Starting a new job? Here’s how to have the best first day

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First days can be hard. Do you remember your first day at school? Starting a new job in a new country can feel the same. You may feel lost, alone and nervous.

Remember that this is normal and there are ways that you can overcome your first day jitters. Here are a few tips to have a great first day:

Have a game plan

Resolve to take on only what you can to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Preparing in advance will help you decide what your to-do list for the day will look like. A few days before your first day, make sure that:

  • You know who and where you should report to. Don’t assume that you will go directly to your manager’s office. Some companies will need you to go to HR for orientation or to fill out some paper work. If instructions were not given when you accepted the job offer, call them several days before and ask.
  • You know the way to the office. Check the bus route and schedules. If you are driving to work, know the best route to take.
  • You know what to wear. Check the dress code and plan your outfit.
  • You know what to bring. You may need to bring some documents with you as requested by HR. Also, bring your own notebook and pen just in case you don’t have access to office supplies yet .

Make a great first impression

Arrive 15-30 minutes early on your first day

  • This will give you time to find your way around or look for parking.
  • You will also have time to collect yourself, do breathing exercises if you’re nervous, or go to the washroom to check your attire, or freshen your make-up.

When meeting everyone

  • Expect to be introduced to a lot of people on your first day. Be courteous, friendly and open to everyone. You will be seeing and working with them every day.
  • Try to repeat names when introduced so you’ll remember them better. Smile, shake hands, and ask them about their role in the company.
  • Address people formally, especially senior personnel, until you are asked to address them by first name.
  • Bring your own snack so you can eat in the break room to meet people. In some companies, the manager invites the newbie to lunch. This allows them to get to know each other. If this happens to you, make sure to order something easy to eat. You will be expected to talk a lot during lunch.
  • Observe the company culture and note accepted behaviours and styles of communication.

Speak up and dive in

First meeting with your manager

  • Know what your manager has planned for you to accomplish for the day. Note down important details and make a checklist.
  • Be clear about the job responsibilities and expectations.
  • Know best how to communicate with your manager. Does she/he have an open door policy? Or does she/he prefer to email instructions?
  • Ask questions. If you don’t like popping into your manager’s office and asking often, list down all your questions and have periodic meetings with your boss. It could be once a week during your first three months, and then less as you get more familiar with your job.

Learning the ropes

  • Be proactive and be a self-directed learner. Learn about your work by researching, reading through office documents, and asking your colleagues. Don’t just wait for your boss or supervisor to come around and help you all the time.
  • Get to know your team. Talk to them. Ask about the latest projects and how you can help.
  • If possible, find a mentor within your team. This is the person aside from your boss who knows a lot about the job and is willing to share information with you.
  • Always be open to learning. Even if you are already an experienced professional, there will be many things that you will need to learn in a new work environment.
  • Don’t compare your new job with your old one and never speak badly about your previous boss or job.
  • Be tactful about giving suggestions. Some newbies, because of the desire to contribute or to be liked suggest changes to established processes or protocols. While it is not bad to suggest improvements, some employees may see it as being overzealous. If you must suggest changes, do it thoughtfully and tactfully. Not in the way that implies that they have been doing things wrong before you came.

Know your way around

  • Find the nearest washroom, breakroom (for coffee or water), printer and photocopier, office supply room and meeting rooms. If you work in a multi-level building, remember which floor your office is located!
  • Ask where people usually eat or buy food.
  • Know the other departments. Especially ones that you will need to collaborate with often.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll have a smooth and worry-free first day (or first week even!). Congratulations on your new job and goodluck!

Sources: Starting a new job right, Colleen Clarke, Workopolis; Starting a new job? 10 steps to ensure your success, Caroline Ceniza-Levine, Forbes. Accessed on May 10, 2017.

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