Careers advice

What to expect in the first week, month and 90 days of a new job

Here are some things to expect when starting a new job.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to prepare for your first day in a new job
  • What to expect in the first week of your new job
  • Questions you should ask in the first week of a new job
  • What to expect in the first month of your new job
  • What to expect in the first 90 days of your new job
  • The importance of creating a good first impression in a new job

Whether it’s your first role, or you’re decades into your career, starting a new job is an experience that always comes with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

This is particularly true if you were in your previous role for a significant period of time. You’ll have become used to all of that company’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, making the jump to an entirely new organisation more jarring.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed thinking about all the new tools, teams and techniques you’ll have to learn to succeed in your new job. Our advice is to take things a chunk at a time, so let’s look at what to expect from your first week in a new job.

How to prepare for your first day in a new job

1. Get a good night’s sleep

We understand that this might be hard, particularly if you’re very nervous or excited about starting, but it’s important to try to get a decent night’s sleep before starting a new job. This will help you feel alert and positive on your first day, rather than watching the clock until you can crawl back into bed.

2. Eat well

If the butterflies are really going, it might be tempting to skip breakfast. We’d highly recommend against this, as you’ll start to feel yourself crashing in the morning if you don’t have a decent energy supply. This can make you come across as disengaged or lazy, which isn’t a good first impression.

Equally, go easy on the coffee. While a cup or two might help you feel ready to take on the day, nervously chain drinking coffee will only increase any first-day anxiety.

3. Pack a bag

On your first day at work, we’d recommend you bring:

  • A smart notepad and a pen.
  • A reusable water bottle.
  • A packed lunch (you might end up going out with your new team, but always best to be prepared).

4. Give yourself plenty of time to get there

The last thing you need is to underestimate how long it will take to get to the new office to find yourself sprinting for the bus, or stuck in traffic and then arriving late. This isn’t a good look on your first day, and will also add to the stress.

So, work out your route at least the night before, and give yourself more than enough time to get there, bearing in mind the morning rush hour, if you’re driving or taking the bus.

5. Clear your mind

From meeting your new colleagues, to getting to know a new office to making a good first impression, there will be a lot going through your head on your first day in a new job. It can be helpful, therefore, to take some time to clear your head before you start. Different things work for different people, but this could include:

  • Meditating.
  • Exercising.
  • Taking a stroll through a local park.
  • Calling a friend.
  • Listening to music.
  • Breathing exercises.

Starting a new job: what to expect

1. A whole lot of meetings

Companies’ onboarding processes vary, but one thing that most have in common is that you’ll meet a host of different stakeholders within the business (and, depending on your role, perhaps some from outside as well).

You'll likely have a lot of meetings in your first week.

These meetings will usually involve sitting down 1:1 or in small groups with the relevant person/people and learning how your role is intended to interact with theirs.

A few things to recommend:

  • Note peoples’ names and job titles: after a week of meetings with new faces, people will start to blur into one. To save yourself the potentially awkward moment of mixing up your new colleagues, write down their names and where they sit in the business.
  • Make notes: as well as recording who you meet with, you want to be able to look back over some of the main points you covered. There’s a good chance that some of what you talk about in these early meetings will start informing the direction your new role takes in the near future.
  • Don’t worry if some (or most) of it goes over your head: realistically, you’re not going to fully grasp 100% of what you hear in these early meetings. These people will probably refer to other colleagues, software packages or business strategic priorities that you haven’t yet fully gotten to grips with. As long as you have the notes to refer back to, it’s totally okay if all the information doesn’t make sense the first time you hear it.
  • Ask questions: of course, the other thing to do if everything doesn’t sink in immediately is to ask questions. Not only will this help you wrap your head around the large volume of information coming your way, it also shows that you’re engaged and willing to learn.

2. A welcome pack

It’s become increasingly common for businesses to provide new starters with a welcome pack. In fact, some even send these out to your home ahead of your first day. Either way, these packs usually contain a mixture of helpful information to get you started, as well as some goodies (think company-branded clothing, useful items for your desk or something more personal).

Some companies send welcome packs before you start.

3. Socialising opportunities

If your manager is savvy, they’ll set up opportunities for you to get to know your new team. This could be through something like a coffee morning, a team lunch or post-work drinks. 

For some, these occasions can be a little intimidating, with so many new faces around, but try to make the most of the opportunity to get to know your colleagues. No one’s expecting you to come away from these settings best friends with everyone, but it can be a useful opportunity to break the ice.

4. To make mistakes

No matter how experienced you are in your career, the unfamiliarity that comes with a new job, new colleagues and new surroundings can lead us all to make silly mistakes. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up about it, just take the learning opportunity, apologise if necessary, and move on.

As a general rule, take it easy on yourself in the first week (or few weeks of a new role). It may all seem a little overwhelming at first, but as you play yourself in, you’ll start to feel more comfortable and confident in your new role.

5. A steer for what comes next

As we’ve said, it’s good to consider the first days, weeks and months of a new job exactly in that way – as broken up chunks of time. Therefore, there’s a good chance your manager will use a meeting or two within your first week to provide a steer for what will come next.

This will likely involve:

  • Understanding the core business objectives: for you to perform your role properly, you need to know how your part fits into the bigger whole.
  • Your KPIs: ideally, you’ll get some specifics of what’s expected of you. Key performance indicators (KPIs) give you a firm idea of what success looks like for your role, and how that success will be measured.
  • Any ongoing projects: it could well be that your predecessor left the role with a project on-the-go that requires immediate attention. If this is the case, you’ll need to be briefed by the relevant stakeholders on where progress is at, and what needs to happen next.

Questions you should ask in the first week of a new job

You’ll likely have a lot of meetings in your first week, which will give you great opportunities to ask your manager the following important questions::

  1. What are the expectations for my first 90 days?
  2. What are my KPIs, and how will they be measured?
  3. How often will we have check-ins/performance reviews?
  4. What systems or tools do I need to get access to?
  5. Are there any onboarding or training modules I need to complete?
  6. Do I need to be given an access card or alarm code?
  7. How do people prefer to communicate within the business?
  8. Are there any particular stakeholders you’d recommend I meet with ASAP?
  9. Are there any regular social events or groups I can get involved with?
  10. Where can I learn more about the company's vision and culture?

Starting a new job: what to expect in the first month

As the days turn into weeks, you’ll have more of the above, and the start of the following:

1. Setting good habits

Increasing familiarity with your new surroundings will allow you to start implementing the workflows and processes that will set you up for success. This can be a great opportunity to turn over a new leaf and think about how you want to do things differently in this new role, as well as a chance to try some new approaches.

2. Identify low hanging fruit

In the first month, you’ll also start to get a firmer idea of what is expected from you in terms of deliverables and projects. While you don’t want to rush anything that requires planning and serious consideration, a good idea to instantly gain some brownie points is to recognise some easy wins. As well as making concrete progress, this shows your manager that you can take the initiative and are comfortable working independently.

3. Continuing to build relationships

In the first week, it can be easy to start getting to know the faces around the office, particularly if your manager has organised some events to help you bed into the team. However, it’s important, as the weeks go by, that you start taking some of the responsibility for cultivating and building on these foundations. This could be through joining company social events or groups, or simply chatting to people at the coffee machine in the morning.

4. Identifying people to learn from

    A good new starter will be open minded and eager to learn as much as they can from whomever they can. However, a really good new starter will also start to pinpoint those who they feel have the most useful knowledge for their role.

    This could be your manager, as such people often make great career mentors, or it could be someone from another department entirely, because they have hard skills that you’d love to learn for yourself.

    Starting a new job: what to expect in the first 90 days

    Looking at things from a quarterly perspective, you’ll now hopefully be feeling much more at home in your role, and have a solid grasp of what’s expected of you and where the company is headed. In the first 90 days of a new job, you might expect to:

    1. Start to challenge yourself

    Your new found confidence will have you thinking about really stretching those learning opportunities that made you apply for the job in the new role. With your manager, you might be working on more testing KPIs that give you the opportunity to grow, and also deliver some cool results for the organisation.

    2. Figuring out your work/life balance

      You might have found that, amidst the excitement and nerves of starting a new role, you were taking your work home with you or staying late in the office to create a good impression. While we always recommend maintaining a healthy work/life balance, this desire to impress at the start is understandable. However, over the months since then, we hope that you start to find a routine that allows you to feel fulfilled in both your personal and professional lives, and that the latter isn’t coming at the expense of the former.

      3. Setting up a review

        It’s quite common for NZ employment contracts to contain a 90 day probationary period. And, even if they don’t, this is a good milestone at which you and your manager could set up a retrospective to assess how you’ve gone so far.

        This should be a constructive environment for you both to talk about what has gone well, what could have gone better, and what’s on the horizon. If this isn’t written into your contract, or your manager hasn’t mentioned it, it can be a great look to organise this yourself, as it shows you’re keen to learn and improve

        The importance of creating a good impression in a new job: what’s expected of you

        First impressions tend to stick, meaning that once someone has formed an impression of you, it can be very hard to change it.

        While no reasonable manager will expect the finished product from a new starter (i.e. they should understand that you don’t know the systems, processes and ways of working that will eventually become second nature), they will expect a few basics. These include:

        • Being on time to work, every day.
        • Dressing appropriately as per the organisation’s guidelines.
        • Being courteous and respectful to your colleagues and customers.
        • Maintaining a positive attitude.
        • Working hard.
        • Learning from your mistakes.
        • Taking the initiative.

        Ultimately, all of the above are your best interests. If you make a bad impression, particularly on your manager, you might find it harder to move through the ranks in the organisation, or you might find that development opportunities go to other members of staff who have a better relationship with the manager.

        And, of course, if you eventually decide to move on from the business, you will want your manager to provide a glowing reference to prospective future employers.