Navigating Your First 100 Days of EmploymentPrepare for a successful and rewarding career with this three-phased approach

Congratulations, after all your hard work, a company is reaching out with an offer to start work. You now face many decisions about salary, benefits, accommodations and work schedule – to mention a few. This article will cover how to navigate these critical decisions to help you confidently negotiate your terms of employment, and establish clear goals and expectations with your employer to support a successful and rewarding first 100 days in your new role.

Establishing your 100-day plan.

The first thing to know about the 100-day plan is it starts before your first day on the job. The first step of your 100-day plan is learning about your responsibilities, team and organization. While you most likely discussed this as part of your interview process, resolving any questions is essential. You want to feel confident in understanding the role before negotiating your salary and signing an offer letter. Most employers are looking for you to start as soon as possible, but don’t feel like you need to rush. It’s important to take the time to negotiate fair pay so you can feel great about your job choice. And it’s not just about the salary; it’s important to consider the total compensation package, so don’t forget to account for benefits and discuss necessary accommodations!

Think about starting a new job as a three-phased approach. Each step within the phase is meant to build on the next so you can make a confident start in your new role.

Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3

Compensation can be an uncomfortable conversation. 

Now that you have answers to your questions, it’s time to consider compensation. Compensation includes both salary (i.e., the earnings you take home in the form of your paycheck) and your benefits (i.e., the additional “perks” an organization provides its employees). The best way to approach salary is by using industry benchmarks for your position in your area. Salary benchmarks are easy to assess online by using tools like By entering your job title and location, you will get a bell curve of your salary. You can use this information to assess if your employer is providing you with a fair wage.

Chart: Based on HR-reported data: a national average with geographic differential

Fig 1. A sample of a salary range bell curve.

In addition to your salary, your potential employer should give you a list of the benefits you would receive and what they cost. Healthcare is one of the highest costs to you, so it’s essential to take the time to understand the different coverage options and the costs associated. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Hopefully, you will work for a company that offers some form of retirement savings plan, typically a 401-K or 403-B plan. It’s easy (especially early in your career) to hold off on investing in these plans to see more money in your paycheck. However, even contributing a modest amount grows quickly overtime with compound interest, and it will then become routine for the rest of your career. And don’t forget to take the matching contributions from your employer — consider this “free” money to help fund your retirement.

Let’s talk accommodations. 

Asking for an accommodation is hard. Some people believe it makes them look weak or less valuable and makes them feel indebted to the company for their “flexibility.” If you think this way, remember the American Disabilities Act law was established more than 32 years ago to protect everyone’s right to reasonable accommodations. Your organization benefits when you are successful — so feel confident in your abilities and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to meet your responsibilities. It helps to approach the conversation positively, for example, “I need this accommodation to do my best work.”

Reasonable accommodations can come in different forms, including:

  1. Asking for a different work schedule due to public transportation.
  2. Adjustments to your workstation configurations to accommodate your wheelchair or standing requirements.
  3. Increased (or decreased) lighting requests above and around your workspace.
  4. Reduction of noise to concentrate on work.
  5. Establishing a quiet space when you need less stimulation to be able to complete your work.
  6. The option to be off camera during virtual meetings.
  7. Asking for written tasks from meetings.

Remember, these are just a few of the accommodations you can negotiate. As a reminder, resources like the Job Accommodation Network can help you understand your rights and how to ask for what you need.

Place your focus on your first 100 days.

Now that the offer letter is signed and your start date has arrived, you need a plan for the first 100 days. You will probably get assigned various training plans, projects and specific job-related tasks. Keep in mind that you are in learning mode for the first few weeks, and it’s helpful to have ways to capture everything people say to you that is important. Techniques such as keeping notes in a journal or recording on your computer or phone (with permission, of course) can help you remember the details. As you pass through this first phase of important on-the-job learning, you may start to get larger projects and tasks for which you are responsible. Again, use the same note-taking practice to help document these efforts and how you plan to achieve them.

Once you’ve established yourself and are taking on more significant tasks, it’s time to focus on how you perform your work and when and how to communicate results to your supervisor and team members. Now is your time to shine because you are using the first phase of information gathering to help you do the work you are being paid to do. In this second phase, you may develop a rhythm to your tasks, and daily routines may start to fall into place.

Now, let’s address one possible situation during these first two phases. You could be thrown off your game plan at any time and may need to adjust your first 100-day game plan. Experiencing bumps and growing pains in your new role is normal and just another opportunity for you to learn and pivot to make the needed adjustments. It is also critical for you to know how to ask for help. If you have a job coach, they would be the first call to discuss the situation. If you don’t have a job coach, think of those team members you have met and see who may be best to assist you. After all, the team members you work with are going to be more successful when you are successful in your job. Knowing your teammates are on your side is a great feeling and can help fuel your success. It also helps, if you are comfortable, to discuss your concerns with your supervisor and ask for the needed help. Just remember to come prepared to communicate the challenges, take notes and collaborate to form a game plan — your supervisor wants you to succeed!

The last phase will demonstrate that you are performing satisfactorily and can handle issues as they arise without significant concern. This final phase builds your confidence so you can work more on your own and your team members know how to work with you. It’s at this time during your first 100 days when you start to realize “you belong.” Schedule a performance review with your supervisor and get feedback to help you improve and gain confidence. It’s a great feeling when your supervisor gives you a special recognition or a new project to help you grow and be an integral part of the organization.

Be patient and follow the plan!

Starting a new job is not always easy. Joining a new company is a time of learning and growth. However, preparation and following a 100-day plan can make it more exciting and rewarding for you and your employer.

Remember, most of the learnings and relationships built in that 100 days will carry you into new career opportunities. You’ve put in a lot of hard work to find the right job — think of your first 100 days as a further investment in your long-term career growth.

About the author:

Dan Middleton is a Clinical Excellence Strategy and Planning Leader at Catalight. He is also a BetterUp Fellow Coach providing career and leadership coaching services, as well as a volunteer Career Coach at AASCEND.

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The latest article in our series, Finding a Lifetime of Employment on the Spectrum, is here! In “Navigating Your First 100-Days of Employment,” Catalight’s contributing editor and certified career coach, Dan Middleton, helps neurodivergent individuals navigate their first 100-days of employment to support long-term career success. hashtag#CatalightFoundation hashtag#neurodiversity hashtag#autism hashtag#employment