How to make a good first impression in a new job

Read the advice in the business classic The First 90 Days and you won't put a foot wrong.

by Stefan Stern
Last Updated: 04 May 2016

Hitting the ground running is as hard as it sounds, and potentially injurious to health. Stepping up to a big new job is not easy. What got you there may not take you any further. So how should you approach those vital first few weeks?

Michael D Watkins' classic primer has a timeless appeal. Indeed, in a world of flatter organisations and bigger, more frequent career jumps such a book is needed. Watkins, a business school professor (ex-INSEAD and Harvard and now at IMD) eschews academic theory in favour of a practical approach.

It is common sense writ large. 'Secure early wins,' he advises. 'Achieve alignment', 'build your team', 'keep your balance'. Not rocket science, clearly. But sensible tips (there are many more) to give you a better chance of settling in without screwing up. Above all: get the people stuff right, especially with your boss, before agonising over the technical minutiae of the job. And this is where the point about balance comes in: while striving for a few 'early wins', it's equally important not to jeopardise future relationships by trying to dazzle the powers that be with a dramatic triumph.

Watkins understands organisations and how they work. There are agendas in search of leadership, and conflicting sources of power to be squared and managed.

Your first 90 days in the next big job will go a lot more smoothly if you digest this advice before day one. First impressions last.

The First 90 Days by Michael D Watkins is published by Harvard Business School Press, 2003

Stefan Stern is visiting professor at Cass Business School and director of the High Pay Centre. Follow him on Twitter: @StefanStern

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