Six Rules for Your First Six Months

Lately, I’ve been hearing about a number of candidates that have landed good jobs, but are struggling since joining their new companies.  Why are they struggling?  Simple.  They aren’t following the rules that everyone needs to follow during their first six months of employment:

Rule #1 – You Turn the Lights On, You Turn the Lights Off.  During your first six months, you’re the first one into the office in the morning (to turn the lights on) and the last one to leave at night (to turn the lights off).  Show up early, stay late — can’t be any simpler than that.  This is probably the easiest rule to follow, yet the one most often broken.

Rule #2 – Days Off Don’t Exist.  During your first six months, there is no such thing as ‘time off’.  You’re at work.  Every day.  Ripping the cover off the ball.  If you have a pre-scheduled vacation during that time, then take it (if absolutely necessary) – but stay connected while you’re away.  Also, working from home is absolutely out of the question – since we all know that “I’m working from home today” is code for “I’m taking a personal day.”  None of that.

Rule #3 – Learning is Constant.  During your first six months, you’re learning as much as possible about the business and the role you play in it.  You can’t possibly ask enough questions.  You can’t possibly do enough industry research.  You can’t possibly immerse yourself in enough historical data.  Consider yourself a sponge absorbing every drop of information that’s available to you – there is no such thing as over-saturation.

Rule #4 – Feedback is Constant.  During your first six months, you’re not only working hard, but also getting regular feedback from your supervisor on your performance, the quality of your work product, whether you’re meeting expectations, whether you’re working in the right direction, etc.  Don’t wait for your first formal performance review to get a sense of how you’re doing – seek out that feedback early and often.  If you aren’t getting enough direction from your supervisor, don’t be shy about asking for it.  Be proactive about managing your success.

Rule #5 – Everyone’s a Buddy.  During your first six months, you’re spending just as much time (if not more) outside of your office developing relationships with your superiors, peers and team members as you are sitting behind your desk “working.”  Fitting into the culture of your new company and having good relationships with those around you is crucial to your success.  Make lots of friends early.

Rule #6 – Your New Boss is Your New Best Friend.  During your first six months, you’re building a strong relationship with your new boss – both on a personal and professional level.  Find time at least once a week to get together and chat about life, work, kids, etc.  Become friends.  Develop trust.  Create a bond.  The strength of your relationship with your supervisor is the single most important factor in determining how successful you are at your new company (or any company for that matter).

None of this is difficult – it’s actually really easy to be a rock star when you first join a new company, you just need to follow the rules.  On the other hand, if you don’t follow the rules, you’re very likely setting yourself up to fail.

Your new boss wants to see that you’re excited to be on board, that you’re completely committed to the company and your new position, that you’re invested in learning the business inside and out, and (most importantly) that you want to do a great job.  Your first six months is the time for you to show all of this and prove that the company made the right decision in hiring you.

There is of course going to be a learning curve when you first join a new company, regardless of how closely you match the position spec – that’s a given and you can’t control it.  What you can control is how you carry yourself and behave in that first six months, and that will make all the difference.

Fidler’s Law of The First Six Months:  How successful you are in your first six months of employment with a new company is directly proportional to how successful you’ll be throughout your career.


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