They say first impressions count. The first 100 days when starting a new job is the only opportunity you have to cement your place in an organization.
Changing how people view you after the first 100 days is difficult. You do not want to spend your career in catch-up mode.
Here’s how you can get it right the first time.
Make a Great First Impression
You are about to be introduced to more people than you can possibly remember. Team members, colleagues, customers, friends, possible critics, competition for promotion, the list goes on and on. The first impression you make will pass around the office a lot quicker than you will.
Whatever these people say, whether it’s positive or negative, will be embedded into your co-worker’s minds before you even meet them. This might seem unfair but perceptions count.
So how do you navigate this treacherous territory? There are two important considerations:
How You Look
First, make sure you dress to impress. Get a haircut, shine your shoes, shave your beard. Your own individual style and personality can come later but for now you want to fit in.
If you work in a corporate environment you’ll want to dress up with a suit and tie. Even if most people in the office go for business casual you can bet the boss will be wearing a suit.
Creative industries are more difficult because wearing a suit when everyone else is wearing shorts will make you look out of touch. Go for something smart but casual, like jeans and a sports jacket.
What You Say
After the firm handshake, you should prepare some elevator pitch style answers. You will inevitably be asked “where did you go to school” or “where do you live.” Answer these questions with grace and a smile and you’ll be well on the way. Don’t rock the boat by providing any opinions at this stage.
Bonus Tip: When everyone is watching you, it really helps your first impression to arrive early and leave late. Then when it’s finally time to leave, check-in with you manager to see if there is anything else you can help with before heading out.
Ask Lots of Questions
Focused questioning is the best way to learn. It will help you get up to speed on the organization’s culture, and will show your manager that you’re serious about making your career a success.
The types of questions that you’ll want to ask include:
- Are there any training documents that I can read to understand my expected work?
- What communication methods does our team typically use?
- Who are some of the key people that I should introduce myself to?
- Are there any upcoming projects I should be aware of?
Keep your questioning specific and relevant, and don’t ask about personalities or individual opinions at this stage.
People will genuinely want to help. However, don’t be an annoyance and definitely don’t bombard your manager with questions about the coffee machine and stationery store.
Create a Focused Plan
Your first 100 days on the job will packed with training, onboarding and meetings. During this time you will start to understand the expectations for the role.
One of the biggest reason for failed employment is misaligned expectations. The organization wants one thing and the employ thinks they want something else.
It is essential that during the first 100 days you establish the real focus of your role.
The earlier you can do this the better so that you have a clear picture of what lies ahead. The key player in this will be your immediate manager.
During your first 100 days you must set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) objectives for the short and medium term. This requires an informed position for both you and your manager. Be sure to set up at least one career planning meeting with your manager during the first few days.
Start Building a Network
After a few days in the job you will have met most of the people you’ll be working with. Now it’s time to get them onside.
The people who are responsible for your appointment will be closely involved with you in the first few days. They will naturally be looking for confirmation that they have made the right choice.
The more you can say and do that meets their expectations, and gives them confidence in having made the right appointment, the more likely they are to involve you in real work right away.
If you’re at the manager level or above, it is crucial to engage with your team and build their trust. You are their leader and they’ll start looking for guidance soon after you start.
Think about organizing full team meetings (happy hours work well) and individual appraisals. Your relationship with your team will greatly impact your own performance in the long run.
If you’re part of a team, then begin engaging with all team members, even those that you do not directly work with. If this is your first job you can build trust by digging in and helping out.
Ask around to see if there is any less than desirable dirty work that you can get involved with, and your team will be very grateful.
Reflect, Rinse and Repeat
If you’ve followed the above advice, your first 100 days will be a roaring success and you should be sailing to the top of the organization (and the salaries that go along with it).
There will have been successes and failures during this time and this is your chance to reflect. There will always be new people to meet, networks to build and objectives to achieve and revise.
Determine what worked and what didn’t and make the next 100 days even better.
Michael is the founder of Big 4 Career LAB whose mission is to challenge the hiring status quo at large professional services firms. Michael and his team provide in-depth Big 4 hiring advice while coaching college students and young professionals to achieve their dream of securing a Big 4 career.