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The Exciting (or, Dreadful) First 90 Days Of A New Job. Here’s What To Expect

Like many PhDs, I thought I could jump into my first industry position ready to hit the ground running.

Much to my surprise, this was not the case.  

During the first few months of my new position, I felt like I was drowning. Everything I thought I knew about my field, how research is conducted, and how companies operate was turned on its head.

I was not prepared for this major shift, and it showed.

I waivered between trying to impress my managers and sitting mute in meetings, intimidated by everyone in the room.

If I had known what to expect, what was expected of me, and what I should have been doing during this time, my first probationary period would have gone a heck of a lot more smoothly.

But hindsight is 20/20.

That’s why I want to share with you what I learned and what you should expect during the first 90 days of your new industry position.  

The First 90 Days Are A Probationary Period. Make A Great Impression.

The initial stages of a new position are critical – they will either set you up for success or failure.

Yet sadly, 88% of organizations don’t onboard new hires well, according to a recent Gallup poll. The good news is more companies are now investing more time and money into these initial stages.

And for good reason.

A good employee onboarding experience can improve employee retention by 82% and it can even improve employee productivity by over 70%.

And while it is the company’s responsibility to ensure that you’re onboarded correctly, it’s also on you to make the most of this probationary period.

During this time, a company is still deciding whether you’re the right person for the job.

At this point, companies aren’t fully ready to commit to you – that’s because companies experience high rates of turnover during the first month of employment.

In fact, nearly one quarter of employees leave a company within the first 45 days of employment.

To make a good first impression, you must go in with the appropriate expectations, and know what you must do to succeed.

A Crash Course Of The First 90 Days Of A New Industry Position

Many PhDs assume that the job search ends the moment they get hired.

They assume they can cease all job search activities including networking, career development, and the promotion of their professional brand.

But realize that the first 90 days of most industry positions is a probationary period – a period used by both the company and the individual employee to determine if the position/person is the right fit.

In this crash course, we will cover what happens during these first 90 days and what you need to do to guarantee a long and successful career.

1. The First 30 Days

The first 30 days should be used to gain a footing in your new company and position.

Many PhDs mistakenly think they can hit the ground running; that they’ll learn their new role in a matter of days and be able start managing projects and people in no time at all.

But this is not reality.

You may be the world’s leading expert on your position’s subject matter, but if you’ve spent most of your career in academia, you won’t have a clue of how industry works.

The first 30 days should be used as a time of deep observation. During this time, you’re learning – not doing.

You’ll want to learn the tools and the systems of the company – where things are and how you can access them.

You’ll also want an understanding of how things operate. What positions/people do what work, how work is disseminated, and how employees communicate with one another.

This will all be important for understanding how your role fits into the inner workings of the company and its productivity pipeline.

The first 30 days is also your time to get accustomed to the company’s culture.

That is, what the company values, how employees interact with colleagues and upper management, how employees socialize, and the overall feel of the day-to-day.

During this time, the company is also observing you – how you interact with other employees, how you integrate into the company culture, and what initiatives and skills you bring to the table.

Employers don’t expect you to be 100% productive in this initial stage. They just want to know that you are the right fit for the company and the position.

However, towards the end of the first 30 days, you may take on a small project.

Remember, this isn’t your time to show off or prove that you know everything. This is your time to ask questions and get a better understanding of how work is produced – it’s your time to learn.

2. The First 60 Days

In the next 30 days, you’ll start to work with teams. While you’ll be communicating with teams earlier than this, this is when you really start to work with them.

This allows you to get to know your team better and also see how your team interacts with other teams and departments.

This is your chance to prove yourself as asset – that you’re able to support their work, increase team productivity, and that your skills provide value.

During this stage, initiative is everything.  

Ask for introductions to people on different teams; ask to be added to the appropriate meetings; inquire about communication styles; ask who, besides your manager, you should be meeting with regularly.

This not only shows initiative, but it also helps you understand the power structure which will be crucial for getting things done within the first 90 days.

Within the first 60 days, you’ll also want to establish a rapport with your manager. This is your time to set expectation for the role and set goals for the year.

Take time to ask your manager how you’re going to be assessed, and what the expectations are within the first 6 months to a year.

At this point, your manager will likely ask you to start taking on more responsibility.

You should be able to work more autonomously; however, you’ll also want to show them that you can work with your team.

Inquire about active projects and which ones require immediate attention. Ask about which loose ends you could tie up for them during this phase. This will create a great impression with your manager.

3. The First 90 Days

Within 90 days, you’ll start to juggle bigger responsibilities and take on larger projects independently.

This is where your real value needs to shine – where you take on something large by yourself. This is the time prove to the company that they made the right decision in hiring you.

At this point, employers expect you to be fully integrated into the company culture and your team. They expect you to start producing work.

By this time, you’ll want to have a good professional relationship with your manager, your direct report (if different), the people you’re going to be working with, and the people in upper management.

Throughout the first 90 days, you also may have a mentor. This is a person you can go to with questions, guidance, and advice.

Take full advantage of this support – a good mentor will always be a resource to you no matter where you are in your career.

Good professional relationships can be established by taking the above-mentioned initiatives and ensuring that you have a solid understanding of your role and how it fits into the productivity pipeline.

What you do during the first 90 days will determine the trajectory of your career within the company.

For example, which responsibilities the company will trust you with and how fast you get promoted.

By understanding what is expected of your during this time and ensuring you take the appropriate actions will not only impress your employers, but it will set you up for success in the long run.

Concluding Remarks

Walking into a completely foreign work environment is stressful – and if that wasn’t enough, many PhDs go into their first industry position with unreasonable expectations. The first 90 days of a new position is a probationary period. This is when a company assesses your fit for the job and the company culture. During this time, there are certain things they expect you to accomplish. During the first 30 days, you should be learning – not doing. This is your time to observe company operations and absorb as much knowledge as possible. Within the first 60 days, you’re expected to show them that you can work within a team environment. During this time, initiative is everything. This will provide proof of your value and also establish a good working relationship with your manager. Finally, within the first 90 days, you should be able to work independently, demonstrate your knowledge of the company power structure, and also show that you understand where you fit into the productivity pipeline. By understanding what is expected of your during this time and ensuring you take the appropriate actions will not only impress your employers, but it will set you up for success in the long run.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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