The First 100 Days: 5 Ways to Make Your Mark

As with a president, how new employees show up during the first 100 days can be critical. Some key steps to distinguish yourself.

In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt passed 15 major bills and 76 new laws during his first 100 days in office, among them measures to revive the economy, get Americans back to work, and even end Prohibition. This was a landmark achievement to help a reeling nation. A president’s first 100 days in office have been a key timeframe ever since for evaluating their performance. 

But the first 100 days on the job isn’t important just for presidents. How new employees show up during their first 100 days can be critical to their long-term success as well, says Nancy Holtze, a Korn Ferry Advance coach. “Having a plan sets you apart from a new hire who simply reacts to the twists and turns of a new role,” she says. 

With job openings shrinking and firms girding for a possible recession by cutting back on new hires, making a strong impression out of the gate is more important than ever. Here are five ways our experts suggest new employees can distinguish themselves.

Start before you start.

Before starting your new job, develop a road map with your boss about their expectations during your first 100 days. Devise a schedule for check-in meetings at least once a week to make sure you are delivering on those expectations. Jonathan Wildman, a senior client partner with Korn Ferry Advisory, says that will show your boss you are already thinking strategically and being proactive about how to add value. Experts also suggest reading through the social media feeds of managers, team members, direct reports, and other senior leaders to get a sense of their priorities and interests both at the office and outside it.

Create monthly markers.

Don’t look at the first 100 days in one big chunk. Instead, set monthly goals that escalate in responsibility and performance. Jeanne MacDonald, president of global RPO solutions at Korn Ferry, suggests focusing on understanding the company culture during your first 30 days, for instance. That involves taking responsibility for developing a working relationship with your new boss and networking with as many new colleagues as possible. If you’re not in sales, ask if you can listen in on a sales call. This will not only help you understand the company’s products and services, but will also open the door to developing relationships with other company leaders. 

Build trust with small wins.

Holtze says new employees often fall victim to trying to do too much, too soon. She calls it the “huge-impact syndrome.” Instead, she says to focus on implementing small changes and finding wins, even if they’re tiny, where you and your team members can. “Small and steady with buy-in and engagement helps build trust and is more sustainable,” Holtze says. Being accountable for the output of your work will help establish your reputation as a person who can be counted on to help an organization perform and develop.

Learn the company cadence.

Your new company may move faster or slower than your previous one, so it’s important to modulate your pace accordingly—at least in the beginning. All companies say they want new employees to bring new ideas, for instance, but understanding when and where to introduce those ideas is vital for your credibility and success, says Wildman. Introducing a new idea when there’s time pressure to deliver on a project could cause more stress for colleagues, he says; saving it for a later time could be more effective. Experts advise refraining from talking about your old company and how it did things, as that could give the impression you are challenging your new colleagues or telling them they are doing things wrong. 

Plan for day 101.

Holtze calls the first 100 days at a new job “the honeymoon period”. After that, she says, new employees should have a firm command of the corporate culture and be fully integrated into their roles. “Now it’s growth time,” says Holtze. If you have ideas for improving or creating systems or processes, this would be the time to present them. Holtze suggests preparing a summary of your accomplishments during your first 100 days. Then align with your boss on goals for the rest of the year, as well as how your success will be measured. “Day 101 is the time to scale what you’ve learned and have a larger impact,” she says.