The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Americas have held an average of 12.4 jobs from ages 18-54. A recent study from the Harris Poll exclusively for Fast Company found that the majority (52%) of U.S. workers are considering a job change this year, and as many as 44% have plans to make the leap. The bottom line, many people will be changing roles in the new year.
Now that the interviews are finished and your start date is decided upon, it is time to think about your first 100 days on the job. A new job can bring lots of excitement, but also a learning curve of new processes and people, maybe a different industry, and a company culture that is unique to every organization. So what do you tackle first? This blog will explore ways to get some quick wins and make an impact during your first three months.
There are a number of good resources to help you get off on the right foot and make a quick impact. One of the books I found most helpful is Your First 100 Days In a New Executive Job: Powerful First Steps On The Path to Greatness. For me, I do my best to balance coming in where I listen and learn, but at the same time be decisive and move forward with transformational goals. Here is what I’ve learned and refined over the years about having an impact on new organizations.
- Learn, Absorb, and Ask Questions
There is no better time than during your first three months at a company to have close to a zero inbox, a calendar free of recurring meetings, and only a handful of Slack messages to respond to. In addition to the mandatory first-week training, block your calendar to do a deep dive into everything from earnings scripts, Sales Kick Off materials, and spend time getting familiar with the overall company presentation, products, and persona messaging. This will give you a good sense of the business and technology messaging as well as who you are selling to.
One of the companies I started at has deep onboarding on a monthly basis. I took that training a couple of weeks into the job and just a few days before the session, I was told I would be standing in front of the class giving the corporate presentation. You better believe I dove into the company materials to be ready to not embarrass myself presenting to the class of about 50 of my peers. It was an excellent way to dive into the messaging, our competitive positioning and our customer wins to show that I knew my stuff.
Don’t expect to know everything during the first few weeks. Yes, you were hired for your expertise in your field, but ask clarifying questions when something is unclear or you are learning about different areas of the business. During orientation, many companies have executives present and are there to give you more insight into the company. Don’t be shy, raise your hand and clarify anything that is on your mind.
- Share Your Early Observations
After the first week, I like to put my observations on paper and share them with my manager. You’ll likely have had dozens of 1:1s, and numerous hallway conversations, where you are starting to get a sense of your team. Have there been any surprises in terms of comments from the team about projects they have underway or shocked you about processes that are not in place yet? These early observations form the bases of your 100-day plan. When you present these observations to your manager, validate with her that what you’ve seen and heard is consistent with the future direction that you and your team need to go. If you have a team that is made up of managers-of-managers, you’ll likely want to do some skip-level meetings with non-direct reporters to determine if each of those groups is performing optimally and helping grow the business.
- Setting Expectations
It is rare to start a new job when everything is functioning perfectly. There are likely areas of focus your manager shared with you during your interview process that he would like you to dive into. That combined with your own observations during the first few weeks means there is work for you to dive into.
As people and teams are coming together to form one cohesive organization, it is critical to set expectations with the team, but more importantly with your boss on what can be accomplished and by when. By either setting too modest or too aggressive goals, people will be disappointed. I have found that finding the sweet spot with goals being lofty but achievable is generally the most motivating. Making sure to also focus on the adequate time you need to transform your function as opposed to aiming for unrealistic timing in just a matter of days or weeks is critical.
Creating inspiration and aggressive, but achievable, goals that are aligned with business goals is the best way I’ve found that people get excited to do their best. Once you have those SMART goals written down, shared with your team, and vetted with your boss, you will be ready to go. I am a fan of both quarterly and annual goals. Creating quarterly goals keeps you on track day-to-day and annual goals help with big-picture business alignment. Share your vision and goals widely in the organization to get buy-in and solicit help from those outside of your core team.
- Building Relationships
Getting to know the organization’s leaders, your peers, and your team is imperative for your first 100 days. There are likely employees you met during the interview process that you have built a bit of a rapport with and that is a great starting place. Take the extra time to get to know critical employees who will play a role in your and your team’s success. If possible meet in person, which I’ve found can help start a relationship off on the right track. Do your homework and bring good questions to those meetings. Try to get a sense of this individual you are meeting with and if they are a fan of your organization or if there is some work you need to do to repair any past issues.
Rarely in a work setting are people doing solo missions and everything they have achieved is due to just their efforts. Most projects these days are team-based and require help from across your organization and across the company. Think about pulling off a major customer event with thousands of attendees. Almost the entire company is involved in bringing these major productions to life. Having the relationships in place when you are asking someone for their time, expertise, and commitment will go a long way in achieving your goals.
- Bring New Ideas
One of the best ways to have an impact early on is to come up with great ideas, maybe something no one at the company has thought of to help build a campaign to reach new customers. Be creative and suggest your ideas. Not all of them will hit the mark, but you might have the idea that will launch a movement. At a previous company, our mascot was a polar bear. One night I was thinking about how we could continue to get employees and external stakeholders engaged and build a great love for the mascot. I searched to see if there was an international polar bear day and there is February 27. This day became a rallying cry to get employees engaged around donating to saving polar bears in the arctic. We also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to symbolically adopt hundreds of polar bears. It became a movement that many rallied around.
Your first 100 days are critical for success. You want to set an agenda, establish yourself, and deliver a plan that will have a lasting business impact. Focusing on some quick wins and creative thinking will show you are the right person today and for the future. Use the momentum and relationships you have established during the first quarter to also set yourself and the team up for long-term success and the ability to grow your impact.