The first day of a new job is stressful, there’s no getting around it. You’re the newbie, you don’t know anyone, you don’t know what your role is, you don’t know how tasks are allocated or what reporting procedures are and you don’t know any passwords. Many people spend their first day hoping that someone will take pity on their awkwardness and help them out. They may randomly open a Word doc to type something or Outlook in the hope that someone has emailed them an explanation of sorts.
They may spend a lot of time looking out the window. They may be too nervous to make coffee in case coffee breaks come at set times, or they may spend the whole day making round after round of coffee.
If they’re lucky, their new colleagues will introduce themselves and have a bit of chat, which serves as an informal orientation. Professional organisations will arrange a formal orientation session that clearly outlines day-to-day processes, role expectations and internal communications.
More often than not, however, newbies are left to sink or swim.
Here are six tips to ensure that no matter how deep the end you’re thrown in, you keep your head comfortably above water.
1) Don’t be late.
Nothing makes a worse impression than being late for your first day of work. You’ll come across as unprofessional, disorganised and feckless. Never use traffic as an excuse. You should always drive the route before your first day, preferably at the same time as you will in the morning so you get an idea of the traffic situation and can time you trip accordingly. Also do test runs if you plan on using public transport – I missed my train is as bad an excuse as traffic.
2) Dress well.
When you go for your interview pay attention to how staff members are dressed. The boss may be in jeans and a t-shirt but everyone else could be in pencil skirts and pinstripe suits. Take your cue from them. If during the course of your first week or two you find that you are consistently over-dressed you can tone it down. Initially, however, it’s always best to err on the side of smart rather than casual.
3) Ask questions.
To avoid staring at a blank Word doc, empty in-box or making endless cups of coffee ask what you can start with; find out about templates, formats and saving procedures. Don’t be passive and wait; use your initiative and show that you are raring to go.
4) Don’t be a chatterbox.
If you are a naturally chatty person, try to keep yourself in check for the first few days. You need to experience the office environment first before trying to stamp your personality all over it. Some offices have cultivated quiet; staff members work best in silence and then your chattiness will be seen as a disturbance. Other offices are happy to chat and play the radio and are far more informal. Again, wait it out for a bit before trying to dominate conversations.
5) Be nice to everyone.
You don’t want to get on the wrong side of anyone on your first day, not the receptionist, cleaning lady, your neighbour and especially not your manager. Be polite, friendly and interested without being overbearing or a suck up.
6) Don’t watch the clock.
It might have been a long and trying day but don’t be the first to leave. Some companies expect a little bit of overtime every day. At the very least they expect employees to finish whatever job they’re busy on or to have worked through all the allocated tasks for the day. Wait for a couple of people to leave and get a feel for the hours that people really work before grabbing your bag and heading for the door.
Your first day is never going to be easy, no matter how relaxed and organised the company is. Make your peace with that and do your best to make your first day as pleasant as possible for all concerned.
License: Creative Commons
Jemima Winslow has had her fair share of jobs, which means she’s survived her fair share of first days. She finds that if you offer to make coffee for everyone – and remember how they drink it after the first time – you’re well on your way to winning over the office. If all else fails, you can always go back to DynamicsCareers.com and start your job search from the beginning.