Day one in a new role can be a daunting prospect. For me, there are too many unknowns and it reminds me of my first day at school. So this time around, I decided to do something about it, as I wanted to make the most of the opportunity right from the start. I’m just over 30 days into my new role as Campaign Manager at Virgin. I’m loving the job so far, and it’s a brand I’ve always wanted to work for. So I decided to invest time and effort in two gems that have been invaluable.

The first was a book,‘The First 90 Days’ by Michael D. Watkins from Harvard Business School. An oldie, but a goodie, it’s described by the Economist as an ‘onboarding bible’  - jam packed with strategies on how to optimise your first three months in a new role. From securing early wins to managing my personal development, it’s helped me formulate a 90-day action plan that starts from day one. A plan tailored to accelerate my learning, align expectations and set myself up for success, so I can quickly add value to the team. This book is a *must-read*.
The second was a three-day training course from RADA called ‘Executive Presence for Women’. It's designed to help you find your own authentic voice in the workplace, whilst being cognisant of the challenges women face in a male-dominated society. How do you dial-up your presence, gravitas and authority to get your message across whilst staying true to your values. No mean feat. The highlights that resonated for me were:

  • Keep a check on the stories you tell yourself as they do the most damage. You can control the narrative.
  • Women need to ask - even if it feels uncomfortable. And it will. Don’t assume your boss / your stakeholders know where you want to be.
  • Don’t wait for permission, take up space. You deserve to be there.

So my arsenal is stocked - I’m armed with my HBS 90 day plan, my RADA approved executive presence, and years of experience across marketing and research in various corporate environments. However I’d forgotten how taxing it is to acclimatise to a new culture.

I feel as if I’ve had to start all over again, having come from a business where I knew the people and processes inside out. I’m in a new team, and it always takes time to understand each other’s communication and working styles. I’ve got a new culture to figure out; understanding culture is a tricky one - how do you articulate and understand ‘the way things are done around here’?  Which floor has the better coffee point? Who’s Queen Bee around the joint? Which lift always gets stuck at 9.28am? Who will laugh at my jokes? There will be someone right?  

I know I’ll learn all this by observing, listening and asking - I could just do with a speedy boarding pass. I could try the official Virgin handbook which outlines the key policies (not all of them mind - they’re not big on rigid rules and regulations), but I need the unofficial handbook, and access to the informal communication networks. There’s my fast track ticket.

Starting a new job can be a challenge, but it’s always a short-term one. As I’ve learnt from Watkins’ ‘The First 90 Days’ and RADA’s’ Executive Presence for Women’, the solution is to adapt quickly to my new surroundings, don’t compare it to my last job and create a new comfort zone - for its only here will I grow, learn and truly know what I’m capable of. I must remember nobody wants me to fail, I’ve been hired to succeed but I have to deliver. I also have to give myself permission and time to find my groove.

So I’m giving myself 90 days. I’ve got my transition plan, designed to bring out the best in me for the business and as the big boss says, “The more you’re actively and practically engaged, the more successful you will be.” – Richard Branson.

By Campaign Manager at Virgin, Stephanie Matthews. Follow her @steph_matthews