In his excellent book on career transition “The First 90 days”, Michael Watkins suggest a career transition period of 90 days (roughly one business quarter) as being the time in which a new senior recruit sets her or his compass firmly towards success or failure.
Whenever I reflect on that, I am struck by just how short a period of time 90 days is.
Career transition is something I’m hugely passionate about, having spent the past 20 years working with senior level hires at exactly this point in their careers.
Whilst it is hard to do justice to the complexities of a successful transition in a short blog post it is worth looking at some of the key areas that you will want to focus on in those first 90 days:
1. Understand your purpose: Just what is the scenario that you have been brought in to and what is it that the firm wants you to do? It sounds obvious but it is crucially important. At best the lack of an agreed plan between employer and employee will make a new recruit slow to build momentum, at worst this can lead to significant difficulties further down the line.
So – What are you there to achieve? Have you been brought in to develop a new team or build on the success of an existing one? Or perhaps the team you have inherited is underperforming. What is the primary purpose behind your recruitment and what will success look like in 6 months, 12 months etc.
2. Plan to learn: You don’t have to provide all the answers on day one, in fact it may be detrimental to think that you can start to do that before you understand how your new law firm has arrived at it’s current position. You will need to understand the law firm’s culture and politics in order to be effective and to avoid making early mistakes. Work out exactly what you need to know and also the most time-effective way to build your knowledge. This is likely to be through a combination of hard data but also through talking to people, both inside and outside the organisation.
3. Identify and target the low hanging fruit: (this too can form part of your learning agenda). Early wins will help you to build personal credibility and also momentum for change. They can be a huge factor in your early success and the perception others in the organization will have of you. Make sure that the wins you target are also important to your leadership team. Work to understand their expectations in terms of your delivery.
4. Develop your internal coalition: Find out quickly who you should get to know! Understanding the dynamics of who influences who and on what will be invaluable. You will also want to understand which people internally are likely to support or oppose you and your agenda and also those swinging voters that can be persuaded. From this point you can devise strategies to deal with the relevant groupings.
5. Keep your discipline: Get into the habit at the end of each week to assess where you are in relation to your set objectives and also to plan ahead. This will help to give you structure and a greater sense of order at a time when your new role may seem overwhelming. It will also allow you opportunity to adjust your priorities as you learn more about your new firm and your role.
6. Invest in yourself: Finally, don’t underestimate the personal challenge of being immersed into a totally new work environment. You will be putting extra time and energy in your work life in these early months as you push hard to get up to speed. You will need to find time to relax and refresh yourself in order to be at your most effective. Career success is after all a marathon not a sprint!
If you would like to discuss your career development or your interest in setting up a 90 day transition program please contact Emma Potts firstname.lastname@example.org