1. Home
  2. Insights

3 Ways You Can Rock Your First 3 Months at Your New Job

Everyone knows that first impressions are crucial to reputations and success. But research from author Michael D. Watkins shows that, in a new job, the initial impression you make on your managers and coworkers can be the difference between a long, successful tenure and a short, difficult run.

Like it or not, you only get one chance to make that first impression. So make it count from the start by building a strong foundation for your new professional relationships by proving your worth from Day One.

Wow your colleagues and bosses in the first 90 days

What if the first 90 days are your best shot at building a lasting, positive impression at your new job?  Michael D. Watkins, author of The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, believes that's about right.

Why are the first 90 days so significant? In an interview with LearnVest, Watkins points out that 90 days, or three months, is a quarter--the common timeframe for organizations to examine and record performance metrics for business and employees. Thus, that first quarter on the job is often your best opportunity to lock in your reputation as someone the company needs going forward.

Those first 90 days are also important because during that time, your colleagues and bosses will form their first impressions of you just as they would in a social setting: Whatever limited information they gather about you will be subconsciously applied to their opinions about your character and your abilities. This is crucial because, as Watkins says, first impressions are "sticky." Once someone develops one, it's very difficult to change it.

When it comes to making first impressions in a new job, don't leave anything to chance. Here are three ways you can hit the ground running as you make your way through those critical first 90 days.

"When it comes to making first impressions in a new job, don't leave anything to chance."

1. Understand office politics

Every workplace has its own complex, pre-existing web of relationships, processes and other assorted nuances that create the cultural atmosphere. No one wants to get involved with so-called office politics, but the reality is that, with or without your involvement, office politics exist and have a major influence on day-to-day business operations. If you want to be effective at your new job, you need to understand how they work and how to navigate them, even if you prefer neutral ground.

Watkins says you should focus on understanding the office's political culture before you do anything else. Determine who you should get to know, learn the unwritten rules of the workplace and figure out how things get done. Don't worry about impressing everyone with your technical skills right off the bat—you'll get a chance to do that later. Focus on building relationships with your coworkers and managers and learning how to carry yourself from the beginning.

Every office has politics. For better or worse, they're a big part of the job, so learn your office's political system as soon as possible.

Every office has "office politics." For better or worse, they're a big part of the job, so you should be sure to understand how they work as soon as possible.

2. Meet every deadline

Meeting all of your deadlines is absolutely essential to making a great first impression at a new job, writes Colin Shaw, LinkedIn Influencer and Beyond Philosophy CEO.

Reliability, Shaw explains, is one of the most important traits in a worker. Being branded as unreliable will hold you back from getting to take on the big projects later on, because your managers won't trust you to deliver when it matters most. On the other hand, proving that you can produce quality work on a deadline is a powerful way to make yourself known as a reliable employee—one who goes beyond the talk and takes action.

3. Show drive and passion

There are countless ways to display your enthusiasm for growth and improvement, both for yourself and your employer, and everyone does it differently. Regardless, Shaw recommends a few simple but powerful ways to prove you mean business.

  • Be the first one in and the last one out. Show that you'll do whatever it takes to get up to speed and become a big-time contributor.
  • Make "Yes!" your default. Don't be a sycophant, and don't agree to take something on if you know you can't deliver. But avoid turning down opportunities to prove yourself and grow. Your first instinct should always be to say "Yes!"
  • Ask. Ask for feedback. Ask your veteran coworkers the best ways to approach things. Ask for clarification on tasks and action items so you know exactly how to proceed. Asking questions shows that you're engaged and committed to improving.