Starting a new job is both exciting and stressful. 

You look forward to tackling new challenges but all the unknowns that come with a new role can make it feel daunting.  I feel your pain because I’ve been there myself.  Here’s the great news; there are 4 key things you can do to set yourself up for success and transition smoothly.

What does my boss expect?  What does success look like for the organization? Who are the key stakeholders I need to engage to move projects forward?  Where does my team fit in the matrix of the organization?  These may be a few of the questions that keep you up at night when you start a new job.  This is normal and I’d be concerned if these questions didn’t cross your mind.  Having them means you are engaged and invested in your work and that’s the best place you can start.

Over the years, my mentors have provided me with great advice (including books on this topic) that helped me get a handle on this and set a path for success.

4 key actions to take when starting a new position:

  1. Week 1: Set Expectations With Your Boss.  It’s hard to know if your succeeding expectations if you don’t know what success looks like in regards to your role.  Although good leaders typically set aside time the first week to cover this with you, this isn’t always the case – I’ve seen numerous employees tossed into the fire with no direction or training and little supervision.  It’s painful to watch them scramble to survive when it doesn’t have to be this way.  To avoid this pitfall, proactively set aside thirty minutes to an hour with your boss and ask the following:
    1. What are the business challenges you are faced with and how will I be expected to help solve these?
    2. What does success look like for my role?
    3. What things do you need most from me in the next 30-90 days?
    4. What training, if any, would be beneficial in setting me up for success?
    5. Who are the key stakeholders I will need to influence?
    6. Can you recommend 2-3 mentors who would be a good match for my role?
    7. What is your leadership style and how can I work best with you?

The answers you receive to these questions will create clarity and direction for you.  Bonus!  Your boss now knows you are highly engaged and want to succeed.

  1. Weeks 1-2: Immerse Yourself in the Culture.  I’ve seen so many people fail because they miss this key step.  If you don’t understand the culture and personally live it, you’re like a fish out of water and you won’t make it long.  Take every chance you get to talk to colleagues and leaders about the culture so you can emulate it right away.
  2. Weeks 1-4: Establish Your Network.  Relationships are key to driving any kind of organizational growth whether you are leading a team or an individual contributor.  You will be hard pressed to get anything accomplished, especially in a matrix organization, without building strong relationships first.  If you think you can come in as a trail blazer and make dramatic changes in the first 3-6 months without having the right partnerships, you better be prepared for the dent to your credibility and influence.  Avoid this pitfall by scheduling 30 minute meetings with those on your team, members of your department, key stakeholders, mentors and influencers, and potential mentees to get to know them better.  During these meetings, be prepared to:
    1. Listen more and talk less.
    2. Ask compelling questions to understand other’s perceptions of where the organization is, where they want to take it and the progress they’ve made to date.
    3. Ask questions to understand the organizational structure and culture – this information is invaluable so be sure to get clarity here.
    4. Take notes and write down things you want to follow back up on.
    5. Be yourself. Focus more on relating during this first conversation than trying to impress.  If people find you relatable, they will want to work with you because they will perceive you as a collaborator.

Building key relationships early on will help you gain credibility and momentum when it’s time for change.  After all, driving organizational transition requires that you bring your team, key stakeholders and leaders along with you.

  1. Weeks 2-3: Write/Revamp Your 30/60/90 Day Plan.  The earlier you complete this step the better and you may do this as part of your interview process which is great!  From the meetings mentioned in the first two steps you are now loaded with an arsenal of information and well equipped to develop a 30/60/90 day plan.  Here’s a more detailed description and template you can use.  This plan will include your assessment of organizational needs/goals and your strategy for how you can help achieve them.  Remember to focus more on the what than the how which will evolve over time as you build relationships.  Plan for the quick wins in the first 90 days as large scale changes will occur over a much longer timeframe, 1-3 years out, especially if you are at the executive level.

Many agree that the first 90 days is a critical timeframe for job success.  Smoothly transition and be known as a leader within your organization by utilizing the 4 steps above.  Wishing you all the best in your new position!

Additional Resources:

Check out Michael Watkins’ book, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter.  Forbes article, How to Ace Your Job in the First 90 Days by Jane Bianchi.

Andrea Cadelli

Andrea is a speaker, author, and storytelling expert. She loves helping you embrace your authentic voice and make an impact with your message. Through the power of story and the art of storytelling, she helps you ignite emotions, inspire change, and influence results. Follow her and unleash the power of your story.


Debby Woods · July 6, 2017 at 8:44 am

Good points that I wish I knew years ago! Although I always had someone jealous of me, stealing my job away!

    andreacadelli · July 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you, Debby! I’m glad you found this article helpful and don’t let anyone ever take your dreams away from you – they are small and powerless people. Wishing you ALL the BEST! Andrea

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