New Kid in the Boardroom

One of the many wise things my dad told me when I started my first job was to never forget that as the new hire, you are constantly being assessed.

In fact, according to bestselling author Michael D. Watkins, the first 90 days at a new job means everything. So if you're the new kid in the boardroom, don't even think about hitting cruise control before the 3-month mark. (In general, don't hit cruise control ever unless you're on vacation.) To paraphrase Watkins in his book The First 90 Days:


Research shows that what you do early on during a job transition is what matters most. Your colleagues and your boss form opinions about you based on limited information, and those opinions are sticky—it’s hard to change their minds. So shape their impressions of you to the best of your ability.


new-career

So, what exactly should you do to make your first 90 days count?

1. ALWAYS PUT IT DOWN IN WRITING.

Because I have been on both sides of the equation—I  have quite a few people working for me in addition to clients that I report to—I've found that making sure all parties understand what is wanted/needed from each other is key to favorable first impressions. The best way to achieve this? Put everything in writing. This could mean deciphering your boss' rambling emails into 3 bullet points of things that you need to achieve by end of this week, sharing a Google spreadsheet with everyone clarifying individual responsibilities or acknowledging a client's email with a "I read your email below, and will get back to you by next Tuesday" response. Putting things down in writing not only helps eliminate any misunderstandings or vagueness, but it also creates the impression that you have it together. Both things are crucial when forming a great first impression.

2. BE EARLY AND LEAVE LATE

I know this sounds like a cliche but just like most cliches, it does have some basis in truth. Besides, since you're a newbie, there's a lot you need to catch up on when starting out. Perhaps you're an ambidextrous speed-reader blessed with photographic memory who can do the job of 3 people. Clock out at 5 sharp later. For now, arrive early and stay back at least until your boss leaves. Use the time to either complete work way before its due date, come up with ideas that will benefit the company (see No. 4 below) or read up on work-related materials that will impress your boss/colleagues when appropriate. Because a "Last week, WSJ did a piece on how a chat-based customer service system is about 40% more efficient and twice as user-friendly compared to a phone-based system. I'll send you the article if you like" is a million times better than a "Yeah, um, improving our phone customer service sucks. Hope you can figure it out" sympathetic yet empty response.

3. GET TO KNOW YOUR COWORKERS

When it comes to getting to know the people you work with, put in an honest effort to create a strong relationship with your team. You don't have to make everyone your work BFF, but do remember everyone's names and listen when they talk about themselves. Getting to know your team members helps you see things from their point of view. When I was first promoted to lead a diverse group of junior investment bankers years ago, knowing my  team's personalities and understanding office politics helped me immensely when I started to delegate tasks. Getting to know your colleagues can be as easy as going out to lunch with them 2-3 times a week or sending a friend request on Facebook.

4. TAKE THE INITIATIVE

Be proactive at work. Just completing the tasks you are assigned on time is fine, but it won't get you anywhere. To really shine, you need to adopt the mindset of "What can I do to help the company/my boss/the team/the client?" For example, a few months ago, I was hired as a fashion copywriter. It was supposed to be temporary and was a great little side gig where I was paid a good hourly rate to do something I really love and I secretly wanted to do it on a more permanent basis. Immediately after starting the job, I noticed that the company did not have a manual that would explain the Do's and Don'ts that would help everyone on the team create uniform copy. So I created one without being asked and on my own time. It was 10 pages long and took me about 5 hours. Once I presented this to the client, she was quite pleased and offered me a permanent role as their main copywriter. Constantly think of ways to do things better/easier/cheaper and you'll soon be considered an asset to the company.

5. ALWAYS EXPAND YOUR SKILLSET.

To get promoted/get paid more/evolve you need to constantly improve by trying new things and accepting new challenges. As a fashion blogger, I find that more and more, I'm being asked to host fashion events. At first, I was deathly afraid of public speaking, but I knew I had to conquer this fear if I wanted my blog to evolve. So I joined the local Toastmasters and started inviting 8-10 blogger friends to my apartment to talk about what we do. This was more than a year ago. Since then, I've gotten the chance to speak in front of a crowd of 200 people and host high-profile events with dozens of cameras pointed right at me. If I had let my fear of public speaking get the better of me, I'd still be hiding behind my Miu Miu purse.


PS: I still get a bit nervous right before speaking in public.
Photo by Umberto Barone for Vogue



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RESPONSES

  • Leigh says:

    Oh goodness! I suddenly remember my first day at work, in a coffeeshop – back when I was still working my butts off to college. My supervisor always seemed to be breathing down my neck and waiting for me to drop my tray. It was really nerve-wracking. But it was nothing compared to when I started working in a publication site. Very different and much more nerve-wracking..

  • Franceska R. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I forgot about being the new kid in the office, it was like more than 6 years ago. And now that I’ve moved my cheese and will start working again this year on a new company, I feel like dipping my toes on new sand. Thanks again for this!

  • Steffi says:

    I’d like to thank you for sharing this informative article. Many of us will benefit from your suggestions and tips, I myself am gearing up for my new job in the next couple of weeks, so wish me luck! 🙂

  • Oh my first few months at my new work (2001 era) was nerve wracking.. I mean, I felt like I was being scrutinized under the microscope, my superiors watching my every move and all. It was really daunting, at the same time exciting, especially when I get to work with some of the best in information technology. Getting to know my co-workers was the best part of my New Kid days 🙂

  • Jane says:

    Great tips, really helpful! I’m gonna tell my niece who’s about to start on her new work this coming February. Thanks!

  • Ash says:

    I love the goodies you share here, I actually need to get myself new items that would look good on my first work week, but that’s until second week of February. I don’t have much to share about my new kid day because that was really long ago..

  • Thea says:

    As they always say, first impression lasts. That’s what I did when I got my job a few years ago. Although I know that the first two weeks under probation were the toughest and grueling weeks I had, I saw to it that I maintained composure and respected my superiors to let them know that I was there to love my work and that I was serious with my job. So far, I’ve been with them for the past 4 years and they tell me, I made a lasting good impression. Just sharing 🙂

  • Oh I do remember when I was also a newbie at work. I was too worked up in impressing my boss and colleagues. I stay late always and still managed to report back to work on time. It was tedious 90 days, that’s true, but I learned a lot.

  • Georgina M says:

    I can’t say I remember my first few weeks at work a few years ago.. But thanks so much for sharing this, I learn a lot… better than what I used to know when it comes to working, I mean 🙂

  • Susan Armstrong says:

    I like your tips on what to do during those 90-days probation period. I actually haven’t thought of writing down the things that mattered, I guess I wasn’t really that organized when I had started working. My daughter will surely benefit from all these suggestions you listed here. Again, thank you.

  • loreleichung says:

    I like that Take The Initiative idea. I think that is something I never acted upon when I was just starting. I guess that’s one of the reason I didn’t last long with my first job.

  • Taylor G. says:

    When I was the new kid on the block, er, in the office, all eyes were on me, but those eyes didn’t startle me, as long as I knew that what I was doing was right and based on their instructions and preferences. I did have to deal with them for about 3 months, so when I finally got promoted I was ecstatic! I felt like I have accomplished something 🙂

  • Marielle says:

    I think getting to know my co-workers was the first thing I did on my first job. I was relatively new in the company, and I haven’t got time to meet new people in my neighborhood actually, so I decided to invest on having new friends first. And it paid off, because at the end of my first two weeks, I was already chummy with some of my officemates and they have helped me a lot at work!

  • Aaliyah Jane says:

    thanks for sharing these informative post. I can’t remember what happened with my first few weeks on my first job, too, maybe because it was disastrous. I had no one to guide me about the ropes in telecommunications industry. But as time flew by, I learned a lot from old colleagues. It’s really good to keep a good company of friends from work 🙂

  • Wena says:

    I just got hired two weeks ago (yipee!!) and I’m still feeling nervous and agitated especially when I see the head of the company (who occasionally visits the plant unannounced). SO I am extremely grateful to this blog post! I don’t know where to pick my brains, so having a guide like this is an enormous help!

  • Jade Collins says:

    I am basically the New Kid in my company (just started 5 weeks ago) and its been a whirlwind kind of experience. I’m still grasping at straws, what with the million things that my superior ask and command me too, sometimes I’m getting exhausted.

  • Gina says:

    Challenges are what fire up my work life. I love a good challenge, which happened to me a lot when I was still new at my job. All it took me was to put up a brave face in front of my superiors and did everything I can to do every challenge presented to me.

  • Robyn says:

    We’ve all been there, being the first timers on the job, like what most people call – the fresh fish – the newest catch. I’ve actually suffered during my first six months, everyone expected me to do all thing they tell me to do and expect me to fail. But I did not adhere to their whims. I did everything I can in my power to prove them wrong. and I succeeded 🙂

  • Lian Atwater says:

    I’ve done my share in the hotseat when I was a newbie and it wasn’t really great. My superiors were all over me but not in a good way. They were way too demanding and bias to my other colleagues. I just let it slip, though, because had I fought back, I knew I’d lose my job once and for all. Now, I’m with them for about six years now and so far, life has been great. No regrets, I love my job a lot 🙂

  • Marcella Moss says:

    Being a newbie in the office, I always get those looks that are either reprimanding, demanding or commanding. I hate those looks. I just want to be treated fair and square and with respect. I hope some employees would be like that.

  • Cresta says:

    Love the suggestions, thanks! It will help me once I get settled to my new job, and of course, to be able to wear the right kind of clothes is something I should also think about, so thanks 🙂

  • Vanessa says:

    I make sure that my first 90 days count by taking initiative in every undertaking, following orders and befriending the ones whom I know would help me build something out of nothing.

  • Nikki says:

    I was once a new kid in the boardroom too. It wasn’t a pleasant experience in the beginning, but eventually I learned a lot, I coped and blended with my colleagues and had started to make friends. From the first 90 days of nervous feelings, the emotions subsided when I got to keep my job after those grueling months.

  • shadowsfoxes says:

    I was once the new kid in the boardroom too. Wasn’t always pleasant to be working with veterans but I’m glad I was able to cope. It never hurt to make friends with them eventually.

  • Helga says:

    Each and everyone of us go through this phase, that awkward moment when you enter the door and everyone keeps staring at you, gauging you, or even betting on you (or against you) to stay in the company for a long time. To prove them all wrong, show them everything you’ve got. They might get amazed at your hidden talents in the long run.

  • Trishia says:

    I wish I’ve read this when I was still a newbie in my office. I was once lost too when I was newly hired, didn’t know anyone else, armed with nothing except my knowledge on the job. I was quite shy as well, but eventually, I gained friends.

  • Iris Sebastian says:

    Love the tips here. Very efficient and easy to follow by newbies. My new co-workers would surely learn a lot from this. Thanks for sharing them.

  • Meredith Peña says:

    These are great tips for the newbies who want to show what they got. I was also a new kid before and I wasn’t that particularly welcomed before but I did manage to score new friends who helped me through my nesting days.