Helping Clients Navigate Their First 90 Days on the Job (and Beyond)
By Telma Sullivan
Once a client secures employment, career practitioners can still play an active and important role in their professional development. During the first 90 days and beyond, practitioners can support clients as they manage their self-care, learn new skills, build internal and external networks, and seek ongoing advancement in the professional world.
For many career practitioners, interaction with the client ends once a job is secured. Scheduling follow-up sessions with an employed client can be useful to address change, reinforce new habits, and provide additional motivation or resources. Clients may need support from career practitioners as they start a new position, complete a one-year work anniversary, or seek career advancement.
The Case for Continued Career Support
The initial months on a job can predict whether employees stay or leave and how successful they will be. The first three months of employment determine one’s achievements, contributions, and tenure during the quarterly period companies often use to track performance (Lindquist, 2021). Additionally, 20% of resignations happen in the first 45 days, and 30% take place within 90 days (Drake, 2019). The accelerated pace of the current workplace, where employees are expected to “hit the ground running,” makes the first three months of employment even more important.
Research done by a McKinsey team also found that the first year in any job, and the initial years in a career, are crucial for the employee’s professional experience. Ideally, companies should provide support for an extended period of six months or a year to improve the employee’s learning journey (Madgavkar et. al, 2022). However, onboarding programs of 90 days or more are not common, leaving new employees less prepared to navigate the challenges of their new role, the organization’s culture, and their team’s dynamics.
Self-awareness is key for the client to understand their needs and surroundings. When new employees are confident in their strengths, receive clear expectations about their role, and understand how their teams and organizations operate, they are better equipped to navigate a new role and become more satisfied, committed, and successful in the long term (Bauer, 2010).
One of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) competencies for coaches is “Cultivating Learning and Growth,” facilitating a client’s growth to transform learning and insight into action (ICF, 2023). Practitioners may want to plan to maintain contact after the new job begins to support clients in learning about themselves, gaining new skills, and managing their career, or facing the many workplace challenges today.
Helping Clients Overcome Workplace Challenges
Follow-up coaching sessions can support clients’ efforts in overcoming workplace challenges so they can create strategies and take action. A McKinsey report states that effective learning is a critical driver of long-term career success, helping individuals to grow faster than their peers (Christensen et al., 2020).
Some common challenges that practitioners can help clients address when starting a new job include:
- Anxiety: Addressing triggers, including meeting new people, public speaking, starting a new project, or dealing with a difficult coworker, can increase a client’s confidence in the workplace and prepare them for advancement opportunities.
- Overwhelm: Helping workers identify when they are overloaded with information or struggling to maintain life-work balance can avoid decreased productivity, illness, or sudden resignation (Hudson, 2023).
- Speaking Up: Employees who speak up are more likely to be selected for professional opportunities and advancement by their peers and superiors (Girson, 2023). Clients may need encouragement to find activities that showcase their poise, leadership abilities, and critical thinking skills.
- Leadership: It may be challenging for clients to adjust to a new organization while building their reputation to become a strategic leader. Assist them in leveraging supportive alliances and voicing their vision (Lindquist, 2021).
- Professional Development: The demands of starting a new role may cause clients to neglect their own desire to acquire specific soft or hard skills. Remind them to keep their skills updated and to invest in their professional network (Gaspar Jarvis, 2022).
- Relationship Building: Practitioners can help clients increase their emotional intelligence to build trust, teamwork, and collegiality. This also applies to relationships with senior management and professionals outside of the organization (Wood, 2023).
- Supervision: Becoming a supervisor can be stressful. Practitioners can help clients understand how personality and communication styles impact the relationship. Conversely, those being supervised may need to advocate for resources or determine how their work is evaluated. Practitioners can suggest ways to work effectively with their boss (Indeed, 2022).
- Success: Practitioners can encourage new employees to be proactive and identify impactful contributions they can make to build credibility and momentum in their initial 90 days (Lindquist, 2021).
Supporting Clients to REACH their Goals
Once clients address their workplace challenges, practitioners can help them implement a five-step process called REACH to further develop their leadership qualities, confidence building, and empowered decision-making. REACH, is “a results-driven 1:1 career coaching program aimed to elevate professional performance and engagement in the initial 90 days of employment, and beyond” (Sullivan, 2023, home page). Clients can focus on the areas they identify as critical for their success and professional growth and establish an action plan following these steps:
1. R- Reconnect. Revisit the client’s career goals.
2. E- Evaluate the client’s needs (keep it simple: 2-3 themes).
- Explore their rationale for what is happening and the possible causes
- Determine barriers, constraints, or fears
3. A- Assess the client’s strategy.
- Identify their actions and desired changes
- Review their concerns or questions
- Discuss the steps needed to meet those goals
4. C- Coach. Discuss the following strategies based on the client’s identified goals and provide resources for best practices (articles, tip sheets, and trainings) as needed:
- Assessing and advocating for work-life balance
- Managing anxiety, confidence, or other mindset concerns
- Obtaining a certification or skills development courses
- Joining a professional association or a networking group, or becoming a leader in a volunteer organization
- Participating in the employer’s networking opportunities, professional development, leadership, and community-building activities
- Identifying others who can help accelerate success (mentors, subject matter experts, allies)
- Assessing capabilities, challenges, and dynamics within the team and the organization
5. H- Highlight the client’s progress and successes to maintain satisfaction and engagement by
- Creating momentum and providing encouragement and confidence
- Continuing to map career direction, growth, and leadership opportunities
- Defining specific career goals, quantifying the output of each goal, and managing timelines
- Keeping records of accomplishments in a “kudos” file
- Gaining the commitment to next steps and planning the next meeting
Building Success for a Lifetime
A career is a lifelong journey – an evolving process of learning, risk-taking, reassessing, and planning. Career practitioners can support their clients to successfully navigate the challenges of new work in the first 90 days and beyond. The steps outlined above can help clients create new habits, set short- and long-term career goals, and define their success.
Bauer, T. (2010). Onboarding new employees: Maximizing success. SHRM Foundation. https://www.shrm.org/foundation/ourwork/initiatives/resources-from-past-initiatives/Documents/Onboarding%20New%20Employees.pdf
Christensen, L., Gittleson, J., & Smith, M. (2020, Aug. 7). The most fundamental skill: Intentional learning and the career advantage. McKinsey Quarterly. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/the-most-fundamental-skill-intentional-learning-and-the-career-advantage
Drake, A. (2019, Oct. 4). Why employees quit: 60 statistics employers should know. G2. https://learn.g2.com/why-employees-quit
Gaspar Jarvis, D. (2022, March). Future-proofing careers: How to help clients stay vigilant, relevant, and marketable. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/424705/_PARENT/CC_layout_details/false
Girson, B. (2023, March). Managing up includes speaking up. Career Convergence. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/494697/_PARENT/CC_layout_details/false
Hudson, D. (2023, May 1). Employment burnout. Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. https://parwcc.com/blogpost/1847022/Coaching-the-Coach-Developing-Clients-and-Advancing-Your-Business
Indeed Editorial Team. (2022, July 22). How to succeed in your new job: First week, 30, and 90 days. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/new-job-guide
International Coaching Federation. (n.d.). ICF Core Competencies. https://coachingfederation.org/credentials-and-standards/core-competencies
Lindquist, R. (2021). Notes and takeaways from the first 90 days. RickLindquist.com blog. Retrieved May 5, 2023. https://www.ricklindquist.com/notes/the-first-90-days
Madgavkar, A., Schaninger, B., Smit, S., Woetzel, J., Samandari, H., Carlin, D., Seong, J., & Chockalingam, K. (2022, June 2). Human capital at work: the value of experience. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/human-capital-at-work-the-value-of-experience
Sullivan, T. (2023). https://www.telmasullivan.com/
Wood, J. (2023, Feb. 9). Why managing up to your boss is not enough. Harvard Business Review: Ascend. https://hbr.org/2023/02/why-managing-up-to-your-boss-is-not-enough
Telma Sullivan, CCSP, is a career services provider certified by the NCDA and works in private practice in the Greater Boston area. She helps individuals at all stages of their professional development to launch, grow, or transition their career. She is a resume reviewer for the Massachusetts and California Conference for Women, has worked at the University of Massachusetts Boston as a career specialist supporting students and alumni, and managed The Education Cooperative Career Exploration & Internship Program for high school students. Telma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, linkedin.com/in/telmagsullivan, or via her website at www.telmasullivan.com.