Why You Need a 90-Day Plan When You Start a New Job, with Robert Moment

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 215:

Why You Need a 90-Day Plan When You Start a New Job, with Robert Moment

Airdate: October 30, 2019

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to find the work you want.

Do you think when you join a new company that your worries are over?

Or that it’s up to your new boss to tell you what to do next?

Think again.

Our guest today says if you want to thrive in your career, you need a 90-day plan when you start a new job.

Here to talk about this is Robert Moment. He’s the author of Starting a New Job: Career Planning and Job Promotion Tactics for Motivated New Employees.

He joins us today from Arlington, Virginia.

Well, Robert, here’s where I would like to begin, why shouldn’t you kick back and wait to be told what to do next when you start a new job?

Robert Moment:

Mac, starting a new job, the reason why you shouldn’t kick back, it’s really a continuation of your job interview, so you still…your performance is going to be critical, and also, they want to see also whether or not you’re a good culture fit, among other things.

Mac Prichard:

But, Robert, isn’t the interview over? Are you still standing on that trapdoor? Isn’t the job yours?

Robert Moment:

The job is yours after 90 days and beyond because you’re still under evaluation. They want to make sure everything that you said during that interview, you can transfer those skills, the soft skills that you said on the resume, even face-to-face, that you can perform the job in that new role.

Mac Prichard:

I know you work with a lot of job seekers and employers, do you see companies let people go after the first 90 days?

Robert Moment:

Yes, they do.

Mac Prichard:

Why are those first 3 months so important, Robert?

Robert Moment:

They are so important because really, it’s…they want to make sure that they’re making the right hiring decision, and the first 30, 60, 90 days is where it’s critical. They want to make sure, not only can you do the job, but also they want to make sure, are you a good culture fit? Because, you know, it really costs companies money to have bad employees past the 90 days.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned culture fit, this is a phrase that comes up a lot, and when I talk to candidates sometimes, Robert, they get frustrated because they don’t know what it means. How would you…when you talk to employers and they speak to you about culture fit, what are they looking for with new employees? Particularly during those first 90 days.

Robert Moment:

They want the likeability factor, they want people who are nice, have a positive attitude, very enthusiastic, want to be there to contribute, and also produce results.

Mac Prichard:

I want to be clear because you’re talking about personality traits; employers don’t expect people to be somebody they’re not, do they?

Robert Moment:

No.

Mac Prichard:

When you talk about likeability, and somebody, a listener, might think, “Well, I’m doomed. I’m a quiet person, I’m introverted, I’m not a glad-hander. Am I going to lose this job after 90 days?”

Robert Moment:

You do have to be able to work well with people because if you’re working with a team, you have to be able to get along with those individuals, have a positive attitude. So, when I say the likeability factor, being able to work well with others, because that’s a critical soft skill, collaboration, people skills, those are skills, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you have to be able to work with others and that goes across any industry.

Mac Prichard:

I want to talk about the steps people should take in those first 90 days, and I think the default for many listeners might be this, “Well, I’ll focus on my job posting because I have a job description, that’s what I got hired to do.” Is that enough, Robert? Just to do what’s in the posting?

Robert Moment:

You have to go beyond the posting. You want to start to build relationships within that organization and start building relationships with your team members.

Mac Prichard:

Why are relationships so important?

Robert Moment:

You’re going to need their help because you’re not going to know everything about the job, and they will be able to give you great advice on how to succeed during your first 30, 60, 90 days, and even beyond.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend people build those relationships? Particularly when you’ve just joined the company.

Robert Moment:

One thing I always suggest to clients and even colleagues, have your manager send out an email and say…you know, he’s going to introduce you to the team and say, “Give 10 minutes of your time, this individual would like to meet you. Just 10 minutes to get to know you, the organization, anything that you can share to help him to succeed.”

Or even a manager can walk you around and just do a brief, 10-minute introduction, but I would just be proactive. Look at the organizational chart, know who’s on your team, and just schedule a 10-minute meeting. It could be a lunch, just something in the break room or conference room, to really start to get to know your team. The strengths, the weaknesses, what projects they’re working on.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend people approach those meetings? Should they have certain questions they ask or outcomes they might look for at the end of those sessions?

Robert Moment:

Yes, I would have relevant questions pertaining to projects; what are the clients, who are the clients, what problems do they help clients solve? Because you want to also, start to look for early wins within the first 30, 60, 90 days.

Mac Prichard:

How does understanding the company’s challenges or problems help you make those wins happen?

Robert Moment:

You can look for problems on a small scale and sometimes maybe on a large scale, and then also look at reports, see how you can start to add value and that’s why it’s important to listen and learn, to get as much information because you’re really doing the fact-finding and information-gathering within the first 30, 60, 90 days. Especially the first 30, 60 days.

Mac Prichard:

What’s the outcome of this research? Is it to figure out how you might produce what you described earlier, these early victories, these wins?

Robert Moment:

Yeah, small wins, whether you can increase productivity, look for ways where you can add value and also look for ways…you want to answer this question, too, what do you want to be known for?

Example: maybe you want to be known as an Excel expert, Powerpoint, look at the ports where you maybe you can streamline, but start looking at ways, like I said, small wins where you can, the keyword is to add value.

Mac Prichard:

What would you say to a listener who thinks that they might come across as too assertive by following this advice, and instead, they should just keep their head down?

Robert Moment:

I would encourage listeners to always be proactive because it demonstrates the initiative that you want to succeed but also you want to be a part of this organization.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned wins earlier, tell us more about why wins matter, particularly when you’ve just joined a company.

Robert Moment:

It helps you, Mac, to really start to stand out.

Mac Prichard:

How does it help you stand out, Robert?

Robert Moment:

It helps you stand out, you’re not…they’re looking at you, when they’re making a hiring decision. Let’s say, for instance, you get a report, you look at the report and you see how you can streamline that report and you can improve that report; now all of a sudden, the hiring manager, he feels or she feels like she’s made a great decision, but then also what it does, they start to see the value that you can bring to the organization, and then also, it starts to build that relationship of trust, and also it starts to help you also gain more confidence in doing the job.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned streamlining reports, can you share other examples, Robert, of steps your clients have taken to get these kinds of victories in those early months?

Robert Moment:

Also, look at problems, look at/identify problems, industry problems. And when I say industry problems, even outside of your organization, and also see what other companies are doing. I would highly recommend always subscribe to Google Alerts, and put in keywords. You can put in your competition, you can put in keywords, let’s say, “business analyst.” What a company’s doing, outside of your company, and see how you maybe can incorporate some of those, I would say, best practices within your organization.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned relationships earlier and reaching out to individual managers or having your manager make introductions to people on your team.

What about your relationship with your manager, your supervisor? How do you recommend a listener manage that relationship? Especially during those early months.

Robert Moment:

It’s critical during the early months to really have good open communication with your manager and I would highly recommend, now the manager can decide how often, but I would solicit at least biweekly feedback to get a feel for your job performance. How does he or she see you training in this job? I would definitely highly recommend soliciting one-on-one feedback with your manager.

Mac Prichard:

If your manager doesn’t propose a regular check-in once or twice a month, do you think it’s a good idea to do that on your own initiative?

Robert Moment:

Yes, be very proactive.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, and should you also take charge of the agenda and suggest topics that you and your manager might review?

Robert Moment:

Yes and that’s an excellent question, Mac, because you want to be proactive and demonstrate once again your enthusiasm and being assertive that you want that new role, but you want to succeed in that new role.

Mac Prichard:

What about someone who might be concerned that this behavior might be perceived as threatening, or perhaps that you’re trying to get a promotion quickly, or even that you might be after your boss’s own job?

Robert Moment:

Get a feel for your boss’s leadership style, communication style, and talk to your team members to really get to know and you’ll be able to know how to manage that process. Once you get to know that individual.

Mac Prichard:

I want to take a quick break, Robert, and when we come back I want to continue our conversation about these first 90 days.

I’m especially interested in exploring something you touched on earlier which is asking lots of questions. I know curiosity can be a very powerful tool when starting a new job.

We’ll be back in just a moment and we’ll continue our conversation with Robert Moment about why you need a 90-day plan when you start a new job.

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And now, let’s get back to the show.

Mac Prichard:

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Robert Moment. He’s the author of Starting a New Job: Career Planning and Job Promotion Tactics for Motivated New Employees.

Robert, before our break, we touched on curiosity, and you had mentioned at the start of our conversation, how important it is to ask questions when you begin a new position. Why is curiosity such a powerful tool for a new employee?

Robert Moment:

It’s a powerful tool, it demonstrates, one, your initiative to learn and to succeed, but also it helps you to clarify job expectations, so you can successfully perform on the job because one of the number one reasons people fail to achieve success during their first 90 days is not asking questions.

So, asking questions, that also helps you to avoid any mistakes because you know mistakes can be costly. So, I highly recommend, it doesn’t show weakness, it doesn’t show vulnerability. What it does, once again, it shows initiative, that you are a willing learner, that you want to be there, and you want to succeed.

Mac Prichard:

Do you have favorite questions you recommend a listener might ask during these early months?

Robert Moment:

You always want to know, what problems could you help your manager solve? What challenges, immediate challenges, within the first 30, 60, 90 days? What projects that you can be a part of; you want to come across as a problem solver.

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned earlier the value of regular check-ins with your manager, what about your coworkers? After you have those initial check-in meetings that you suggested via an introduction from your supervisor. How do you recommend, Robert, that a listener work with colleagues?

Robert Moment:

I would also solicit that feedback, as well, to get constructive feedback because, you know, they’ve been a part of the organization. They can give you…they can also be critical in your success within the 30, 60, 90 days because people want you to succeed in jobs.

I don’t think people what you to fail but they want you to succeed. But if you take the initiative and they see that you’re coming to them, asking them relevant questions that can help the organization and help you, they will help you to succeed. I just believe that, that’s just people. If you’re nice, like I said, if you’re likable, you have a positive attitude, you’re very enthusiastic about the job and the position, people are willing to help you.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you brought that up because I think for some people, it sounds very stressful to think that you’re, as you said at the start, still interviewing for the job during those first three months and it’s encouraging. So, I’m glad you made the point that your supervisor and your coworkers do want you to succeed.

Do you have any suggestions, Robert, about how people can manage the stress that they might feel during these early months?

Robert Moment:

How they can manage the stress, you know, have a plan and the plan is, you know, focus on what does it entail to be successful within that position? And that’s one of the first questions that you can ask your manager. What’s the blueprint for success within this position? And also look at star performers within that organization also. They can give you really good, sound advice also on what it will take to succeed.

So, once you have a blueprint, it gives you confidence and focus. Focus on, I would say employee initiatives and also in terms of job performance, what it takes to perform within that job and then also professional and personal development.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, I’m glad you brought up the blueprint and let’s…are there other elements that you would include in a 90-day plan that a new employee is putting together?

Robert Moment:

One, just to summarize, you definitely want to be asking good, relevant questions. You really want to embrace your team, know your role, but also know your organization. Even look for a mentor within that organization.

Mac Prichard:

Why can a mentor help you when you first join a company?

Robert Moment:

A mentor can help guide you, help you avoid pitfalls, but also can help you achieve success because they know what it takes to succeed within that organization. But also, too, they know the culture and I think every organization has unwritten rules. And unwritten rules, they’ll also be able to, like I said, help you navigate and guide you within that organization. And they know the key players, and they truly know how that organization is run and what it takes to succeed within that organization.

Mac Prichard:

How do you recommend someone approach a colleague or somebody who might be a supervisor about being your mentor?

Robert Moment:

I would look at the organizational chart and I would just send them a kind, friendly email, and just reach out, just keep it very informal, say, “I would like to…” First, you want to build relationships, and it’s just, once again, that one on one, and if you feel comfortable and there’s some chemistry and you see the individual might be willing to help. then just ask them point-blank.

“I’m seeking a mentor within the organization.” And I would say, in the past, whether it’s been clients or colleagues, and they said, most people would want to reach out and help you as a mentor.

Mac Prichard:

Can you tell us more about what you mean when you say a mentor? Is this someone you might have a longstanding relationship with, or is it someone who you turn to for specific advice about a particular challenge?

Robert Moment:

I think it could be either. It could be short-term or long-term but I would highly recommend someone, first, that you could turn to for advice, but also long-term. Because you’re looking to say within an organization, that person will be a good ally as someone in your corner who can support you and someone that you can have good, honest, open conversation with and that they can give you constructive criticism or constructive feedback.

I would say long-term more so than short-term.

Mac Prichard:

What does that relationship look like on an ongoing basis? Is this someone you meet with once a month for 30 minutes? Do you prepare an agenda or do you contact them by email with a particular question when a challenge might arise? What have you seen work, Robert?

Robert Moment:

What I’ve seen work, that’s a great question, Mac. Let the mentor decide, and he or she will guide you in terms of what will work for them, and let the mentor decide. Because they see that you are already proactive, so they will say whether it’s monthly, bimonthly, but let them tell you how they’re going to mentor you.

Mac Prichard:

In addition to the frequency of meetings, what happens in those conversations? Again, do you bring a particular challenge to the person or do you let them decide? I’m pressing on this because probably, the mentor that you approach is going to be busy and will want to know how they can be helpful, and maybe, are they looking to you, Robert, for direction about how that might unfold?

Robert Moment:

You want to maximize that time and you want to maximize their time. You want to have an agenda; if it’s, you’re struggling in an area on your job, you want to be very clear and concise when you talk to your mentor.

Not them having to guess or probe. You want to be very clear because you, like I said, you want to maximize their time because their time is very valuable, and they would appreciate that when you go to them with problems or whatever it may be. You want to be clear and concise, you do want to have an agenda.

Mac Prichard:

We’ve talked a lot about particular strategies that people should consider following during these first 90 days and beyond. Do you recommend, Robert, that someone actually sit down and write out a plan or is this something that you do informally?

Robert Moment:

I would highly suggest you write out a plan. The job description, look at that job description, thoroughly analyze that job description and you know, have a plan, and the plan is, once your manager tells you what it will take to succeed, then you start to fill in the blanks when you work on your plan.

Mac Prichard:

Earlier you mentioned asking a manager about the problems they face, and one way I’ve seen people do this is to say to a manager at the end of 90 days, “What are the three things you want me to tell you I’ve done for you?” And often the manager will tell you about things that aren’t even in the job posting, won’t they?

Robert Moment:

Yes.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and it’s…what I love about that question is it both gets to the employer’s problems, which is a point you made earlier, and it gives you practical examples of things the manager is dealing with right now and needs help with.

Well, Robert, what would you say…how do you know the interview is over? Do employers have formal check-ins at the end of three months typically, or when do you know you’re not standing on the trapdoor anymore?

Robert Moment:

Well, they will meet with you, usually. They do have a probationary period. They’ll have a specific date that they’ll sit down and say, they will go over your performance, 30, 60, 90 days and they will say, “We really like your performance.”

And that, of course, that’s a sign that you will continue to be employed, so yes. They do have a one-on-one sit-down where they analyze and they give you feedback on your performance within the first 30, 60, 90 days.

Mac Prichard:

Know that that is going to happen, prepare for it, and get ready for that meeting but many of the practices you’ve shared here, Robert, are strategies that can be helpful to you throughout a career, aren’t they?

Robert Moment:

Yes, they can and the key is, once again, is to have a plan, be proactive, and always look to add value. I say, know your value, effectively communicate your value, and then demonstrate your value consistently, throughout your entire career.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Robert Moment:

What’s next for me, I’m working on my next book, Always Be Kind and How to Be Kind to Others.

Mac Prichard:

Terrific, and I look forward to reading that. I know you have several other books on Amazon and your website that are quite useful and people can find those by visiting your website at howtoaceaninterview.com.

Well, given all the great advice you shared today, Robert, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need a 90-day plan when you start a new job?

Robert Moment:

First impression is always your lasting impressions and it will determine your success or failure within your first 30, 60, 90 days.

Mac Prichard:

One word came up a lot in my conversation with Robert: relationships. They matter in the workplace and they matter during the job search as well.

When you start a new position, as Robert emphasized, you can’t just work to the job posting alone you’ve got to pay attention to the people inside the company and their needs and problems, and figure out how to build your own ties with these folks and help them be successful.

You can do that by focusing on relationships and the challenges that the people you work with face.

Well, as you think about your job search, another word that matters a lot is goals. You’ve got to have a focus and know exactly what you want.

If you’re struggling with your job search goal, we have a guide that can help.

It’s called Finding Focus in Your Job Search.

You can get it today, for free, by visiting macslist.org/focus.

Again, go to macslist.org/focus and you can download a free, step-by-step guide to setting your own job search goal.

You’re in a job interview. And you notice the interviewer keeps using phrases like, “Tell me about a time.” Or, “Give me an example.” And, “Describe a situation.”

These are behavioral interview questions.  And if you want to answer them well, you need to prepare before you walk into the interview room.

Our guest next Wednesday is Gina Riley. She’ll show you how you can answer any behavioral interview question.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

When you start a new job, you may think it’s best to wait for your boss to outline a clear focus. Find Your Dream Job guest expert Robert Moment says a better approach for the first 90 days is to be proactive about building relationships and achieving small wins in your first few weeks in a new role. Be prepared to ask questions of your manager or team members about current projects, specific challenges, and recent successes. Showing initiative in the early days demonstrates your ability to be a problem-solver and your capacity to make the company more successful as a result.

About Our Guest:

Robert Moment, the Get Hired Expert, specializes in teaching everyone from recent college graduates to experienced professionals how to interview and helping job seekers stand out, get hired, and make more money. He also advises new employees on how to succeed at their new job in the first 90 days and beyond.

Resources in This Episode: