Joanna was over the moon about accepting a new role as a senior program manager at a consumer products company. But as her start date approached, her new job anxiety set in.
The position ticked all her boxes:
- It was a substantial level up in terms of title and salary
- She felt sure the responsibilities and the culture were perfect fits
- She was excited about the prospect of building an innovation team.
However, Joanna couldn’t shake a feeling of imposter syndrome. She started to doubt herself as her start date inched closer. She second-guessed whether she was cut out for the job she worked so hard to land.
As an executive coach, I’ve seen many leaders like Joanna (name changed), worry about starting a new job. As Sensitive Strivers, they care about making an impact and put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed. Because they feel deeply, they may over-analyze situations and overthink themselves into a frenzy, particularly in the face of uncertainty and stress.
What gives Joanna and Sensitive Strivers like her a sense of confidence and peace of mind is having a plan.
So, if you’ve recently landed a new role, congratulations! Know that it’s normal to be nervous. By having a plan, you can conquer new job jitters and hit the ground running. These steps will prepare you for success in the first 90 days.
Starting a New Job: Tips for Success
Think of your first 90 days on the job as (1) an extension of the interview and (2) a chance at a fresh slate. Not only is it a crucial time to establish the value you provide, but it’s also an important chance to build healthy relationship dynamics and fix self-sabotaging habits you’ve acquired over the years like overworking, saying yes too much, or not speaking up enough.
Your goals in the first 90 days should include:
- Establishing credibility
- Building influence quickly
- Creating trust
- Crafting a personal brand
Here’s how to get there.
At least a week before you start a new job…
Contact your manager
Touch base with your new boss. Reiterate your enthusiasm for joining the team. Explain that you’re looking forward to getting started. Ask them for recommendations on making a smooth transition. Confirm logistics like where you should report (if in-person), or times you should be online (if working remotely).
Do your homework
Do preliminary research to get a head start on understanding the organization. Read through materials such as annual reports, town hall memos, strategy decks, etc. that are provided by your new manager or publicly available online. That way, you can feel more confident and informed in early conversations and ask deeper, intelligent questions.
Define your personal brand
Take control of your narrative by deciding what you want to be known for. Do you want to be the go-to person for analytics? Or perhaps you want to be seen as a strong people leader, for example? Joanna, the client whose story I shared earlier, was clear that she wanted to be seen as someone who was strategically strong and also encouraged a culture of feedback on her team.
Within your first ten days of a new job…
Embark on a listening tour
Your first week should be spent getting a lay of the land. Review the org chart and put together a list of individuals to meet –– colleagues, stakeholders, decision-makers. Also, connect with key customers and vendors. Use the 70/30 rule: 70% of the time inquire about how things work. 30% of the time, share background on yourself so people get to know you and how you think. Your goal with a listening tour is to understand people’s motivations, pain points, and desires. But you’re also learning:
- Who already has influence
- The political landscape
- Who the superstars are so you can model their behavior
Have key conversations with your manager
The strongest relationship you have at the office should be with your manager. Build a foundation by telling them you’d like to have a few key conversations in your first few weeks on the job:
- The situational diagnosis conversation. I also call this the “data dump” conversation. It’s usually where your boss shared their perspective on the team or organization’s history, context, and vision for the future, as well as how you plug into it.
- The expectations conversation. Michael Watkins, who created this 5-conversation framework, says you should discuss questions like What are the few key things that your new boss needs you to accomplish in the short term and medium-term? What will constitute success? When? How will it be measured?
- The style conversation. Get clear on how your boss and you will communicate. Understand your manager’s style – are they more analytical? Relaxed? Collaborative? Process-oriented? Understand how and when you’ll receive feedback.
- The resources conversation. What do you need to do your job successfully? This could be financial resources, people, tools, or influence.
- The personal development conversation. Don’t neglect this conversation. Be upfront about your short- and long-term career aspirations. Are there skills you want to learn? Competencies you want to develop?
Show your face
It’s easy to get so overwhelmed during your first few weeks on a job that you fail to put yourself out there. That’s a mistake. Go out of your way to introduce yourself in meetings, on Slack, etc. Nail down an elevator pitch about your function and add a dose of personality with a random fun fact.
By the end of your first month…
Identify quick wins
You should now have a better idea of where you can add value for the team or organization.
Look for opportunities to secure quick wins. For example, could you create a process? Improve customer relationships? Spearhead a new project? Overdeliver to earn instant credibility and prove to others that you’re a self-starter who can be trusted to follow through and make change happen.
Set healthy boundaries
You teach people how to treat you, so make sure you’re not treating yourself like a pushover. After about 30 days, you’ll start being pulled into new projects; extra demands will begin falling on your plate. Get comfortable diplomatically saying “no” where needed. Set expectations with other teams and stakeholders for what you can –– and can’t –– do for them. And make sure you’re letting go of work at the end of the day.
Make it official
It’s now time to update your LinkedIn profile with your new job description. Circle back with contacts who supported you during your job search and let them know about your position.
Within 3 months of starting a new job…
Sit down with your boss around the 90-day mark to explicitly touch base on your performance. Discuss how you’re tracking towards goals. Do a brief pulse-check with stakeholders to see if you’re still in agreement on expectations. Connect with senior staff members who can provide ongoing mentorship.
Make your accomplishments known
Making your achievements visible is key to success, but can feel awkward, especially when you’re still relatively new. But the truth is, it’s better to start early and ritualize it. For example, start sending a monthly round-up to the leadership team, or publish a weekly team newsletter.
Start a brag file
With your first performance review only a few months away, now is the time to create a brag file, which is a work journal where you log wins, positive feedback, and lessons learned. It’ll be a boost to your confidence to watch your progress grow, but it will also come in handy come review time.