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Part 5: How to be successful within the first 60 days of any new job: “Why”

In the final entry of our series, we will look at the most important success factor within the first 60 days of any new job, the “why” – as in, “why am I here?”

This element comes last because it generally comes near the end of the 60 day period (and in some cases even after the first 60 days has concluded). The “why” is about purpose and because it is so substantial, it is not something that should be rushed.

While the “what” more closely relates to a job description or set of responsibilities that are applicable to anyone who takes on your job, the “why” is more about the unique work that you do.

The “why” is about impact. It is about leaving your mark.

When you start a new job you should always be on the hunt for things that you can do to improve the organization. Look for initiatives to lead or things to be a part of that go above and beyond what your boss considers to be your job.

Finding out why you are in a position and then following it through to completion will be a key influence to the raises you receive, the bonuses you are offered and the career opportunities (for promotion or otherwise) that you are given.

The positive “mark” that you leave on an organization does not have to be a grand ordeal, simple things work too. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should do something that will last long after you have moved on to a new job.

A large strategic partnership, organization restructuring effort or redefining of a process can be great things to be a part of to leave your mark, but the genesis of the idea does not have to be grand. Focus on an issue that you see over and over again. Think about the pain points of others (your customer or co-workers alike), then brainstorm ways to improve them.

A good way to put it in context is to identify a responsibility you can take on or an initiative you can create that will allow you to accomplish something worthy of being listed on your resume.

When I was managing a call center, I found that morale was an issue. Shortly after starting the position, we had to move offices, finding a new space in another location 45 miles away. All the employees were experiencing a big change in their normal day to day routines (commutes and otherwise) and it took a toll on everyone’s attitude. I saw this situation as an opportunity.

I teamed up with a peer of mine and we created the “Morale Committee.” We brought together volunteers throughout the organization who wanted to help improve office morale and get our teams past the adjustment period after moving offices. We put together recognition events: raffles, birthday celebrations, contests, and soon morale really improved and more people wanted to be part of the committee. It ended up that for a few years after I left the committee lived on, maintaining the high level of morale within the office and leaving a lasting impression of the impact I had made.

No matter how big or small, find ways that you can leave a positive impact and create fulfilling reasons why you should be in the job you are in.

To summarize, within the first 60 days of any job, remember the Who, What, How, Where and Why:

  • Who are you
  • What is your job
  • How do you manage
  • Where do you position yourself
  • Why are you here

When you have each of these down, you will be well on your way to being successful in any new job. It was the successful implementation of these 5 things that led a manager of mine to say to me during a performance review three months into my job, “In my 25 years working you are the best person I have ever hired for any position I have ever hired for.” Others who I have shared this formula with have experienced similar results.

I hope this formula can bring you the same level of success.




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Part 4: How to be successful within the first 60 days of any new job: “Where”

The “where” in our 60 days to new job success analogy refers to “where do I position myself.” The “where” is all about politics and alignment. A portion of this is gossip avoidance and the other is relationship building.

As much as we despise work politics and do our best to avoid them, they are inevitable.

Watercooler talk happens all the time and is fairly easy to get sucked into. By nature, the gossipers seek out people to share their latest stories with. In particular, when you first start a job, the gossipers will test you out to see if you will become a source for them or a welcoming ear to engage in back office chat.

If you become engaged with them, it will be hard to get out, so make sure to avoid these situations or at the very least don’t acknowledge them. Even an occasionally, “really, I don’t believe that” from you when hearing about the latest rumor going around the office makes you an accessory. Without knowing it, that gossiper may move on to the next person quoting that he/she talked to you and that you totally agree with them, even if you never said anything in the first place. As a rule of thumb, don’t even be part of the rumor conversation (this goes without saying that you shouldn’t do anything to be the person gossiped about).

On the relationship building front, most of us are familiar with the fact that in order to get recognition and move up within an organization, you need to have the support of people around you. From the beginning, it is important what sides you pick and who you align with. Similar to the advice related to rumors, do your best to avoid siding with any peers in the office because they may bring you into situations that will compromise your neutrality and could hurt you later.

Picking sides tends to lead to behind closed door conversations and situations that cause you to focus more on politics and positioning than actually doing your job.

STARs are transparent. Instead of worrying about how things are perceived (making yourself look good and other look bad), a STAR does her job and lets her results speak to her worth to the organization instead of relying on politicking.

As eluded to, the simple answer to “where do I position myself?” is to position yourself as a neutral outside party. Help everyone and engage in rumor-mongering with no one.

When looking longer term, political alignment is a factor that will influence your career at any company. If you align yourself with a certain executive, leveraging them as a mentor or following their lead as they move to different positions within the company, be conscious of how they are being perceived because how others view them will affect how they view you. Just as within the first 60 days, it is best to avoid choosing just one side.

Our concluding blog entry for the series will focus on the all important “why” in ensuring success within the first 60 days of any new job.




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Part 3: How to be successful within the first 60 days of any new job: “How”

Now, we look at the all important “how” of transitioning into any new job; “how do I manage.”

When I say “how do I manage,” I am referring to the how you manage the relationships with your boss, your peers, with the people you interact with (in different departments or otherwise) to do your job, and in management roles- how to manage your new team.

Let’s start with your boss. While at first glance it may seem counter intuitive; wait, I thought my boss manages me, not the other way around. STARs realize that managing is a two way street. Besides doing your job, successful people seek to understand their boss and then adapt to support him or her.

When starting a new position it is crucial to learn how your boss likes to communicate, what his goals are and how he likes to run the team.  Moreover, a great way to “manage” your boss is by understanding his strengths and weaknesses. Take note of his strengths but then do your best to mitigate his weaknesses. Often, a simple thing to you could mean a great deal to your boss.

I once had a manager who was a fantastic leader and solid verbal communicator, but had struggled at times with written communication. On countless occasions he would call me into his office to read an email, letter or presentation he was about to send out to ensure the grammar was correct and that he was getting his point across. This took little time and effort for me, but meant a lot to him. Seeing this as an opportunity, I proactively asked if there were ways to assist my boss with written tasks.

The same goes for communication with your boss. In my first job out of school, I made the mistake of deciding not to ask questions of my boss, instead using my peers; I wanted to show her that I knew how to do my job. A couple months later when my first performance review came around, my boss expressed her concern because she wasn’t getting any feedback from me and didn’t think I understood my job. I made the mistake of not learning how she liked to engage with her direct reports, leading to some misunderstandings. Make sure to learn these types of things early on.

Put differently, within the first 60 days of your job, you want to figure out how to make your boss look good.

The same goes for your peers or people in other organizations you need to work with to complete your job responsibilities. Learn how these people like to communicate and get their work done. Note whether the most effective way to get through to them is via email, text, phone calls or face to face meetings. If you adapt to their style, you will find that they will be more willing to help you or make the work you need them to do a priority- ultimately helping you do your job better.

Learning how to “manage up” and cross functionally from the beginning will set you down the path to success in any new role.

In the upcoming entry, we will look at the “where” in how to be successful within the first 2 months of a new job.



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Part 2: How to be successful within the first 60 days of any new job: “What”

Continuing our series on how to be successful within the first 60 days of any new position, we now focus on the “what”- as in, “what is my job.”

More than anything, the focus is a tactical exercise in fully understanding your job responsibilities. While I wish it was as easy as regularly referring to your job description (which I have found can be notably different than the work I actually end up doing), the goal here is to get a grasp of your day-to-day and make sure you can get to a point where you can work independently, with little to no help.

I recall my transition to a new position a few years ago when I began managing a sales team. Among a number of job responsibilities that I needed to understand, I needed to get a better grasp on how to conduct a coaching session with my sales reps and I had to learn how to complete a number of administrative tasks through our CRM (customer relationship management) software. In this case, and in any new job transition that you face, the key is to master two simple things: (1) asking questions, and (2) finding “mini mentors.”

What many people neglect to think about, is the importance of asking questions. Some feel embarrassed to speak up and admit that they don’t know something, not wanting to appear un-knowledgeable. This is the worst approach you can take. In most situations, no one will tell you every single thing you need to know and if you are not willing to ask questions (paired with some self-directed research) then how are you expected to understand something? Don’t be apprehensive about asking questions. When you first start a job, you are not expected to know it all. Yet if you don’t, then in the months that follow things that you aren’t expected to know on day one become things that you should have learned a while ago. It is important who you ask questions to (better your peers than your boss, and better to spread out the question asking instead of asking one person every single questions about everything).

Secondly, find “mini mentors.” When most of us think of mentorship, we think of a formal relationship we develop with an accomplished person in our field. Someone we can come to when making tough career decisions. While this research is important to have, mentors can also play a more targeted role in your day-to-day work. Find a resource for specific job responsibilities that you can go to when questions arise. In my case, for example, I had a mini-mentor to help me with conducting coaching reviews and a different mentor to help with the tasks I had to do in our CRM system.

When I needed to prepare for my initial coaching sessions or when I wanted to test out a new coaching technique I did test runs with my coaching mini-mentor. When I needed to pull a weekly report on my sales team’s results or wanted to create a new report on their prospecting activity, I reached out to my CRM mini-mentor to walk through how to do this in the system.

For any given job, you can have upwards of a half dozen mini-mentors or more, each providing something valuable to you during your transition to a position (and beyond). It’s a good idea to find ways to reciprocate with your mini-mentors to help them in an area that you are good at that they may need help in.

Remember to seek out and develop relationships with mini-mentors and be willing to ask questions of them (and anyone) when starting a new role.

Next, we will address the “How” in the first 60 days of any new job.



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How to be successful within the first 60 days of any new job (Part 1: Who)

This is the first of a series of blog posts that are focused on a very important topic- how to be successful at any job within the first 60 days.

Each year I receive a summary email from LinkedIn. It says something to the effect, “X number of your connections changed jobs within the last year.” As my LinkedIn network increased, so did the number of connections that changed jobs but maintained a similar proportion. With a few years of consistent results to back this up, it appeared that about one-third of my connections changed jobs each year.  Whether at the same company or a new one, on average we have to start anew every 3 or so years. For some (especially earlier in your career) this happens even more frequently.

Because opportunities to experience a new position comes around so regularly, it is so important for us to manage the process and ensure we are getting off to the right foot.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to go through what I refer to as the Who/What/Where/Why/How of integrating into a new job. Each part of the series will detail an important thing that successful people (labeled as “STARs” in my book series) do when starting a new job.

First, we address the “Who” part of the equation.

When I say “who,” I am referring to you (of course).

The “who” portion of successfully transitioning to a new job mainly has to do with your understanding of yourself. Put another way, it relates to your self-awareness. Successful people understand themselves. They know what they are good at and they know what they need to improve on (i.e. Strengths and Weaknesses). They have a certain level of emotional intelligence and know what skills they have as well as what skills they need to build in order to be successful in their new work environment.

Let’s say, for example that you begin a new position as an analyst at a technology company. As you start, it is important to conduct an inventory of the characteristics you excel at, for example that you are detail oriented, but you must also know your weaknesses, possibly that you traditionally have found it hard to finish your work before deadlines. You want to be conscious of showing off your strengths (in a humble way) and mitigating your weaknesses (in this case, preparing better before deadlines).

The most important vehicle for mastering the “who” part of the question is to set and collect clear expectations. A STAR is able to learn what her boss expects of her.  She also communicates what expectations she as an employee has of her manager so that she has the resources available if she needs help as she becomes more familiar with her new job.

Next week we will focus on another key element when transitioning to a new job, the “What.”



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