My First 90 Days: Introspection meets employee review

From the Archives

Originally published August 20, 2015

It’s that exciting milestone in any new job, at which you and your supervisor get to swap stories about how well – or poorly – you’re doing. And for me, that time rolled around two weeks ago. Hard to believe that I had been at this new gig for three months. In fact, when I told my supervisor that I wanted to do a 90-day review and a 90-day projection with her, she had to check her calendar to confirm that three months had passed. It seemed, she said, as if she had just hired me a few weeks earlier. Later that week we did a preliminary review and projection, not to replace the self-evaluation I’m now required to do as part of company-wide evaluations happening this month. I’ve written before about the first 90 days on any job, and this post applies that format to my current employment. Here’s what I’ve seen.

Learning and growing
I like learning and growing. In fact, I equate doing new things with a version of growing, whether or not it includes of a bump in pay or responsibilities. Since starting my new role at a nonprofit located in Philadelphia’s Hunting Park section, I’ve had to call on past experience and develop new skills and ideas about getting things done. Probably the most notable learning I’ve done since starting is completing a federal training for grant management as it pertains to the grant our company receives. It is a mammoth 24-webinar learning curve that took all of the 60 days I had to complete it after starting my job. Every day, though, presents other opportunities to try new things and expand on what I think I already know. It’s humbling to be shown just how much I still don’t know.

Batting cleanup
Admittedly one of my favorite things to do, cleaning up has happened from Day 1. I started this new job – in a newly created role that I’m first to hold in this company – as the Finance Manager was preparing for the year-end preliminary audit field work. My first related task, then, was to organize the vendor files so that it would be quick to retrieve things the auditors requested. I’m not a closet nerd; I freely admit I thoroughly enjoyed doing that, and it was rewarding to be able to find and deliver everything requested during that stage. Some of the cleanup occurred in the file server and accounting software arenas. More fun for me. Maybe not so much for my supervisor, though she has been a real trooper and has adapted to many of the radical ideas I propose as we near our final year-end audit work.

Demonstrating value
Self-evaluations and employee reviews aren’t the only place to demonstrate value. Sure, that’s the place to summarize and emphasize that value. For me the real place to show my employer what I bring to the table is in the daily grind. What’s often difficult in the daily grind is tracking just how much impact you’re having and what kinds of value you’re adding when you complete certain tasks and take on particular projects. I’ve found it helpful to document more carefully what I’m doing on a daily basis and plugging those things into a grid that relates to specific goals I set out to achieve upon starting the job. It’s really why I rely more a quarterly check-in with my supervisor than I do on annual or semi-annual reviews. Essentially, the check-ins inform the evaluation/review process. So probably the most value I’ve brought so far is a proactive attitude toward goal setting and self-examination.

Rinsing and repeating
The challenge of a proactive approach, especially one as aggressive as mine, is that the work sometimes doesn’t move as quickly or as cooperatively as a plan requires. There are many factors that I don’t control on the job, and it is very important for me to remember that when things don’t work, it doesn’t have to reflect on me personally. Not always easy to remember that. I didn’t list 10 goals I wanted to accomplish when I started here, as I had done at previous jobs like this one. Instead, I listened for cues from my supervisor and determined that we would together achieve everything on her wish list before I could know and understand what I also envisioned for the department. (When I asked her to think about and list things she’d like to see for our department and more broadly the team – comprising others whose work our jobs most closely touch – she said she would have to think about it because no one had ever asked her that before.) The dialogue we share from her musings about goals and directions for the department and team will greatly inform other goals we set – and achieve in our NEXT 90 days together.