How to Succeed in Your New Job

🚀 Avoid failure in your first 90 days with this weekly checklist - Issue #171

Your first 90 days in a new job is a probationary period. Whether that’s official or not, people are watching you.

They’re paying attention to how you work, communicate, treat others, and behave in the office.

  • Coworkers are wondering if they’re going to enjoy working with you.

  • Your team is cautiously hopeful that you will be the best manager they’ve had.

  • Your new boss is trying to decide if hiring you was the right decision or a bad one.

One way to ensure that you start off right is to create a plan for your first 90 days.

Think of it as a roadmap that helps you adapt to the new workplace culture, build valuable relationships, learn as much as possible about the company, master your new job responsibilities, and make useful contributions so that everyone is glad that you are there.

I know that this checklist is more appropriate for folks who are knowledge workers and it includes advice for managers and leaders (e.g., employed in the tech industry). But, much of the advice is relevant for anyone starting a new job (e.g., get clear about your manager’s expectations). 

Here are some ideas for what you might want to put in your 30–60–90-day plan. 

The first 30 days in your new job

Week 1 — Settling in

✅ First and foremost, meet with your manager and clarify expectations.

  • What are your top priorities for the first 30 days?

  • What does success look like for you?

  • How will your success or failure be measured?

✅ Schedule one-on-one meetings with every single member of your team.

  • Get to know them and what they are working on and doing.

  • What’s working well, and what isn’t going so well?

  • Are they happy in their roles or not?

  • Is the organization healthy, or are their issues?

  • Take note of patterns that emerge in issues, power structure, team dynamics, etc.

  • Ask your team members, “Who else would you recommend that I meet in the company?”

✅ Learn everything you can about the company, its products and services, your organization, and your role.

✅ Observe and learn the company and organizational culture (e.g., how people communicate, meetings, hours in the office)

✅ Focus on making a good impression in the first month. That tends to stick with you as your “professional brand” in the company.

✅ Begin your workday early rather than letting people think that you start work late. You can adjust your schedule later after you’ve established yourself.

✅ Start meeting with key people above, below, and at the peer level across the organization. This process may take 2–3 weeks.

  • In week 1, prioritize the people you will work with most directly (e.g., your counterparts in Engineering, Product, Sales, Marketing, etc.).

  • Always ask, “Who else would you recommend that I meet?”

✅ Get all of your equipment, office supplies, tools, accounts, etc. It’s easier to ask and receive now vs. later.

✅ Ask a lot of questions, listen, and take notes.

✅ Find out who the real influencers are. You’ve been asking people who you should meet next. Patterns will start to emerge that reveal the power dynamics in the organizations.

✅ Start mapping out this internal power network (i.e., Who holds power and influence? Who drives decisions? Who are the people everyone respects?).

⚠️ Resist having “the answers” or talking about how you did things before.

⚠️ Don’t talk about your past companies yet (e.g., “This process in my old org was better”).

⚠️ Don’t tell people that you know better ways to do things (not yet, anyway).

Decide with your manager, socialize, and get buy-in in what you will focus on (90-days O-KRs) vs. what you will NOT focus on, non-goals. Especially when you are in a leadership role attending to immediate high-pressure tasks can derail any onboarding process.”
 — Chetana Deorah, Design Director, Coursera

1st 30 days: Go slow to go fast later. Meet as many people as you can ASAP. 1) Ask what you need to know. Take good notes. 2) Ask for the “1 thing” that’s holding the org back. Take good notes. 3) Ask for 3 names of people you MUST meet until you get no new names.”
Cris Barrett, Head Of Human Resources, Privacy at Facebook

Aim to listen more than you speak at first. Focus on understanding the context, culture, and constraints.”
 — Vidhika Bansal, UX Group Manager at Intuit

2 hands, 2 ears only 1 mouth… Use them in that ratio.”
Dan Chapman, Associate Director & Research Software Product Leader, Merck

…after starting several retail careers over time, my advice would be: make the most of being open-minded and observant in the beginning; you are only new and unbiased one time.”
 — Rick Planos, Consulting Partner at Global Retail Solutions

Do NOT change anything in the first 90 days.”
 — The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Hold your first comments until you know the lay of the land. I’ll always recall one of my favorite and wisest bosses cautioning me to not come in as ‘there’s a new sheriff in town’ as it wouldn’t work there culturally. It was great advice.”
 — Rick Planos, Consulting Partner at Global Retail Solutions

Week 2 — Stakeholders

✅ Meet with more of the critical stakeholders.

✅ Meet with your partners in HR, Recruiting, Exec admins, and other Support organizations. Build these relationships. They are valuable.

✅ Meet with more people, up a level, and more broadly.

✅ Identify trusted work buddies.

✅ Continue mapping out the political power grid as you meet more people and learn more about the org.

✅ Understand your boss’s management style (e.g., frequency of meetings, how to provide updates, how they behave and communicate, etc.)

✅ Be proactive and over-communicate with your manager, but check-in to see if this is what they want.

✅ Share your 90-day plan and validate it with your manager.

⚠️ Be cautious with over-sharing and be slow to establish new friendships in this office. You need to know who people really are, who you can trust, and what their reputation is within the company.

Do a thorough assessment of the landscape of the organization, respect boundaries and don’t go to lunch routinely with the same person. Above all, be careful who you align with early on.”
Mindy Thomas, Chief Inspiration Officer, Thomas Career Consulting

Follow the plan to ‘jump-start internal customer relationships.’ The key is meeting all the stakeholders who work with your team to set expectations.”
 — The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Talk to as many people as you can to learn what they do, how their work affects yours and vice versa, what they need, and what would make their life easier.”
 — Taylor Cone, Founder & CEO, Lightshed

Week 3 — Early wins

✅ Identify some early wins for you and your team, and focus on them.

✅ Continue learning about the project roadmap, products, and tech stack.

✅ Continuing building relationships and trust with your team.

✅ Establish a rhythm for how you communicate and meet with your team.

✅ Get a sense of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

✅ Plan out the project work and make sure the team is on the right track.

✅ Assess if you have everything you need to be successful (e.g., headcount, specific types of talent on the team, software). Now is the time to ask for more of what you need before it’s too late. Take advantage of your honeymoon period.

⚠️ Don’t overcommit. Until you learn what it takes to accomplish work and projects at this company, it is risky to put too much on your plate. 

…never underestimate the value of small wins. Don’t overhaul anything; instead, figure out a few helpful actions you can take and build trust by delivering on those.”
 — Vidhika Bansal, UX Group Manager at Intuit

Shadow everyone. Your team members, the people who work with your team across the org, the customer-facing people. Understand what their outputs are and what inputs they can accommodate from you. If they are designers or PMs, they’ll have artifacts — read them.”
Pavel A. Samsonov, Senior UX Architect, Amazon Web Services

Week 4 — Document progress and display commitment

✅ Meet with some past employees who have left the org or company. I’ve found that people who have left are more likely to be honest about what it is like to work there. They also give you the inside scoop on who to trust, who to watch out for, and with whom to build relationships.

✅ Consistently track your progress and achievements.

✅ Update your manager on your progress and how things have been going during the first month.

✅ Reaffirm your commitment and passion for the job.

✅ Display your enthusiasm and desire for career growth in the company.

✅ Ask your manager for feedback on your progress. This will be the time to course-correct if necessary.

⚠️ Avoid working long hours to be visible. That used to mean staying late in the office (not a good habit). Now it means sending messages in the evening. 

I would say to define from the outset; 1 -What you would like to learn from the job. 2 - What skills/certifications you would like to obtain while in the job. 3 - Find out ways you can be indispensable to the company. And 4 - What is your end date.”
 — Teronie J. Donaldson, host of the Orange Sky Life podcast

Watch. Understand. Learn. Don’t try to change anything within these 90 days. But do try different things to understand how the culture, the people, the communication and the organization in general works.”
Thomas Schneider

Make yourself at home and do things differently. I usually take a plant to the office. In corporate that used to blow people’s minds. Soon after you see other people bringing things in to make their office a little bit more fun.”
Malan “Foxinni” Joubert, Web & Game Developer

Document onboarding experience and keep a daily work’ diary’ to summarize daily to daily tasks.”
Dia Rahman, CX/Product, Digital Health & Wearables

Make a great first impression

It isn’t always fair, but first impressions do matter. How people see you in the first few weeks and months of a new job may define you for the duration of your employment at a company.

  • Come in hot and try to dominate others in meetings, and people will say, “Have you met the new person? She likes to argue and bully people.”

  • Show up late to work for a few days, and people will say, “He is a little lazy. Never shows up on time.”

  • Work hard, ask lots of smart questions, and contribute positively, and people will say, “I really like that new hire. She seems smart and fun to work with.”

Write up your 90-day plan so that you don’t let anything slip between the cracks. It will help you get off on the right foot and make the most of your new job.

The Second Month

Week 5 — Alliances

✅ Continue executing on your quick wins, but also the regular project roadmap.

✅ Begin documenting opportunities for improving the org, processes, and tools.

✅ Capture all of your innovative ideas while you are still fresh to the team.

✅ Identify more ways you can add value and stand out.

✅ Now that you know the org and people better, start building strategic alliances with key players.

Relationships are everything. Get to know those on your immediate team, on adjacent teams, and in leadership. Learn about them as professionals and — even more importantly — as people. Now is the best time to sow these seeds. The payoff will be greater than you think.”
 — Vidhika Bansal, UX Group Manager at Intuit

Keep a documentation of useful things you learned, so you can share it with new hires after you. It might not seem like a priority item but it’s so easy to do and your future colleagues will be so appreciative of you.”
Christine Zhu, Product Manager, PointClickCare

Week 6 — Above and beyond

✅ Go above and beyond in your role.

✅ Demonstrate initiative. Ask your manager what they are focused on and how you can help.

✅ Check-in with your team.

  • How do they feel things are going?

  • Are they satisfied with the style and frequency of meetings and communication?

  • Are the improvements you’ve been implementing working?

  • What do they need from you?

  • What do you need from them?

✅ Ask for feedback from colleagues in your org and other organizations.

  • What do they need more of?

  • Less of?

  • What problems are they facing?

  • How can you improve working relationships?

  • How can you improve processes?

⚠️ However, you should still be careful to set some boundaries. You don’t want to establish an unsustainable pace that will leave you burned out later.

Log any ‘hunches’ you might have — about people, process, stuff that may need to change. At the end of the 90 days, review them to see what needs to be validated.”
Tiffany Regaudie, Director of Marketing, The Knowledge Society

Buy yourself and your team copies of Deep Work (Cal Newport), Getting Things Done (David Allen), and The 5 Choices. Very early identify what deep work and Q2 work is for your new role/team’s role.”
 — The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Week 7 — Become positively memorable

✅ Now is the time you should be demonstrating your unique value.

  • What do you bring to the table?

  • How can you make people glad that you’re on board?

✅ Create a reputation for working hard and being insightful.

  • Provide smart input and suggestions.

  • Ask everyone how you can help (especially your manager).

  • Solve problems with your fresh perspective.

✅ Show a genuine interest in people’s lives, including your team, manager, and your key partners.

✅ Be strong, but likable. 

  • People want to work with folks that they like.

  • There will be a time and a place for more friction, but not quite yet.

⚠️ You have to prove yourself and earn your stripes before you can start pushing back hard, having strong opinions on projects (i.e., you don’t know enough yet), and sharing criticism.

“Don’t ignore red flags but don’t be overly triggered by them right away either. Learn to recognize behavior patterns and how they match with what is said. Give them you from the get-go. Trying to readjust to a new version is exhausting.”
 — Jamie Smith, creator of Jamie’s Notebook, a writing services company

Week 8 — Check-in and adjust

✅ Ask your manager for feedback on your progress in the first 60 days. There is still time to course-correct if necessary.

✅ Continue developing your most valuable relationships.

✅ Start finding your mentors and advisors in the company (who can you trust?).

✅ Be sure to demonstrate your enthusiasm and positivity.

Establish your professional brand

You already made your first impressions in the initial 30 days. This second month is about doing the work, developing relationships, and continuing to establish the positive professional brand that you want in the company.

At this point, you are probably making some adjustments to your initial 90-day plan. You’ve learned more about the organization, company culture, and your job. You know more about where you should focus your efforts to make an impact.

Now, you’re ready to move into your final month of your first 90-days on the job.

The Final Month

Week 9 — Are you on track?

✅ Make sure you’re on track to exceed expectations.

  • Review your plan and progress with your manager.

  • How did the first 60 days go? 

  • What could you improve in this last month of the plan?

  • Confirm that your manager is happy with what you are focused on and your performance.

✅ Find ways to stand out positively in the broader organization (e.g., you’re always sharing useful articles and research).

✅ Improve every meeting you attend. People should be happy to see you walk into the room.

⚠️ Now is the time to course-correct what you’ve been working on before it’s too late.

⚠️ Continue establishing boundaries so that you can have a reasonable work-life balance.

Week 10 — Deepen relationships

✅ Deepen critical relationships across the company.

  • It is challenging to strengthen relationships in regular work meetings.

  • Schedule one-on-one time with key people (e.g., coffee chats).

  • Don’t have lunch with the same coworkers every day.

✅ Continue to develop your alliances with key colleagues within your organization and in other organizations.

  • You want these people to be your biggest fans and champions.

  • They will tell your manager how glad they are that you are here.

✅ Start respectfully sharing ideas to improve things based on your observations and fresh perspective.

✅ Reinforce that you are glad that you joined the company with your manager, your team, and your colleagues. No grumbling! You haven’t earned your veteran’s stripes yet.

✅ Remember the external networking you were doing during your job search? Keep that up. Never let it die down entirely again.

✅ Continue your visible presence outside of the company, too (e.g., writing, meet-ups, posting on social media, conferences).

⚠️ Don’t let the world forget that you exist just because you took a new job. At some point, you will be looking for your next job.

⚠️ Don’t sit in your cubicle with your head down.

Creating onboarding docs (improving existing ones) is a great way to stand out… I forget who I heard this from but having new folks add to the onboarding docs makes for a better experience to new team members coming next and a fresh look to those on the team already.”
 — Jason Resnick, founder of Feast Club

I like asking new team members to keep a journal and highlight the good, the bad and the ugly on their on-boarding journey so we can make improvements in real-time.”
 — Cris Barrett, Head Of Human Resources, Privacy at Facebook

Week 11 — External presence

✅ Maintain your external networking!

  • Do not take your foot off the gas pedal.

  • You activated your network and refreshed your connections to find this job. That is a good thing. Don’t let your professional network go dark again.

  • I know that you won’t keep the same level of networking intensity, but you should find a reasonable maintenance level of engagement to keep things fresh.

✅ Stay active in your industry and profession. 

✅ Make time to meet with people in your network on a more regular basis for coffee and lunch.

✅ Remember, you will always want opportunities coming your way from now on. You should be turning jobs down regularly.

✅ Write up your 90-day post mortem for your manager.

  • Did you achieve everything on your plan?

  • How did things go?

  • Did you have any misses? If so, how can you explain those?

  • What do you think could improve?

Week 12 — Wrap it up with a bow

✅ Review your first 90-days progress with your manager.

  • Again, demonstrate your enthusiasm and how happy you are to be in this role.

  • Share what you personally accomplished.

  • You should also share what your team has accomplished (e.g., the quick wins, regular project work, etc.).

  • Now you can share your ideas on how to improve things in the org.

  • Does your manager see you as a successful hire?

  • What do they think needs to change or improve?

✅ Conduct your personal assessment of your first 90 days in this new org.

  • Are you happy that you took this job?

  • Are the company and org as healthy as you thought they would be?

  • Are you working on the things you expected?

  • What’s working well?

  • What needs to improve?

  • How do you feel about your boss? Your team? Your coworkers?

  • How will you know that you made the right choice to work here?

  • Are there opportunities for personal and professional development?

  • Does your career path within the company still look promising (e.g., a clear promotion path)?

  • Define key indicators that will reassure you that you are on the right track.

✅ Maintain your professional development.

  • In fact, dial it up!

  • Find professional development opportunities that the company offers or will fund.

  • Learn and grow on their dime and time.

✅ Look for opportunities within the company to stretch yourself in your role and explore the level above.

✅ Keep building your professional brand.

✅ Keep looking for your next job!

Your job search never ends

The biggest mistake that people make is that they only start looking for their next job when they are dreadfully unhappy, their current position is at risk, they were laid off, or they were fired.

You should always have an eye open for new opportunities!

The activities that make you an “opportunity magnet” can’t be turned on with the flip of a switch. They require some level of ongoing maintenance and investment. 

These activities include skill development, professional development, networking, public speaking, writing, and more. The world needs to know that you exist. You need to consistently demonstrate your talent, knowledge, wisdom, and passion. 

As I’ve said before, treat your career like a business. You are the product that this business sells to customers (e.g., employers). 

If a business stopped investing in its products and services, paused all advertising, and gave up on marketing, it would close its doors and vanish. The same is true for your long-term career growth

  • Keep investing in yourself.

  • Keep active in the industry.

  • Keep connecting with your network.

  • Keep your eyes and ears open for your next fantastic opportunity. 

The best time to land a great new job is while you still have a job.

I hope this plan will be useful for you when you start your next job. If you have a friend who recently landed a new job, feel free to share this with them.