Navigating Your First 90 Days on the Job

Navigating Your First 90 Days on the Job

Faulkner, LaCarole

How excited you must be now that you are about to graduate and start work! When you start work, your first 90 days on the job will be very important Even though no official laws say that your first 90 days are probationary, you would be wise to consider them so. Employers approach probationary periods differently. Some offer retreats for new workers during which they introduce new employees to their new environment. Others expect a full day of work your first day. One accountant said that on his first day of work he was given a stack of papers and told that he was six months behind and that his boss was on maternity leave. With or without a stack of papers awaiting him on his first day, his first 90 days were probationary. So how can you prepare for a probationary period? Let’s take a reality road trip through your first 90 days on the job.

First, we, you and I, need a plan of action, a good set of directions, and perseverance to survive this 90-day probationary road trip. Though the trip can be physically and emotionally exhausting and though it can be over-whelming at times, it is unavoidable. Let’s begin by mapping out our course of action.

The first point on the map says that you are no longer a student or intern; you’re an employee. You must get organized! Invest in a notebook and a conservative briefcase. There will certainly be numerous documents from the Human Resource Department and valuable materials and notes from your new boss, co-workers, and, in some cases, subordinates. In any event, this paperwork needs to be reviewed and stored, for future use.

Let’s travel a little further up the road. Hopefully, you’ve done your research on the attire for your new employer. Fitting in with the appropriate attire is important because your attire leads your bosses and co-workers to their “first impressions.” To save you time and frustration, try and plan out what you will wear for the first week. Start off by locating the dry-cleaner and laundry service closest to where you will be staying. Doing so will bring some calmness to your already hectic and demanding first days on the job.

Now let’s assume that you did further research, before your start-date. When you show up for work the first day, you should be knowledgeable of the employer’s services and products. You should be somewhat familiar with the company’s philosophies and corporate culture.

The next point shows a left turn! According to the directions, you will have a week or two of company orientation. I cannot stress enough how getting the proper rest the night(s) before these days of orientation will help you in the long run. You cannot doze off and catch the test notes later. Being alert and tentative at company orientation can be a matter of you sinking or swimming, before you even get to your new work location. As the new kid on the block, you have not formed any allegiance or friendships with anyone yet. Therefore, being present and alert at orientation can be quite “critical” for a new employee. It would surely be obvious that you’re the one who cannot distinguish the company CEO from the tenured mailedroom supervisor.

The next directions say something about security. Can you walk company halls without a badge on? If sleeping through orientation leaves you clueless and you find yourself being tackled to the ground by security, because you didn’t know a badge was required “at all times,” let that be a lesson!

As you see, your next 90 days of survival with any employer require a clear and concise plan of action. That plan includes taking the right directions and knowing your purpose for being with the company. The directions for your road trip indicate the following:

* Get a copy of your company’s most recent annual report and read it thoroughly.

* Take the time to understand your company’s benefits plan. (Don’t wait until you need to use one of the benefits to understand it.)

* Personalize your work area, but keep it simple. Get a nameplate so everyone will know who you are.

* Remember the names of those you are introduced to.

* (Jotting down names could be useful.)

* If your employer provides the option, have your paycheck set up for direct deposit. It will save you time and hassle of depositing each paycheck and will give you quicker access to your money.

* If you take public transportation to work, here is a great opportunity to go over work notes and the daily paper, instead of a quick doze. (Also, an ideal time to rehearse what you need to accomplish for the day.)

* Punctuality is vital! Allow yourself time for the restroom, coffee/tea time and greeting co-workers, before the actual start of your day.

* Always carry a notepad or pocket organizer with you. Get in a routine of writing down thoughts, ideas, and information from others. Before you forget!

* Develop a good daily routine of what needs to be done regularly.

* Greetings in a company environment is a part of protocol, a simple “hello” or “good morning” is all that’s necessary. (Please do not start off your day or anyone else’s with what you did the night before or how uncontrolled and stressed out you’re feeling, being new on the job.)

* Plan your day. Fifteen to twenty minutes before you leave work, will add extra productivity throughout your next day.

* Keep a toothbrush and breath mints in your desk for bad breath occurrences. Also, if you drive to work, keep a spare shirt/blouse, an extra tie and nylons for emergencies.

* Arrive at meetings on time.

* Refrain from doodling or daydreaming at meetings. Your co-worker’s briefings may end up as part of your responsibilities.

* If you bring your lunch, great! It will save both time and money. Another suggestion, if you go to the company cafeteria, be sociable. Here’s an opportunity to meet other people in the corporation.

* During extra time at lunch or breaks, try going for a brisk walk or a stretching routine, to clear your mind.

Work Ethics:

* Develop a good reputation for honesty and integrity.

* Avoid profanity.

* Never tell racist, dirty, or sexist jokes, and ignore those who attempt to share them with you.

* Do not lie, cheat, or steal, even during moments of temptation. Your reputation can proceed to other companies in the future.

Interpersonal Skills:

Always take the opportunity to congratulate others who are commendable. If someone has done well, take the time to compliment her or him.

* Talk 20% and Listen 80% avoid those who talk 100% of the time.

* Look for solutions, not problems.

* Avoid complaining. Every office environment has a person who feels responsible for the role of an “office complainer.” That person does not have to be you! Quickly, ignore them if they attempt to practice their art on you.

Office Politics:

* Show respect for your boss in everything you do. Do not join others in boss bashing.

* Walk away from office gossipers.

* Never discuss your salary with your co-workers.

* When you are personally complimented for something that you know was a team effort, don’t forget to give credit to the team.

Education and Training:

* Take time to learn and understand the company training and education programs. (Take full advantage of it!)

* Learn to become a team player. Hopefully, you’ve learned this while in college, that working as a group can pay off if done right.

Financial $$$:

* It’s not a bad idea to buy stock from your company. Ask plenty of questions and read the company’s Annual Report carefully.

* Sign up for your 401K-plan as soon as possible. (Have money deducted immediately; the money will help you later in life.)

* Always pay your bills on time. Having more money than you’ve ever had should not relieve you of your responsibilities to protect your credit record. Begin a habit of planning and budgeting.

Recreational Activities:

* Keep your personal life out of the office. Give yourself time to develop a trusted co-worker.

* When going out for drinks with your boss or co-workers just keep in mind, limit yourself to one glass of beer or wine. Remember the college scene is now behind you. (Bad choices can eventually affect your new career.)

Career Development:

* Be familiar with your chain of command! Know who your Boss(es) is.

* Ask your boss sporadically to point out areas of continuous improvement.

* Be aware of the work with others around you These are areas of prospective future growth.

* Get copies of competitors’ annual reports. They will keep you in tune of your industry and will help you better understand and appreciate your company’s competitive edge.

* Please realize, no one owes you a living, no one owes you a job. Cheating on doing your job responsibilities will outweigh your old habit of cheating on a college exam. You must earn what you accomplish!

* If you do above and beyond what your job requires you to do, it will pay off in the long run. Most likely you will be paid or rewarded for it. (Keep notes of what you do.)

Life long skills:

* Start using your day-timer, Franklin planner, or pocket planner consistently. It will assist you with organizing daily responsibilities/Activities.

* Expect great things from yourself and hope for the best from others.

* Be proactive in planning for the future. To get things in the future you must pursue them today.

* Spend time listening and observing constantly.

* Begin to look around for a potential mentor. Keep your possibilities open! Mentors can come in the form of a different sex, race, and industry. Choose wisely and carefully!

* You are the best investment you will ever have. The dividends you receive on yourself will pay you back for the rest of your life. Start accumulating in the beginning.

* Whether you communicate by letters, memos, reports, proposals, notes, contracts, summaries, agendas, notices, regulations, plans, discussion documents, conversations, interviews, meetings, phone calls, debates, debriefings, announcements, speeches, visual aids, or media, you must work constantly at developing your skills to reach the next level. The power of your words and the pen can be rewarding if you prepare for what you do, and a quick disaster, if you don’t. Take the first three months to learn the culture of your company’s communication style.

* Get expert advice on the best ways for you to succeed with your company’s Information Technology.

* Learn to prioritize your work so that you can be prepared to tackle important and urgent matters when they come up.

* Start learning now to balance your work and home life. Remember there is life after work. Find out what extra activities your company may provide.

* This has been a big transition for you. Your life can now be suddenly stressful. Stress is also called the invisible disease. You cannot afford to ignore it. Don’t be afraid to talk about the situations you find stressful. (Choose someone wisely.)

* Mistakes will be made! Take responsibility for them immediately. Admit you were wrong or made a mistake, and move on. Just be sure not to make the same mistake again.

Health and Fitness:

* Limit junk food intake. Be mindful of physical fitness. Health issues have ways of catching up with you, sooner rather than later.

Wow! We’ve reached the end of our 90-day trip. Those 90 days went by fast! Keep in mind that making the transition from college to a full-time employment will continue to be a challenge for some time.

Anticipation helps. Begin by reviewing some, or all, of the suggestions I have included in this article. Then, spend time with your College Career Counselor and anyone else already in the industry who can provide you with professional advise. It’s your vehicle (your career) now; drive responsibly, cautiously, and manage your turns with perfection!

LaCarole Faulkner is Vice President of L & L Associates Global Search Inc.

Copyright Black Collegian Apr 2005

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