compromise.
Identify early wins. There are probably a lot of things on your plate. As you learn more about what your manager values, prioritize the tasks that support their goals as well.
Bonus first month tip: Be humble and open-minded
When we are humble, we are acknowledging that we cannot go it alone. Take the time to thank the people who are showing you the ropes, don’t take credit for work you haven’t done and listen more than you speak. You’ve never done this exact job in this exact setting, so no matter how much experience you have behind you, keep an open mind.
The first 90 days of a new job
The goal during the first few months is to take ownership of your new role. During this time period, you should set yourself up to do your best work yet.
In the first 90 days:
1. Challenge yourself. In many situations, we have more power than we perceive. As Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer has said:
“Social psychologists argue that who we are at any one time depends mostly on the context in which we find ourselves. But who creates the context? The more mindful we are, the more we can create the contexts we are in. When we create the context, we are more likely to be authentic. Mindfulness lets us see things in a new light and believe in the possibility of change.”
Set ambitious goals for yourself, work towards those goals by diving into situations that support them, and continually repeat this process — striving to reach higher each time. You may not always achieve the goals you set for yourself, but the process of applying yourself with vigor is where significant personal and professional growth takes place.
2. Set boundaries. You may have spent the first month of your new job compromising on some of your boundaries. Maybe you came early and stayed late or took on extra projects to help others. This is a natural response in a new setting — we want to be obliging so that others will accept us.
In the first few months of your job though, you should begin to reestablish the boundaries that enable you to do your best work. While you should continue to be a team player, learning to say “no” will help you focus on your goals and manage time effectively.
3. Set up a three-month review. In some organizations, a 90-day review for new employees is common practice. Even if your new employer doesn’t have a formalized review at this time, you may want to ask your manager for an informal review.
This is a simple way to check in with each other and verify that you’re still on the same page. In your review, you can provide a status update on the goals you may have laid out in your first month. You can also look forward: what milestones does your manager expect you to have reached in the next three months? The next year?
4. Reconnect with old colleagues. Now that you’ve begun to settle into your new job, it’s a great time to update former coworkers and learn what’s happening with them.
Maintaining your professional network is a good way to keep a pulse on the job market and your profession. Our own analysis shows that 65% of employed people look at new jobs again within the first three months of starting a job.1 This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s already time to leave your new job. Rather, it signals a natural time in which to consider the next step in your career.
Bonus first 90 days tip: Be gentle with yourself
Believing in yourself is key to succeeding in a new job. You will undoubtedly face frustrations and make mistakes as you’re adjusting. Don’t fixate on what you have yet to accomplish. Focus instead on how far you’ve already come and where your hard work will take you next. After all, from a pool of candidates, your new employer chose you for this job — you’ve got this.