Your First 100 Days in Office

Just landed a job in gov? Congrats! Now it’s time to get in there and wow everyone! But how do you do that? Entering any new role is difficult, and government can be even more daunting given the bureaucracy, rules, and regulations that come with the job.

To start out on the right note, take a note from political campaigns. Many politicos say that the first 100 days of a new administration are by far the most productive, and the outcome of those first few months sets the pace for the rest of the presidency or governorship. And even if you didn’t land the highest office in the land, you can still apply this idea.

As they say, you won’t get a second chance at a first impression. So here are a few tips to make your first 100 days at work a successful start to your long-term government career:

Respect your peers’ time.
It’s easy to see your new manager and teammates as go-to resources during the first weeks on the job, but keep in mind that they also have jobs outside of training you. So if they’ve taken the time to explain a process, write it down. If they offer you resources, use them. Whenever you can, take it upon yourself to learn the trade, rather than having your peers teach it. Along those same lines…

Don’t ask every question.
Maybe it’s true that there are no stupid questions, but there are definitely questions you shouldn’t ask. No, I’m not talking about questions of religion or political preference (although maybe stay away from those until you know your coworkers better). I’m talking about the little questions that you already have an answer to.

Here’s an example. You’re writing your first memo or press release, but you’re not sure about the details of punctuation, voice, or style. Before you ask your new manager, log onto the agency website and look through previous examples. Once you’ve done that, you may still have questions but they’ll be fewer and more informed. Additionally, you’ll be able to show your resourcefulness to your manager by referencing the work you’ve already done to answer your own questions.

Take advantage of your free time.
Even if you aren’t assigned a task, spend time looking around the website and resources of your new agency or department. While you probably have some free time during your first weeks, you can’t bank on that flexibility in the long run. So make sure you use your initially lax schedule to learn things you might not have time to study later.

For instance, looking through past agency reports can given you a great knowledge base for future projects. You’ll know what’s been covered, and where to look for interagency reference materials. And that time spent upfront will save you doing a bit of research later, when you’re actually tasked with the project in the middle of an already busy week.

Don’t hide in your department.
Also take some time to make connections. Again, you’re going to think of your team as your safety net. That’s fine! But over time you’re going to work with other departments (it’s really inevitable), so why not start making those connections now? That way, when you get your first assignment that requires cross-departmental coordination, you won’t have to waste time figuring out who to contact. You can just jump right in!

Of course, you can’t talk to everyone at your agency. Instead, ask a peer which departments they most often work with, then reach out to their contacts for informational meetings. Alternatively, your manager may proactively schedule time for you to meet with colleagues outside of your department. If that’s the case, your job is simply to make sure you establish communication channels and foster sustained relationships from those first-time meetings.

Set your pace.
Finally, it’s tempting to go far above and beyond in your first few weeks, in order to impress your peers and manager. That’s not a bad instinct, but take caution. If you overcommit yourself early-on, you might set yourself up for burnout down the line. Instead, set a pace that shows your enthusiasm and dedication, but also gives you room to grow and feel out future opportunities.

How do you strike that balance? It’s really about transparency. Let your manager know what projects you are confident in taking on immediately, as well as those that may need to be evaluated over time. Additionally, if you have commitments outside of work that might limit your in-office hours, be upfront about them rather than pushing them aside at the beginning.

While your manager is charged with getting you up and running in a new office, it’s ultimately up to you to start the job off right. Hopefully these tips will help make your first 100 days a success. Have any other advice? Let us know in the comments below!

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