The first three months in a job can make or break your future prospects with a new employer.
You have succeeded at the interview, now is the time to prove that hiring you was the right choice. Fail to deliver on what you’ve promised and you could find yourself in a meeting room discussing your probation period before it’s even up…
So how can you ensure that your first 90 days go smoothly? While there are sometimes factors outside of your control, what happens in those initial weeks and months is largely down to you.
Follow our step by step guide for getting off on the right foot in your next role in IT.
Week one – Crucial Conversations
The most important element to being successful is achieving clarity on the desired outcomes for your new role, and understanding the timeframes that you are working towards. You will only be able to move swiftly in the right direction if you are very clear on your priorities. So how can you achieve this?
1. With your Manager
First, seek to understand your Manager’s expectations. You both need to be clear on how you will be measured and in alignment with what success looks like. It’s also important to have an open discussion about any unwritten rules that you should be aware of.
This level of detail may not be appropriate for 9am on your first day but is a conversation you should prioritise in the first week.
Here are some good questions to help you out:
- How does my role fit into the team and organisation’s wider strategy?
- What are my priorities in my new role? Are there any impending deadlines?
- What future milestones am I expected to hit?
- What are the daily/weekly /monthly outcomes I need to achieve?
- How am I measured?
- How is my boss measured?
- How are my internal stakeholders measured?
- Do I have the resources I need to reach these objectives?
- Do I have all the technical skills (programming languages etc.) required to achieve success?
- What relationships do I need to develop to reach these objectives?
- How do we want to work together?
2. With your team
It’s important to get to know your new team and to appear interested and engaged in your conversations with them. Seek to understand the individuals and how they work together. Familiarise yourself with any internal project management and communication tools your team is using.
Befriend an experienced team member that is able to help you better navigate the business internally, as every business has their own particular language and way of doing things. This person will help you understand any particular acronyms or unique processes, and will also be helpful in fostering any required introductions to get things done. Lastly, they can provide context on what may have been attempted at the business in the past, both successfully and unsuccessfully.
Take note of the team culture and how individuals like to work. It’s a good skill to be able to adapt your style to achieve the best outcomes for others. So for instance, if someone you need to work with is quite analytical and planned, make sure you schedule meetings, give them an outline of what you want to achieve and come prepared with facts and data. Equally don’t be afraid to let others know how you work best so that you can get more out of your interactions.
3. With key stakeholders
It’s likely much of your first week will be induction meetings where you have some one-on-one time with key stakeholders you will be working with. This may be an informal coffee or more formal. Inductions are a valuable opportunity to get to know more about your new role, and the people you will be working with so use them wisely!
Here are a few tips:
- Don’t treat the induction process as just a “meet and greet”. Whilst it’s important to meet people and get to know them a bit better, it’s also essential to use their insight to help clarify what is expected of you in your new role and understand challenges faced by other teams.
- Take notes! Inductions can be a bit overwhelming. You’ll be in and out of introductory meetings with different stakeholders in the early weeks and it can all be a bit of a blur, so make sure you create a process for keeping track of everything you learn.
- Manage your own personal brand. People will ask you about yourself so be prepared with a concise professional background and a comment about why you’re excited to be there in the new role. It’s essential to only say positive things about past roles or people.
- Try to put yourself in their shoes. It’s helpful to seek to understand internal stakeholder’s drivers and how their success is measured. This awareness will help you to get stronger outcomes down the line.
Kelly Woodward, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Trip Advisor says,
“Embed yourself in the culture, brand, technology and project(s) from the moment you walk through the door. Your direct team, colleagues and manager are great sources of information and support for your first 90 days, and beyond. If you don’t know something, ask! Remember, every person in the office has been through their first 90 days in a new role! The more you can get to grips with understanding, not only, your individual goal, but team goal and business goals, the more success you will have in the role.”
Week two - quick wins
You’d be forgiven for not getting too much done during your first week, but by week two you should be starting to think about how you can achieve some quick wins to show that you’re making an immediate impact. These don’t have to be big, but they should be well communicated.
It’s important to establish early on how IT fits into the wider business and identify any gaps in governance that can be quickly resolved. New and innovative ways of thinking are your best asset as a new team member - just remember this is the time for listening and asking questions, save the recommendations and advice for later to avoid offending anyone.
Ensure that ALL your responsibilities are carried out to a high standard. If you’ve inherited any projects from your predecessor make sure that they get the same attention and positivity as the ones you’ve been tasked to create from scratch.
At the end of the week, compile a summary of all the tasks you’ve completed and create a list of next steps you’d like to discuss with your manager, then request a regular catch up with them for the following weeks. Being proactive about updating your manager will impress them and it will give you an additional incentive to stay on track.
Remember to always have facts, solutions or ideas where there are concerns, problems or hurdles with a project and be very open to advice from your manager, especially in the early weeks.
Week three - start evaluating
Your third week is a good time to refer back to all the tools you started utilising in your first and second weeks
- Are you on track with what you said you would be?
- Have you met all the people you need to now?
- Do you have a good grasp of internal tools and systems?
- Are there any blockers that you are facing that you need help addressing?
Request follow-up meetings with anyone you met during your first and second weeks that you would like to learn more from. Building these relationships early on in your role is crucial - many employers will consider how you slot into the team more important than your technical knowledge and skills initially. Medium states team fit and culture as the number one thing tech employers look for in a new hire.
It’s also very important to regularly re-evaluate your to-do list and create new deadlines, checking in with other members of your team to make sure you’re on the same page.
Stephany Dobbelstein, HR Business Partner, SIRCA & RoZetta believes it is important to get to know your colleagues and advisable to really understand how the business works early on.
“In particular, familiarise yourself not only with your own IT department but with other business units such as sales or customer service to understand how each department works together to achieve a common business goal. Just like piecing together a puzzle, it will help you understand the 'bigger picture' and will guide you in important decisions you may make in your new role at your new company.”
Week four - review progress and make plans
The end of your first month is a great time to reflect on your progress and start creating a longer-term plan with your manager. When you meet to discuss your first four weeks, you should show that you are already looking forward and thinking about your future with the company. Think about using the following talking points:
- Solicit feedback on how you are performing and any opportunities for improvement
- Focus not only on what you are delivering but how you are doing it. Your working style is an important consideration in probation periods.
- Review your performance. Agree on a regular time slot with your manager (weekly to start with, then bi-weekly/monthly once you’re settled)
- Identify knowledge gaps and suggest training courses or methods of upskilling for you/your teammates (take a look at IT bodies in Australia such as ACS and ITPA for news and events)
- Reconfirm your short and long-term objectives as time passes to ensure you stay on track. Priorities often evolve and change within organisations.
Listen to your manager’s feedback and take any constructive criticism on board with a positive attitude, there is always room for improvement!
Stuart FitzRoy, Chief Product and Engineering Officer, Rokt says that in your first 90 days in a new role you should ask plenty of questions.
“There is no such thing as a silly question - at least in your first 90 days! Make an effort to get to know your team and seek feedback on how you are performing relative to expectations. We find that open and honest dialogue early on is an important way to help new starters settle into their new role. At Rokt we also encourage new starters to have an impact early, for example by working with their team to write and commit their own code to production.”
Month two - communication and transparency are key
You should feel like part of the furniture by your second month, although there will still be plenty for you to learn, so make sure your attitude reflects that you are comfortable and confident, but willing to carry on developing in your role.
Antonia Jennings, Head Of Talent Acquisition, Commvault, says you should make people your priority in your first 90 days.
“Get to know who's who and who is going to help you on your journey with the company. Set aside time at the end of each week to reflect on what you've learnt, who you've met and what's on your priority list for the week ahead.”
Continue to develop inter-departmental relationships but also start to look outside of the IT team. Are there other stakeholders in your business that you should be communicating with? Did your predecessor have regular meetings with other teams? Start gathering this information, widening your network and establishing your positive reputation in the company.
Report back to your manager frequently, as you agreed in your first month, and remember that too much communication and transparency is better than none at all. As you build up trust with your manager check in with them on the level of detail you are sharing.
Focus on your own personal and professional development too. You might have had an extremely busy first four to eight weeks, but find the time (such as your commute) to stay on top of IT industry news and upskilling. If your passion and enthusiasm for your function run out early on in your role, it will be noticed.
Month three - measure and review
Review your own work and ask yourself what you could improve upon in the future. Are you performing at the level you think you should be? Don’t let yourself burn out by doing too much too quickly, you’re going to have a far better impact in your role if you manage your workload and potential stressors right from the start.
TechRepublic suggests that disconnecting every now and then during the day is one way of minimising stress for IT professionals who typically spend lots of time at a computer.
Now that you are an established member of the IT function invest in continuing to build relationships at all levels of the business.
Your third month is also a good time to start challenging the IT status quo. You should be familiar enough with current processes and long-term IT objectives by the end of your first 90 days to make solid recommendations, drawing upon your past experience and getting buy-in from senior stakeholders. Ensure your recommendations are solutions driven and sensitive to overall objectives, your colleagues and budget or resource constraints.
DO in your first 90 days
Here are some helpful guidelines to help you succeed during your first 90 days. Following these approaches will help you quickly start to make a positive contribution to your new team:
- Be open-minded and flexible. Every work environment is different and has its own unique approach and challenges. Use the opportunity to learn and evaluate a new approach before you rush to get back to how you worked in your previous role.
- Ask Questions. People are there to help and all of your new colleagues want you to succeed. They have all had their own “first 90 days” too and understand the challenges you are going through.
- Actively listen and take notes. While your colleagues are more than happy to answer your questions, you don’t want to be asking the same questions repeatedly.
- Develop relationships. Success in any new role is driven by your ability to work effectively with others. Taking the time to get to know your colleagues and stakeholders will pay long-term dividends.
- Look after yourself. Starting a new job is a busy time and you don’t want to ruin your first impression by showing up at less than 100%. Show up to work fresh-faced and well rested and ready to give the day your best.
- Solicit regular feedback. Check in regularly with your immediate manager and peers on the quality of your work.
- Manage your personal brand. Remember this isn’t just how you think of yourself but what you want others to be saying about you. For instance It’s critical to always refer to your business and your past career experience in a positive light.
What NOT to do in your first 90 days
There are also a few ‘no-no’s’ for your first 90 days. As the newest member of the team it’s important you don’t step on anyone’s toes and ruin the positive impact you’re having. Avoid the following for smooth sailing:
- Discussing confidential information
- Gossiping about colleagues
- Delegating to people who don’t report to you
- Trying to change things too quickly or without the relevant stakeholder buy-in
- Highlighting problems without suggesting viable solutions - if it’s your company’s problem, it’s yours too
Lucy Singleton, Personal Branding Specialist says
“A change in job is a great opportunity to work on your own personal brand. Take some time before you start to think about the things you want to be “known for”, then make it a priority to live and breathe it everyday. The only way to control what people think about you is through your own actions.”
Are you managing a team?
If you are going to be managing people in your new role then there are some important things that you should be considering:
- Your priorities should be achieving the company’s vision and mission, building a high-performing team, and creating an environment where people are able to do their best work.
- Engage with the team. Ask them about what’s working, what’s not, and how you can help them succeed in their own role and career.
- Don’t be quick to change things immediately. Take the time to understand the unique challenges of the company and resist the urge to start every sentence with “Back when I worked at company XYZ we….”
- Lock-in recurring individual and team meetings into your diary as quickly as possible.
- Have a conversation about working styles. Discover how your team members like to work together and communicate.
Are you in a contract/project based role?
Hit the ground running
When a company employs someone on a contract or temporary basis, that means that they have a specific outcome in mind. You likely won’t have the luxury of lengthy induction processes, so take the initiative in becoming effective as quickly as possible. Maintain a flexible approach while focusing on delivering results.
Bring your A game.
Be fully engaged in doing your best work for your current employer regardless of the duration of this particular contract. This will help to create new opportunities for contract extensions, new projects, permanent career opportunities, and a network of potential new employers.
Focus on relationships.
When you build strong relationships and networks within the company it will help you succeed in your current role and impact how quickly you are able to deliver results. Also, this will expand your network and may lead to future career opportunities.
Maintain an open dialogue with your recruitment agency
Stay in regular contact with your recruitment agency (hopefully us!) and help them to understand how you are progressing within the role. They will be able to help you through any challenges, identify opportunities for further work, and they will endeavour to find new opportunities ready for you at contract completion.
Why the first 90 days?
As an IT professional, you’ll know the importance of your technical knowledge and skills - after all, that’s why you were hired. But to be really successful in any role, you must utilise these crucial first 90 days to establish key priorities, build relationships and embed yourself within your team and the wider organisation.
Every company and every role is different, but never underestimate the power of a good first impression… or a good first 90 days. Good luck!
The team at Spark is made up of Sydney’s top IT recruitment experts. We help job seekers find great IT roles in the applications, business services, and infrastructure disciplines.
At Spark, we care about your job fit and placing you in a role where you have the potential to shine. Our passion for seeing you succeed is why we put together this guide.
Ready to land your next role in IT? Get in touch with the Spark Recruitment team today, or simply upload your resume below.