The first day in a new job is always a humdinger. It’s like the first time you try to ice skate. You're scared, and you likely look ridiculous. Thankfully, most companies will have an onboarding process for new employees to guide them through their first days on the job.
This guide will help you minimize the stress on day 1 with a new employer, navigate the first days on a job, and find the right guidance and social contacts. Most importantly, having a sense of humor will go a long way to making sure you show up for day 2.
You will be a lot more relaxed and confident if you are well-prepared for your first day at a new job. So, organize your life ahead of time.
Now that we’re largely through the COVID-19 pandemic, people are returning to the workplace. It’s a good idea to do a practice run for your commute so that you don’t arrive late. Alternatively, leave ample time for heavy traffic or other unforeseen holdups. Arriving late and frazzled on your first day is one headache that you don’t need and one that is easily avoided.
Plan what you will wear so that your morning routine is less stressful. In fact, plan what you will wear for the whole week. You’ll need to make sure your clothes are clean and ironed, your shoes are polished, and you are groomed appropriately. What are you doing after work? If you are going straight to the gym, you will need to pack clothes for that too.
This may sound a little unnecessary, but it's best to eat a good breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you don’t, you’ll be tired, and your body and brain won’t perform well. It’s best to plan and shop for what you will need over the weekend so that you eat healthy food and look after yourself.
Get a good night’s sleep the two nights before your first day in a new role. Your adrenaline levels will be high, so it might be difficult. You will need to be sharp, and your body is about to undergo quite a bit of stress for the next few days as you adapt to a new environment, new people, and a new schedule.
So, starting a new job is like learning to swim. You’ll have to go through the motions until they become natural. The motions are introducing yourself to coworkers, finding out who to ask for what information, watching everything as you learn the culture and the office politics, and developing a relationship with your supervisor.
Adapting to a new environment, people, and systems takes time, so prepare yourself for a period of high-intensity training. Here are five things to do on Day 1 to set off on the right foot.
Everyone has experienced the first day on the job, so your colleagues will understand what you are going through and are trying to create a good first impression.
You will need to quickly come up to speed on who you can ask for what. Some organizations will pair you with a mentor or someone who can guide and train you on the first day. Hopefully, you can have coffee with that person or go to lunch with them to not feel too isolated. If not, don’t worry. Introduce yourself to everyone that you meet, and you’ll come across as approachable and soon make alliances.
An easy way to introduce yourself to new co-workers is to say, “Hi! I’m Taylor. It’s my first day. Nice to meet you.” Hopefully, the person will respond in kind. Do your best to remember names, or even write them down. You will not remember everyone’s name, and people will not be offended if you ask them to remind you. For example, “I know you told me your name when we met before, but I’ve drawn a blank. Can you remind me?”
If you work remotely, it will be doubly difficult to build relationships. Ask if there will be a remote meeting to meet your new colleagues, or even suggest one. That way, you can put a name to a face and know who to ping on Slack. If you feel isolated, invite colleagues to join you for a coffee chat as the new kid on the block.
It’s a good idea to ask your human resources contact, mentor, trainer, or supervisor, who are your critical working relationships. Perhaps they can introduce you? Give some thought as to what you will say to the person by way of introduction. Just a sentence or two will make the experience easier and less stressful.
Questions are your friend. They will prevent you from making egregious mistakes at a new company. You can make your learning curve less steep by finding out who you should go to depending on the question you have. If you don’t do this, you can waste your own time and that of others. Here are some tips for the learning process.
Your trainer or mentor is your first resource. Go to them with questions and don’t hold back. No question is a silly question when you are new.
However, be strategic with questions for your supervisor. Collect your questions rather than using a constant check-in. If you do this, you will become a pain. Also, the answer to questions often reveal themselves sooner than you think. Wait until there is an opportune time to ask questions; a one-on-one, for example.
Pay attention to your supervisor's preferred communication style. Would they prefer that you ask by email, text, in-person, or wait until your next meeting? Would they like you to set up a meeting if you have a series of questions?
You need friends and allies in the workplace. A team member or friend can also answer immediate questions or advise you on company culture, dress code, time off, and unspoken rules like the right way to approach people.
On your first day, try to identify who seems approachable and knowledgeable and who you can talk to. This person, ideally, should also be able to explain the office politics and the environment. Having a social tie will make you feel more at home and help you to be productive.
Set up your workspace as best you can. Figure out what calendar tools you will use and learn the communication tools that your team and organization uses. Identify who you can go to for IT support. That person might be able to point you to some training that you can do to quickly learn the ropes.
If home is to be part of your work environment, set up your computer and test your internet connection and software.
By the necessities, I mean the bathrooms, the coffee room, the lunchroom. If you are lucky enough, the gym. Hopefully, the trusted friend that you identified will be willing to give you a tour, or tell you how things work.
Don’t expect too much on your first day as a new hire as far as jumping into projects is concerned. Your first hours will be spent meeting with the recruiter to fill out paperwork, meet colleagues, get situated with IT tools, and begin a learning journey. Getting you up and running requires other people, so don’t be surprised if it takes a few days before you are thrown into work mode.
By the end of the first week, you should be feeling much more confident. You know where the restroom is, who to ask about what subject, and you might even have a colleague to go to lunch with. Here are some ideas of other goals you could consider in the first week.
Everybody loves donuts. So, you could bring a box at the end of the first week as a token of your appreciation to everyone for welcoming you and helping you. If they’re Krispy Crème, all the better!
Offering to help others is always appreciated. You have your own workload, but you can learn how to make the coffee, fill the copier with paper when it’s empty, help a colleague who is struggling to carry boxes. Doing little things shows that you care about others and not just yourself.
Meet with your supervisor and nail down what your priorities are. Ask your boss how you can be of most use. You might even come up with some suggestions to show your supervisor at your next meeting so that you can be confident that you are on the right track.
Next, we give a few guidelines for the all-important one-on-one conversations with your supervisor.
It’s crucial to clarify priorities with your new boss for the first few months and onwards. But, you also should not waste your boss’s time, and you should problem-solve for yourself too. Here are some ways to make optimal use of time with your supervisor.
Don’t come with a laundry list of questions. You’ll come across as someone who cannot figure things out for themselves.
Instead, plan to discuss two or three subjects only. Let your supervisor know what you would like to discuss ahead of time so they are prepared.
If you can, give two or three solutions to questions you are asking. That way, you are showing that you can solve problems, and your boss is more likely to agree to one of them.
Every workplace has its politics, and engaging in them can be dangerous. It’s fine to listen to what your colleagues say. In fact, you really should listen to what they say, but don’t engage. If you feel pressure to take sides or comment, you can always say that you are still new and learning how things work. Now is the time to remain neutral.
Most companies have an onboarding process that will help you ease into a new workplace the first day and gradually find your feet in the first week. Check with your hiring manager before your first day if it would ease your jitters. If not, remember that you were hired because they liked you and have faith in you.
So, relax, follow the guidelines in this article, and you'll make a great first impression. Don't be afraid to ask questions and find a trusted friend who will both act as a career coach and laugh with you at your mistakes. Remember, it's like ice skating, we’ve all been there, and have bruises to show for it!