9 Steps to Acing the First 90 Days on the Job

US News

Your first 90 days in a new work environment can make or break you. Three months is the standard grace period for newbies--and it's generally about the time that you have to find your feet and start contributing some real, concrete results.

No pressure, right?

It goes without saying that transitioning into a new job is a lot to manage. You probably have a hundred questions running through your mind: Am I going to be able to learn the new procedures quickly? Will I be able to handle the workload? Will I fit in with my team? If you start off with a proactive attitude toward making a great three-month long first impression, you'll set the scene for a fast start to a great new year.

It's all about fitting into the company culture and crafting a role in your new team. Here's a checklist to make it happen starting day one:

1. Let your boss know you're open to constructive criticism. Not everyone is responsive to hearing negative things about their performance--this is why some employers might shy away from giving you consistent feedback, saving much of the negatives for your formal performance review. But why would you want to wait?

Let your boss know that you want constructive criticism. Laying this out will encourage her to give you valuable feedback. And if you find that there is an issue with your performance, you can work to improve before your official review comes around.

2. Manage expectations. Don't lie about your expertise. The problem with the whole fake-it-until-you-make-it technique is that you risk skipping fundamentals. For instance, if you lie about your level of expertise in Photoshop, then all the tasks you have to do involving this program are going to be harder than you can handle. Let your employer take your learning curve into consideration. Or else you'll run out of steam in no time.

3. Observe the company culture. A huge part of integrating into your new work environment is showing that you're a good cultural fit. Now since you got the job, chances are your employers saw something in you that matched their company culture. Prove them right. One way to do this is to use the same communication style as others in your office. For instance, do your co-workers use instant messaging more than email? Follow suit.

4. Ask these three important questions about your goals. There are three key questions you need to ask your boss upon being hired, says Barry Maher, owner of the management sales consulting firm Barry Maher & Associates:

--What does he or she absolutely need you to do within the first 90 days?

--What would he or she like you to do beyond that during the first 90 days?

--What would he or she consider world-class performance during that period?

"Then do everything you can to meet that standard, keeping your boss appraised of your progress. And if you're falling behind, don't be afraid to ask the boss what he or she would advise you to do to get back on track," Maher says.

"Follow that plan," he adds, "and no matter what you finally do end up achieving, the boss is going to be impressed by your drive."

5. Update your new role on LinkedIn. Broadcasting your new role to your professional network shows your enthusiasm and commitment to the job. It's signaling to all other hiring managers and recruiters that you've been swept up.

6. Know your office logistics. Make a conscious effort to learn all the office basics to show that you're savvy and resourceful. Rather than pestering your cubicle neighbor about little things (like where the copy machine is), try and figure these things out yourself. Some basic key players to look out for: the HR department, the IT/help desk, and the company directory.

7. Always say yes to lunch. Eating alone during the first three months on the job means you're missing a huge opportunity on key networking moments. Lunch is a great opportunity to build trust with your colleagues and let them get to know you a little better.

8. Avoid gossip. You're too new to get involved with who did what at the last holiday office party. More importantly, who cares? Your first three months should focus on proving your expertise. While it's important to be congenial and engage in small talk (No. 7), exit when the topic starts getting a little too gossipy.

9. Show enthusiasm. In all the craziness of this big transition, remember to smile. Maher says that the biggest pitfall during the first 90 days for employees is they forget that the adjustment is never going to be completely seamless--there will be "periods when you're confused, lost, flustered, or discouraged," Maher says. "Or even all four."

That's OK. Your new colleagues will pay more attention to the way you handle these pitfalls rather than the pitfalls themselves.

Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.

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