Your First 100 Days on the Job
At some point, every professional is the new person on the job. Even the latest additions to the Supreme Court will experience a transitional time as they acclimate to colleagues, the work environment, and procedures and practices.
The first 100 days on the job can shape management’s opinions about your potential in your new role and within the organization. Although most companies understand that you need time to adapt, they also take note of how you go about it. For instance, do you make an effort to fit in, or do you immediately begin to question existing policies and standards? Early impressions can be lasting ones, so keep the following in mind:
- Take time to socialize: True, you want to send the message that you are a hard worker and contributor to the team, but you also want to form effective working relationships with your co-workers and managers as soon as possible. Your colleagues can be your strongest allies during your tenure with the organization and play a key role in your ability to accomplish your most important objectives. Attending department lunches, birthday celebrations and other group activities can help you build rapport with other employees. Also consider scheduling brief 15-minute meetings with people in your group to get a sense of what they do and how you can assist them in your role. Although everyone is busy, most co-workers will appreciate your interest and desire to be a team player.
- Don’t rock the boat: You might be shocked to find the company uses a particular desktop system—one you consider substandard on many levels. However, unless you are specifically asked for your opinion of the system, it’s best not to voice your concerns immediately. There might be a reason the system was selected that you are unaware of, and you might be perceived as criticizing others’ decision-making abilities. When in doubt, refrain from making quick judgments and adhere to existing practices and procedures until you become more familiar with the company’s operations and culture.
Also take note of the preferred communication style at the company. In which situations do people tend to send e-mail, use the phone or hold meetings? You might be prepared to send a mass e-mail to employees letting them know the department server will be down one evening next week, only to learn that type of news is generally distributed through hard-copy memos. Always bear in mind that every organization is different, so what worked for a previous employer might not be appropriate for a new one.
- Seek help when you need it: Even if you are hired for a senior IT position, you won’t be expected to have a grasp of every aspect of your role from the beginning, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. In fact, most managers prefer that you seek assistance rather than attempting to learn through mistakes. Whether you’re struggling with a programming issue or just want to know where the office supplies are stored, most employees are particularly receptive to helping new colleagues in the initial months. Just be sure that your requests are reasonable and that you show appreciation for the advice you receive.
- Find out where you stand: Your first performance review is generally not held until you have been on the job for at least two or three months. This leaves a lot of time to make mistakes and get off track, so it’s wise to seek feedback from your supervisor prior to your formal meeting.
You might ask your boss if you can schedule a brief discussion after your first month to review your work at the company to date. Make a list of key questions before the meeting so you don’t overlook any critical issues. For instance, you might ask for his or her impressions of your contributions to a recent network security initiative or confirm that you are submitting purchase orders appropriately. Learning what you are doing right and what you might not be can help you maximize your performance during the remainder of the probationary period.
The first 100 days on the job can be intimidating, but they also can be full of excitement and promise as you build your reputation in a new company. Strive to adapt quickly to your new role by building effective relationships, following existing standards, asking for assistance when needed and soliciting early feedback. You will get off to the best possible start and have a good chance of becoming a valued new member of the team.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.