July 16, 2019

The First 90 Hours (not days)

The first 90 days are super important to any new experience, right? But I’ve found the first 90 HOURS are actually the most crucial.

You’ve probably heard it before:  The first 90 days are critical in any new professional experience.  Books have been written about this topic and often the 30-60-90 day onboarding plan comes-up during interviews.

Jim came to me with this same mindset.

He just landed a new sales gig at a hot start-up here in Seattle.  Early in his career (mid-20s), he was ready to crush it.  Lots of smarts.  Lots of energy.  He came to me looking for validation of his onboarding plan.

My feedback to Jim:  “90 days? No way.  Reputations are built within the first couple of weeks on the job.  You’ve got to nail the first 90 hours to build a foundation for success in this new role.  Hiring Managers want to see drive, smarts, and relationships.  Let’s focus here.”

So, we got to work building Jim’s 90 hour plan…

Here’s where we landed:

  • Show-up!  Be in the office early and leave late. Dress for success.  Say “hi” to everyone. Smile.  Be busy. Turn off your phone.  Leave your headphones at home.  No Instagram.
  • Don’t worry about logistics.  Benefits, time-off, bus passes, extra coffee pods, etc will get figured out.  You want to focus on your work as soon as possible.  Even if you don’t have a laptop (yet), figure out other ways to show your stuff.  As a manager, I always thought it was so weird when a new hire came to me on day 2 asking about time-off. Don’t’ do that!
  • Nail the relationship with the Hiring Manager.  Go beyond pleasantries.  You should know what your manager expects and how s/he wants the work done.  Preferred communication style and how feedback is (generally) given is also important to cover.
  • Recap your Professional Story and get crisp on 1-2 instant impact areas.  Lots of folks leave themselves out of the early conversations and I think this is a big miss.  Talk to your manager about how YOU work best and where YOU are going to focus for quick impact.
  • Know how you’re being measured (esp. the short term).  Again, think about the “what” and the “how” here.  It doesn’t need to be perfect (it’s only your first couple weeks), but you do want to understand generally how your manager and the broader team measure success.  For Jim, he wanted his “number” as quickly as possible to build out his revenue plan.
  • Get a sense of the broader organization.  Check-out the global address book for reporting structures, titles, locations, etc. This will give you an instant sense (if you don’t already) of where you “fit” in the broader organization.  Make note of leaders/teams you might want to meet (more on this below) and talk to your manager about who’s who.
  • Get out there with your team/partners/leadership.  Schedule 1:1s with your teammates and partners.  Know your bosses boss.  Go to lunch/coffee.  Shadow folks. Say “yes” to happy hour on Friday.

Bottom line:  Be your very best self in the first 90 hours.  Even if it’s not totally “you” (let’s say you’re a total introvert), push yourself during these foundational hours.  You want the Hiring Manager (and broader team) to feel really good about their hiring decision.

Another bottom line:  Even if you’re not starting a totally new gig, you can apply Jim’s plan to anything – a new project, a re-org, a new partnership, or when you’re feeling like you need to (quickly) get back on track.

* Jim isn’t his real name, and he’s certainly glad he didn’t wait around to kick-butt in his new role!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

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