People First HR Services

Make a 90-day plan for your new job

Colleen Coates

They say only fools rush in and that certainly applies to someone starting the first day of a new job all gung-ho to please.

It’s important to resist jumping in with both feet and instead, gain firm footing with a 90-day plan designed to set you up for success. Why 90 days? It’s enough time to acclimatize to your new environment, get some direction and understand where you need to focus your attention. At the same time, many companies give employees a performance review after three months have been completed, so it’s wise to plan ahead and make your first 90 days the foundation for what will hopefully be a long and prosperous tenure.

Having a 90-day plan tells your manager that you are motivated and eager to do a good job. It also shows that you are committed to success — your own as well as that of the organization.

This plan should outline what you want to accomplish in terms of tasks designed to reach overall goals. For example, if you are in a supervisory role, in order to grasp the strengths of your workforce, you may wish to meet each of your team members to learn about their individual backgrounds.

It’s also a great opportunity to share your background and begin to build strong business relationships.

Here are some tips to help support your plan by maximizing your first 90 days in a new job:

Have a pre-game strategy — Before you walk through the door, conduct research into the organization and the industry. Know its reputation, its customers and its competition. Review its website in detail, search for newspaper articles and read the policies manual you probably received in advance so that you’re up to speed before you even get started.

Request an initial meeting with your manager — Meeting one-on-one with the boss gives you an opportunity to discuss your 90-day plan and goals with the organization. It also gives insight into what their priorities and expectations are for your first three months.

Take advantage of orientation — If your organization does not have a formal orientation program, create your own. Set up meetings with people you will interact with regularly. Remember names. Learn the roles of departments. Look for resources you may need later.

Set the right precedent — You may be tempted to ride your early wave of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiasm by putting in long hours or taking on more than is expected. That’s one way to get noticed. But just remember that when the time comes to scale back or slow down, that will get noticed too. Don’t set your own bar so high that you have trouble reaching it.

Look for culture clues — Remember that the culture you are joining existed before you arrived and will be there after you leave. Ideally, you want to fit in, build camaraderie and gain acceptance from the team but at the same time, it can’t be forced. While observing the social order, respect everyone as equals and be cautious about aligning with any particular group.

Use a generous amount of tact — Avoid stepping on toes. Before you start knocking the way something is done, consider that it could be someone’s pet project or have greater purpose than you first thought.

Roll up your sleeves — The best way to impress is to demonstrate your work ethic as well as a willingness to pitch in. Helping others shows that you’re a team player and may provide you with better understanding of what it takes to keep things running smoothly.

Don’t aim for big change right off the bat — Because you’re an outsider, you’ll quickly see plenty of things that can be improved upon. Even if you have only the best intentions, this will likely backfire until you’ve earned respect and gained a understanding of the business. Better to wait, listen well and set your sights on smaller, more achievable ways to make the right impression.

Your first 90 days set the tone of your time with the organization. Coming in with a plan ensures you’ll be ready to accomplish something meaningful and make it a time focused on learning and growth rather than on stress and anxiety.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2012 H1