How to make a mess of your new job

Joining a new firm is a bit like getting off the ski lift.

You can either glide off elegantly into the sunlight, or smash head first into a gigantic pile of snow while everyone laughs at you pitifully.


There are rules and one does not get far without a well-executed cunning plan.

new job success first 90 days

How to get it wrong


A couple of months ago I received an email from someone who had joined as a Director and wanted to meet for an introduction. We agreed to meet in the office coffee shop.

In my building the coffee shop is a new age, open area with various collaboration corners and stylish sofas.

It is a hybrid between a T5 business lounge and the London fashion week – a place where people mostly watch, judge, and try and be seen with the right senior partners sipping a flat white.


new job success first 90 days

 new job success first 90 days

I suspect she wasn’t aware of this.

She turned up wearing leather boots combined with a fake Chanel jacket and short black skirt – as well as enough make up to look the part for a Cher lookalike audition.

Whilst style diversity is a great thing – and confidence an asset – both can spectacularly backfire when combined with abysmal self-awareness.


I turned to the conversation

Did she have a 30 seconds self-deprecating pitch about previous experience that would make me see her as a serious player? No.

Had she prepared any smart questions to ask, or thought about stakeholders we might have in common? No. Did she share too much information about her personal life? Yup.

I left mildly puzzled and slightly entertained.

How long was she going to last? Were the recruitment folks conducting some kind of lab experiment?


Or did she possess such rare and useful technical skills that she actually didn’t need to care about how she comes across?

Two weeks later, I was copied on an email she had sent to very senior partners in her part of the business, and a member of the UK leadership. The kind of email you only send when you’ve achieved something significant, like generated £gazillion revenue. I opened it, paused, started reading again and then – I am ashamed to admit – felt a mix of pity and glee. She’d soon be gone in a puff of smoke very soon.



So many mistakes in such a short time. So it got me thinking – What does it take to be successful in a new organisation?

  • Make the most of your first 90 days

You only have a short window during which people will give you time and information – make the most of it. Buy people coffee/beer but never let your guard down and treat every interaction like a job interview. Read more here for great tips.

  •  Have your elevator pitch ready

Establish your credibility fast and give people a reason to make time for you, but don’t share too much too soon. Come across as spontaneous but know your lines. Gather as much intel you can about context, culture and people… less telling more asking.

  • Be paranoid

There is no such thing as a neutral interaction. People will either feel positive or negative about you after a meeting… Make sure it is the former!

new job success first 90 days new job success first 90 days new job success first 90 days new job success first 90 days new job success first 90 days new job 

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1 comment for “How to make a mess of your new job

  1. Cop
    18/04/2015 at 1:25 pm

    It is only too often than I see people joining companies who are in such a tearing hurry to prove that they are worth every penny of the gional must salary. In the initial enthusiasm they spend a lot of time demonstrating the value by speaking a lot – telling stakeholders about the times they have spent in the trenches, the numerous head scalps they have one and how ultimately they will change the destiny of the company. it is rarely do they realise that verbal diarrhoea is not the best way of scoring brownies.

    Why don’t people spend a little bit more time staying silent absorbing the landscape? It is often better to stay quiet and have people guess if you are a fool rather than open it and verify that you are. Companies like countries have their own distinct culture. It is subtle and unrecognisable till such time you have spent time getting to understand it and figure out ways of working around it.

    Hence I guess if you want to not crash as you get off the ski lift it probably makes sense spending some time learning how to ski and figuring out whether you are headed down a black slope. It is a mistake I have made and wished I had not.

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