New job? 8 steps to successfully navigate the first 90 days

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Moving to a new job, company or team are a fact of life for most of us. These are the milestone transitions in every career path. Don't take chances, make sure you successfully navigate your next change by following these steps.

Congratulations! You’re excited and at the top of the world. You’ve received the offer letter for your new role. You and your new employer have both said "I do!" You’ve said goodbye to your current team. You’ve taken your friends and family out to celebrate. All is well with the world and your next big adventure awaits you. You can do anything!!

But hold your horses. Before you rush off and start working in your new job I’d suggest you stop and make time to plan for your honeymoon period. I promise, this can be the difference between successfully navigating your transition, or finding yourself (and others) wondering if you made the right choice.

Joining a new team or company, or taking on a new role is both an opportunity and a time of potential vulnerability.  You had better be paying attention. The pressure is on. Your new boss is wondering if they hired the right person. Your new team is wondering what you will be like to work for. Your new peers are wondering if they can trust you and you are wondering how you can quickly show them (and yourself) that you know what you are doing.

The spotlight is shining brightly on you and the successes and missteps you take during your ‘honeymoon period’ will influence your reputation for some time to come.

Here are eight steps to ensure that your “honeymoon period” is one that results in long-term success.

1. Start as you intend to leave

You’re creating your reputation from scratch.  Apart from doing a fantastic job, you also want to endear yourself to your new employer, so that when it does come time for you to leave, they’ll regret your departure, rather than look forward to the day. That means that you need to fit right in from the beginning. Follow the obvious dress code. Be on time. Be conscientious and diligent. All this from the first day, and then every day.

Consider the legacy you left in your last role, and the legacy you want to build in this new opportunity. A simple activity is to think about the adjectives you want others to use to describe working with you (and what they may use today) and what you may need to do to close any gap – make sure you are working to guarantee that they are complimentary and something you can be proud of!

2. Don’t lose sight of the big picture!

During the first ninety days, it's important not to lose sight of the big picture, says Heather Cassano, Director of User Experience at Google. “It's all too easy to get sucked into the drama, politics and looming crises that have likely been waiting for your arrival.” She says, “some must be solved in order to move forward, but if you focus all of your energy and attention on resolving short-term issues, you will end up spinning your wheels months or years down the road.

“Take advantage of the fact that you have fresh eyes, and can see problems and solutions in a way you never will be able to again. When you can begin to envision a different future for your product line, your people, or the way your business is done, write it down or draw it out in pictures. Fill an entire notebook with your thoughts, and refer back to it often. It might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how easily you can lose sight of the long term when the inevitable happens and you become an insider." 

3. Focus on yourself and develop good habits

This is your chance to develop good habits and lose the bad ones. Think about how you want to change yourself, and then start working on it. Do you plan to schedule more time to meet with colleagues, to take a lunch break, go to the gym? Then plan to do that with this job. It will help you to get into a more productive routine.

It will also be easy to let down your guard, especially if people are friendly. New jobs, especially when they’re across the country or on the other side of the world can be a bit like holiday romances. Take extra care to think about the impact you making, the reputation you are building, who you are, and why you’re there. Remember, too, that you and your colleagues are still getting to know one another. Keep it professional.

4. Be willing to learn

As adults it seems to me that we hate being the newbie, the learner, the beginner. Recognize that even in some of the simplest jobs, everyone is somewhat incompetent for the first few months. This includes you. And remember that even those you supervise know more than you do regarding 'how business gets done" in your new environment.

It doesn’t matter how high your IQ (intelligence quotient) is or many university degrees or accolades you have. Ask for help, involve others in helping ensure your (and therefore their) success. Prove that you’re not just worth keeping, but that you’re indispensable. Ask intelligent questions that demonstrate you’re listening and learning.

5. Provide care and attention to your team

“Building rapport with your team is as important as building relationships with your business stakeholders.”  Is the advice of Greg Sparks, founder of CIO Source LLC, an IT strategy firm based in Colorado“A leadership change is unsettling for an organization, and good executives will work quickly to establish trust and confidence with their team members.”

 A new leader should clearly set the direction for the organization and be transparent with upcoming changes. This will remove uncertainty and allow the team to adjust to your leadership style and align with the expectations and goals moving forward.

6. Ask questions, lots of questions!

Collaborate with your peers, ask questions, seek to understand how and why things happen the way they do before you start making changes. When you understand the history and context for how work gets done in your new organization you will be better positioned to communicate why change is needed. Without the history and context you run the risk of your changes being akin to ‘saying their baby is ugly’. Remember that your new colleagues have invested time and effort in creating the situation you inherit. Be respectful of that legacy before you throw it out!

7. Don’t talk about how you did things in your last job

Even the same position in a different location within the same organization will be quite different. When you continue to refer to the way you did things in your last position, it can sound as though you wished that you weren’t in your new job. If you keep it up, then you may not be for long.

8. Build relationships

“Start by investing in relationships, taking into account structure and end to end processes.  Who is where, doing what, and especially why” advises Jose Acevedo, Technology Innovation Visionary with TopGolf. “A whole lot falls naturally into place from there. Begin with what’s important to your partners, and making sure that they know you are personally committed to their success is usually a good start. This is especially true for partners and relationships outside of IT. IT should never be about IT, but instead, focused on enabling our business together.”

These eight steps will give you the best possible start. No doubt you’ll think of others as you go along. Please share your recommendations in the comments below or contact me, I'd love to hear your approach!

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