From my home office in Ames, IA…the top 10 things I’d recommend to new professionals during the first 90 days in a new position.
#10: [Proving you are competent]=[more work]. Need an example? I tweeted something relatively informative in an #sachat, and I got assigned this blog post as homework.. Consider the alternative: being incompetent may mean you need a new job. Again. Hence, competence is a good thing.
#9: You’re the best, even if you were not the first choice. Selection processes require an employer to believe a candidate is the best fit for the position, and this candidate to believe the position is the best fit. Any uncertainty about fit should be addressed during a selection process. When you are a candidate, ask questions about culture and environment to make sure you make the correct decision to accept or decline a position. Never accept a position that strongly conflicts with your values and talents. Oh, and please be real.
#8a: Your best today makes you better for tomorrow. Everything you do today builds on prior knowledge and experiences. Hence, doing your best every day makes tomorrow better. Doing anything less than your best limits your current and future successes. People will notice…and comment. Don’t be the one who becomes the fodder for #sachatters to say, “I know someone who…”
#8b: Don’t take mulligans. Do you need time to learn? Yes. Will you make mistakes? Yes. It’s common to hear it takes a full year to experience everything in a new position, but students cannot wait for you to transition into your position. Give your best, as students cannot take a mulligan on their sophomore year because you were not ready to advise effectively.
#7a: Higher education has cycles; ride them. Notice the patterns in your work, most appearing weekly, monthly, semesterly, or annually. I recommend you:
- Learn during cycle 1. (Unless expected to make changes immediately.)
- Make changes during cycle 2.
- Continually improve in on-going cycles.
#7b: Don’t make changes too soon. Unless you are hired to shake things up, making changes before learning while in cycle 1 may adversely impact your relationships with longer tenured colleagues. It’s best to learn first and develop rationale for changes.
#6: Choose your mentor. You cannot choose your supervisor, and your supervisor cannot be everything you need for professional development. Choose a mentor who provides you the encouragement and support you need. (By the way, once they no longer must be the one to hold you accountable to responsibilities, past supervisors often become great mentors since they know you well. So don’t blow it when you are exiting your position.)
#5: “Future You” will laugh at “Current You.” The September 4th #sachat contained many concerns like, “Will I be good at X” or “Am I good enough for Y?” Your behaviors reflect your attitude. Possible ways to immediately relieve concerns are:
- Be open and honest. Hiding limitations or strengths only minimizes your early success.
- Change your attitude about why you work in higher education or chose this position.
- Find your allies early. Allies are people with patience and knowledge to help you grow your skills and understanding.
#4: [Colleagues]≠[BFFs]. Want to be friends with everyone you work with? Then become a Disney Cast Member, where everything/everyone is imaginary. In higher education, you need productive working relationships with colleagues; work hard to develop these. Friendships emerge organically.
#3: Your best first 90 days are based on your predecessor’s final days. It’s never too early to think about what happens when you leave a position. The resources you create early and on-going help you manage your cycles (see 7a) and ensure you leave your position better than you found it. Presume that people will form their final opinion of you after you leave, so plan to leave your job in a happy place. Not just your last day, every day.
#2: Don’t repeat mistakes. Repeated mistakes are the second worst to make. (Superseded only by anything unethical or illegal.) Intentionally learning from every mistake prevents you from repeating them, maximizes your impact, and leads to better outcomes.
#1: Play the “I’m new” card wisely. We all see new professionals play this card in many ways. Consider the following tips to using this trump card wisely:
- Don’t play it too often; play it only when needed. The longer you see yourself as new, the longer it takes to be seen as proficient or competent.
- Don’t play it too late. Once you are past your first cycle with a responsibility, it’s too late to pretend you are new.
- Play it silently. New people who listen before speaking often absorb the answers they need without being seen as new.
- Play it without playing it. For example, you need not keep reminding people that you are new. For example, ask questions prefaced with, “Tell me more about…” or “Please remind me…”
- Have a proxy play it for you. For example, have a colleague or supervisor introduce you to key personnel or stakeholders. This is easier than finding/meeting these people on your own.
In closing, “90 days” is arbitrary. There are many opportunities to be “new,” or to help someone else with new responsibilities. I strongly encourage you to consider how your experiences—at any time—enable you to support someone else. Collaboration is greater than competition, and helping other to learn enables them to succeed sooner and more effectively, in their service to students.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Patrick Love on Strategic Planning in SA