12 Tips for the First Day at your New Job

First days can be nerve-wracking, and often follow a sleepless night. Do you know how to put your best foot forward and impress your new boss?

Here are a few tips we’ve picked up from years of placing people in new roles.

  1. Get there early; but not too early. I know of one successful candidate who was knocking the door of the locked office at 8am, while the rest of the staff didn’t get there till 9am. While it’s good to be on time, an hour early is a little too keen. If possible, try the commute out prior to your first day so you have an accurate idea of how long the journey will take. Otherwise, Google Maps is a great commute predictor.
  2. Relax. To be able to absorb the information that will be fired at you, you need to be relaxed. Being as prepared as you can, both in terms of knowing about the company and the role as well as the practical stuff like what to wear and how to get there will help you relax on your first day. So will a good night’s sleep.
  3. But stay alert. The first-day induction can lull you into a passive state. Try, however, to remain proactive. Make sure to engage with your guide to the new workplace, be they a manger or a HR person. Although he or she is doing all the talking, listen actively and project energy and enthusiasm.
  4. Ask pertinent questions. Don’t be worried about asking questions, it not only show’s you are paying attention but also that you are thinking ahead about the role or trying to get a handle on the bigger picture. Jot down a few questions the night before so that if you are introduced to specific people you have relevant questions for them. Keep basic questions about your working conditions for the HR manager if there is one.
  5. Be able to summarise your career to date. Lots of people will ask you where you worked before, so make sure you have a short summary of your career history which deals with any switches in direction or gaps so you’re not fumbling for words.
  6. Get a handle on office politics. There are cliques in most organisations. Try to identify the ones that will help you thrive and progress. If you get absorbed into an anti-management clique, for example, it won’t do much for your prospects. It won’t happen on Day One but try to figure out who the powerful people are and why, both in terms of the official hierarchy and the social ones.
  7. Know the dress code. Try to find out how your peers dress in your new organisation so that you can blend in from day one. If you can’t find this out in advance, err on the conservative side. You don’t want to spend the first day regretting those zany runners.
  8. Be personable. What I mean by this is be friendly and approachable. If you have a tendency to be shy, fight it. The first week is a brilliant opportunity to introduce yourself to everybody so don’t be afraid to take the initiative. If someone invites you to go for coffee or lunch, go. Your new colleagues will want to know about you but don’t forget to ask about them too. And smile – it will make a huge difference to how people perceive you.
  9. Take notes. A lot of information will be coming your way on the first day so much so that it may be hard to take everything in. If you make notes as you go along, you can always refer back to them. You will be amazed how much of an insight those notes will give you when you review them after a week or even longer in the job. You may get rare time with senior managers on your first few days so noting what they say about the big picture or the company’s objectives could be really helpful later on. They can help you get back to the crux of what you are there to do.
  10. Get a handle on how things work. By listening, observing and talking to your peers you can begin to see how decisions are made. If it seems a little too ad hoc for your liking, you can possibly build some structure into your department. If the environment is a very structured one, and you prefer more freedom, you know you will either have to change how you work or, if your position allows it, introduce some autonomy.
  11. Try to find out what your job really is.There is often a gap between your job description and what you will actually be expected to do. Try to find out what early on that gap is.
  12. Give yourself a break. If it doesn’t all run smoothly on your first day, don’t start looking for a new job straight away! Settling into a new job and business culture can take months, so just write it off and put your best foot forward the next day.