Fast Start – Your First 60 Days

Linda Seale, head of the Seale Group, an executive coaching firm helped Fast Company devise an agenda for your first 60 days in a new work situation.

First 14 days: Get to know four new people.

When you show up for your first day, leave at home this fallacy: Your success depends on your work. “The combination of your performance and your personality determines how you’re viewed. Probably 95% of firings are the result of failing to fit into a company’s culture. If people don’t know you, they can’t trust you.”

To “fit in,” you’ve got to get out. That means leaving your comfy cubicle and spending time with people who can tell you about the hidden rules of success in your new workplace. Seale suggests that you come up with a strategy before you step into the “meet” market: Seek out the regulars (your teammates, the guy in purchasing whom you’ll be calling often), the deal-makers (project leaders, people in-the-know), and the potential mentors. Then start eating. Put aside two days each week to have lunch with those people.

During those lunches, don’t slather on the charm. You’re there to listen. The point is to find out how your new workplace really works: How do people interact with the boss? Who should you recruit for the projects that you’ll be leading? What are the cultural no-nos?

“Just establish an initial connection, so that you can build a relationship,” says Seale. “Trust and information will follow naturally.”

Intracompany networking should continue beyond your first two weeks. The goal is to establish a routine and never to fall out of it.

First 30 days: Have a “How am I doing?” meeting with your boss.

Don’t assume that your boss knows what you’re doing. Managers usually assume that you’re doing what they expect – even if they haven’t defined what that is.

“It’s not the boss’s job to ask what you’re working on and how it’s going,” Seale says. “It’s up to you to seek out the boss.”

Many new hires put off checking in with the boss because they’re afraid they’ll hear unpleasant news. That’s about as smart as avoiding the doctor because you think your health is failing, Seale argues: “Your boss wants you to succeed. Your success makes him look good. Even though the boss is judging your performance, he’s not an adversary – he’s an ally.”

First 45 days: Write your job description.

Forget about asking for a job description, says Seale. That pithy paragraph reflects only what your superiors think your job will be, not what it is.

Once you’ve spent about a month and a half on the job, you should have a solid sense of your responsibilities. How do they differ from what you were led to expect? Are there new opportunities that you might pursue? Get your questions down on paper, along with a list of your top projects and your most pressing deadlines. Then review them with your boss. The goal: to create a real-world job description that you both agree on.

“In the world of work, it’s very foolish to guess,” Seale says. “It’s hard enough to do really good work and to manage relationships, even when you’re on track. Why waste time being off track?”

First 60 days: Get something done.

Seale cautions against hastily assembling an agenda of easy-to- nail action items. To be sure, you must do enough to signal your potential. But be careful to pick projects that make sense.

One of Seale’s clients tried so hard to be a hero to his boss, he proved himself a heel to his subordinates. During his first two months on the job, this midlevel manager at a financial-services company was asked to develop a marketing strategy for his department. The project was too complex to be done in the time allowed, but he pushed to meet the deadline anyway. His staff worked overtime for seven straight weeks. But when he delivered the results, he found that the project did not have the support it needed, despite his boss’s approval. The company refused to fund it.

“He tried for a quick hit, and it really backfired on him,” Seale says. “His staff was up in arms. They thought he was a tyrant.”

Next 60 days: Reboot.

Almost everyone, it seems, falls into one. Sixty days skate by, then 100, and pretty soon, you find yourself in a well-worn rut. To climb out, treat your next 60 days as you would your first 60 days. The same principles that apply to new hires can help veterans to renew and reboot, says Betsy Collard, director of strategic development for the Career Action Center in Cupertino, California.

“You should treat your first 60 days as a blueprint to help you focus on your immediate future,” she says. “In the long run, that approach will keep your career healthy.” Collard, who has spent the past 18 years providing career-management services at such blue chip high-tech companies as Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems, recommends that you draw up a plan that builds on the 60-day basics: Extend your networking and relationship goals beyond your company to your industry. Let writing your personal job description evolve into writing a plan for your department or team.

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