How to Succeed in the First 90 Days

I know several people who will be starting new jobs this month. As the economy improves, I’m hoping the same good fortune awaits a couple dozen of my other professional contacts who are currently between jobs.

Starting off on the right foot is essential for ongoing career success. When I began my current job in 2006, I bought and read an invaluable book called The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. Anyone making a fresh start would be well-advised to buy his or her own copy of the book and study it.

The book lists 10 things you should accomplish during the first three months in your new job. Within the book each step is discussed in detail, but for your convenience I’ve summarized those steps here:

  1. Promote yourself. Mentally break away from the mindset of your old job and think of your new one as a promotion that will require new ways of achieving success.
  2. Accelerate your learning. The learning curve may be steep. There will be so much to learn in your new environment, so do everything you can to quickly absorb what you need to know.
  3. Match strategy to the situation. Diagnose the business situation accurately and then quickly develop a customized plan of action.
  4. Secure early wins. You need a few early successes to build credibility and to create momentum. Early on, identify ways to create value.
  5. Negotiate success. Plan a series of critical conversations with your new boss—the one person most essential to your success. Make sure he or she has ownership in your 90-day plan.
  6. Achieve alignment. Assess whether the organization’s strategy is sound and whether the supporting structure is properly aligned.
  7. Build your team. During the transition, you must be willing to make tough personnel decisions and select the right team members.
  8. Create coalitions. You must influence people beyond your direct line of supervision. Create supportive alliances, both internally and externally.
  9. Keep your balance. Keep your perspective and maintain your equilibrium. Balancing the personal and professional facets of your life will help you stay focused on the right priorities.
  10. Expedite everyone. Help others achieve their success.

If you’re beginning a new job, or even launching a major project, make good use of your first 90 days. What you do during those first three months will likely determine your success and failure.

Good luck!

One Response to How to Succeed in the First 90 Days

  1. Hi Duane, Thank you for the mention of my work. FYI I’ve recently started The First 90 Days Group on Facebook at!/group.php?gid=100831643307624

    I hope you might consider participating. The goal is to get discussion going about on-boarding and transitions.

    Best wishes,


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