This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some tips to best utilize the first 90 days of any new job?
The answer to this question will vary if you are an entry level employee at an established company, or the VP of sales at a start-up. In the former case, the first 90 days are largely a training period, and in the latter case you could be shown the door if you don't bring in transformative results.
I'm going to answer this question from the point of view of a manager of entry to mid-level employees. A few tips to keep in mind:
1. Under Promise and Over Deliver
Keep positive. When I managed employees in their first 90 days, I loved seeing the possibilities of the company through their eyes. However, don't be so enthusiastic that you are actually being unrealistic. You don't want to promise what you can't deliver. Don't say "yes" to everything.
If given a project you think will take a week, let the team know you think you can do it in 2 weeks. That way if you run into challenges, you have a buffer. If you deliver ahead of schedule, you look awesome. The last thing you want is to be unreliable. People who get promoted and get selected to work on mission critical projects surprise on the upside.
2. Mr. President, Bill, or Bubba?
Your manager, Michael Smith the III, may go by Mike. However, just because the CEO calls him Junior doesn't mean you should. When in doubt, ask. I once had a new employee who insisted on calling me "Ma'am." Even after I told him I preferred to go by Mira. It really distracted me. In the middle of training sessions when he raised his hand and said, "Ma'am, I have a question," I looked around the room for my grandmother.
Similarly, when you are speaking to your manger be clear who "him" "her" and "they" are. I once had a new employee work massive overtime on a complex contract amendment because "the big man" told him to. I assumed he meant the CEO. Yet, when he came to me for final sign off, I said, "The CEO approved this?" To which he told me, "No, the other big man." He was referring to the big and tall guy. And this other "him" did not have the authority to authorize this project. So, when you are speaking to your team, make sure you don't just say, "Oh, Marketing wants it done this way." Have a name. Be precise.
3. Don't Worry About Things Outside Your Control
As a new employee, you want to spend your time wisely. Work on your projects. Wasting time and energy worrying about other people's work is not productive. Don't go rogue and make your own job description. You've been hired to do a job. The company will generally have defined goals for you.
Make your manager look good. And work towards the goals that the company has defined. If you are working for Oracle, don't suggest the company move to Salesforce because you are more comfortable with that platform. Worrying about what it isn't going to happen will drain your energy and zap your spirit.
4. Be Friendly, But Remember You Are At Work.
Smile, and be friendly to everyone. Get to know who at the company knows the lay of the land, and can get stuff done. Power, control, and knowledge are often not easily discernible form the org chart. Be respectful to everyone. Help when you can. Say "thank you" when someone has helped you. Appreciate your co-worker's time and you'll get more of it.
Don't be a jerk. Sexist, racist, or otherwise rude jokes are not acceptable. No matter who else at the company is doing it. Don't get drunk or engage in unprofessional behavior at company parties or off-sites. If you have a tendency to go overboard, or need to blow of steam, skip the work party and hang out with your friends instead.
5. Recognize Patterns
In the first 90 days you aren't expected to know everything and you probably won't be able to master everything. So look for patterns. Developing pattern recognition will save you time, and help you to ramp up quickly.
Develop selective attention. Learn what really matters for the outcome you desire. Then focus on it. Each job, company, and project will have its own set of patterns that lead to success. Aim to remove all unnecessary noise, and save your energy to focus on working smart, being calm, and following through.
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