A Cheat Sheet for Crushing Your First Workday in Your Next Job
You’ve made it! You’ve gone through the application process, you’ve nailed the job interview and you’ve landed a contract. Suddenly the realization kicks in:
“I’m about to have my first day and now I’ll scream internally for a moment!”
While you’re undoubtedly excited about starting at your dream job, you’re most likely also scared and nervous. We all know first impressions matter so what you do (or don’t do) during your first workday can have a huge impact on your future career and place in the organization.
To ensure you’re able to crush the first workday in your next job, take a moment to memorize this cheat sheet of things you must do (and those you shouldn’t).
WHAT TO DO THE DAY (OR TWO) BEFORE
If you want to crush your first workday in your next job, you can’t just turn up and hope everything goes well. Preparation is key to success. If you do the following things on the day before (or a few days before), you have more chances of getting the first day right:
Pick you work outfit
Getting your outfit right is not essential just for the job interview, you also don’t want to show up dressed up improperly on your first workday. This is the day to meet a lot of new people and you want to dress to impress.
So, how to get the work outfit right? You need to:
- Check the company dress code – If you can find it from the company website, check with the HR or someone else working in the organization.
- Pick an outfit that matches the policy – Select your clothes according to the company policy. If you don’t have time to find it out what the dress code is or you are uncertain, opt for business smart.
- Choose something that’s comfortable and gives you confidence – You don’t want to be thinking about the outfit during the day, so ensure your clothes make you feel good. This means have something with a proper fit, in fabrics that don’t irritate, and in colors and patterns that you are comfortable to wear – don’t pick a bright red shirt if you feel shy about it.
- Wash and iron your clothes – Don’t show up in dirty and wrinkly clothing. If you’re scared of washing or ironing your own clothes, find a dry cleaner and get the clothes sorted.
Here are work wear tips by Popsugar for women:
For men, check out the tips by Alex Costa:
Remind yourself of the reasons you took the job
It’s a good idea to remind yourself of the things that led you to apply for the role and the reasons for accepting it. This is helpful in two ways:
- It helps you remember what the role is about and the tasks you are expected to do.
- It gives you extra motivation top prepare for the day.
This is also a great chance to catch up with company or industry news. So, make sure you check whether something noticeable has happened after your interview preparation – for example, knowing the company has new ownership is helpful and will ensure you don’t make any silly blunders.
Prepare any questions you might have
You’re probably nervous about the first day and there will be things you need to check with the manager and the team. But when you are nervous, you might forget to ask them in the heat of the moment.
Instead, create a list of things you want and need to ask to make the first day smoother and help you kick start your career in the job.
The question can include things like:
- Who do I contact if there are problems?
- Where is the HR department or any other department I might use?
You do not, however, want to ask obvious questions like:
- What am I supposed to do?
- Can I use Facebook on the computer? (Unless you are really going to need it in order to do your job)
So, don’t be afraid to ask questions, but don’t waste time with the obvious ones – you should figure certain things out yourself.
Learn your commute route
You must learn the route to work beforehand, as there’s one thing you do not want to happen to you on the first day: you being late. So, remember to:
- Learn the route – Write down any changes you might need to make on public transport or the road names you need to drive to get to work.
- Check the schedule for public transport – Even if you think you know it, check it out, as there might have been last minute changes!
- Create a Plan B – Have an alternative route in case there are traffic jams, the car won’t start or the public transport is in chaos.
- Have the work address written down on paper, not just your phone – Your phone might decide to act up and you don’t want to just rely on it. Always have contact details for the person who’s waiting you and the office address written down on a piece of paper to save the day!
Pack your gear
You need to bring a few things with you to your first workday. These make the day smoother, help you deal with issues and ensure you are confident and comfortable.
The checklist of items include:
- A notepad, pencil and a small folder – Just in case you need to write things down and you don’t have anything nearby, and a folder for filing any paperwork you get to take home.
- Your phone and its charger – Phone is naturally rather obvious, but the charger is for emergencies to ensure you don’t end the day with an empty phone battery.
- Gum and some basic painkillers – Gum to ensure you have a fresh breath and the painkillers to alleviate sudden pain (you might well get a stress headache from the excitement of the first day).
- Wallet with money inside – Have cash and a card at hand for lunch and possible drinks afterwards with the team. Don’t expect everyone to pay for you just because you are new – in fact, do offer at least one round if you go for drinks!
- A small water bottle – A just in case item for the commute and to ensure you don’t dehydrate during the day (although, don’t be too shy to ask where the water station is!).
- Admin information – Includes things like:
- Tax codes
- Bank details
- ID papers
- For women: any makeup and hygiene products you might need – To correct your looks and to avoid uncomfortable situations.
The checklist of things you should not bring with you include:
- Lunch – You should definitely eat with the colleagues on the first day and this generally means using the company cafeteria or any other nearby establishment
NAILING THE FIRST WORKDAY
So, the big day has finally arrived. You’ve done all the preparation with the help of the above checklist and now it’s time to nail the first day. What do you need to do and say to make success out of it? Here is your cheat sheet for crushing the first day:
I’ll repeat myself here, but it’s worth it: you do not want to be late on your first day. Unless your house caught fire, your grandma died or something extremely unlikely and actually terrifying happens – no, a tube strike is not on the list.
If you’re supposed to be at work at 9am, make sure you are near the workplace at least 8.45am, preferably at 8.30. Don’t show up 30 minutes early, but just sit at a nearby café and take a deep breath.
Listen and observe
Spend most of your new day observing the crowd and listening in on the things you’re told. If you can observe and listen, you can quickly learn the ropes of how the company operates and what your position will actually be in the organization.
Get to know the team
It’s crucial to spend enough time getting to know the team. So, introduce yourself to everyone and make note of his or her name and position in the business or the team more specifically. Ronnie White has great tips on how to memorize names, so check it out:
To nail your own introduction, create an elevator pitch of yourself. You’ve probably only heard of those in the context of business ideas, but we should all have one about ourselves. In your new workplace, the elevator pitch should consist the following information:
- Your name
- Your history (where you are from, what kind of family status you have, where did you use to work, etc.)
- Your position and role in the company
- Your goals (what you want to achieve with the firm, what you are most looking forward to, etc.)
When someone asks you for lunch or drinks on the first day, accept it! So, make sure you don’t make immediate plans after work or at least be prepared to cancel them – you don’t want to turn down invites right from the get-go or you might never get them.
Pay attention to the office rules
You should also start noticing the subtle office rules, as well as the official rules your manager outlines. The company might have a special set of code of conduct and other such documents –take your time to read it through, especially before you sign it. Always ask for a copy of any documents you sign if you’re not automatically offered them!
In terms of the less obvious rules, pay attention to the way people talk to each other, who hangs out with who and so on. You want to notice the little social rules people tend to follow so you can adapt to them from the start.
For example, keep an eye on the average amount of breaks people take and the reaction of the group when people do so – you don’t want to be seen as the person who’s always on a break or the person who doesn’t follow the group when they all share a break.
The office will have a hierarchy, both an official one and a silent one. While it’s essential to know who you need to talk to when you have questions, need approval and so on, you also want to notice who ‘is in charge’ in an unofficial manner.
David Parnell, a legal consultant and author, told Business Insider, this unofficial hierarchy is important “because power can manifest in so many different ways, it is imperative to understand who actually answers to who”.
Lear to prioritize from day one
Don’t spend your first day just walking around and taking in the atmosphere. You also want to get your hands dirty, so to speak, as much as possible. It’ll show to your boss you’re passionate, hardworking and ready for the challenge.
The key thing to nail down right from the get-go is prioritizing. You’ll most likely have a pile of things you need to go through, tasks you need to finish and things you have to sort out. List each of these, no matter how small, and begin prioritizing them.
Use your time to clearing the top priority things (going through the client portfolios, signing the paperwork for HR, e-mailing to your clients to note their contact person has now changed, etc.) and leave the things that can wait until the next day.
Tackling the difficult things, in the beginning can be a great way to get started – it also helps you to get on the right track from the start.
Source: Alchemy for Managers post
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People will understand you’re new and that you can’t know everything at this point – they’ve been there themselves! Just ensure you always ask if the person has time and that you find someone that does if they don’t.
You also don’t want to run everything with your manager or a team member – have confidence in your ability to sort out your turf. For example, if you’ve written an introductory e-mail to your clients, you shouldn’t have to run it by your boss.
Show up with the right attitude
Perhaps the most important thing to take with you to your new job is the right kind of attitude. You can solve most problems and go through the day successfully if you just approach it the right way. The cheat sheet for the right attitude includes:
- An open mind and willingness to learn – Anything could happen on your first workday and you want to be prepared for it. If people tell you about things, don’t get angry and say you already know everything – be willing to learn, even if you’re used to doing things differently in your previous job.
- A smiling face and friendly attitude – Smile on your first day and be nice to people. You’ll instantly lose the crowd if you turn up sulking and angry.
- A relaxed and confident stance on things – You were picked out of all the applicants, so you are welcomed and wanted. Don’t stress too much and don’t be afraid to own up to mistakes you might make.
- A helpful approach – You should volunteer to help your colleagues in anything you see them struggling with, especially on the first day. For example, you could do the photocopying if you don’t have anything hugely important to do at that specific moment. Just make sure you offer help only when you can actually offer value to the person and when it doesn’t hinder your ability to get through your own responsibilities.
- An authentic attitude – Be yourself and don’t force yourself to be something you’re not. You have to go to work for many more days and you can’t keep up an act forever. Don’t make silly lies like “Oh yes, I love cats” when you clearly hate them. Lying about your interest, experience or personality can come bite you in the end.
FOLLOWING UP ON YOUR SUPER DAY
The work is definitely not done after you’ve nailed the first day – in fact, it quite literally has just started. All jokes aside, there are things to go through after your first workday to guarantee you’ve truly made the most of it and that you give yourself an even better start to becoming the star performer at your new job.
So, instead of spending the whole night drinking wine and celebrating on your success, you should do the following:
List the good things
- What are the things that went well during the day?
- Did you get positive feedback? If so, what did the person say?
Reminding yourself of the good can reinforce the positive things you did and guarantees you continue on the right path. It helps you gain confidence in your ability. The manager told you were super helpful? Great, now you can continue to offer your help whenever you can as it’s highly appreciated.
List the bad things
- What are the things that went badly?
- Did you get negative feedback? If so, what did the person say?
You should also be critical and think if there were small blunders or mistakes you made. Accidently used the conference room to talk to a client, even though it should be done at a specific room? Remind yourself of the new things you learned and remember the right room next time.
If you received any negative feedback, don’t dwell on it but think how you can counter it the next day.
Write down the names of your colleagues with little points of information
Remembering all the names can be hard and the tricks mentioned in the video would hopefully have made it just a bit easier. But on top of this, you can do one more thing that helps you in the following days.
Cut a few pieces of paper and write the name of the colleague, perhaps with a short description of how they look, and their role in the team or company. You can then list a few things you learned, which can be a nice way to make connections with the person later on. For example:
- Rita, blonde hair, works as senior accountant, likes Dr Who
You can then use the cards the next morning to remind yourself of the names and think of something to talk about with the person in order to create a bond. You’ll remember Rita’s name and you can ask about the latest Dr Who episode at work, for instance.
Create a to-do list for the next day
- What tasks do you have for the next day?
- What are the priorities to do?
Creating a to-do list can help ensure you start the next day productively. So, go over the things on your task list and think how to prioritize them. This can show initiative to the managers and they’ll notice you are a quick-learner and passionate about the job.
Relax and unwind
Don’t spend the whole night worrying or thinking about the job. You don’t want to show up the next day and look more exhausted and therefore, fail on the second day.
Eat a good dinner, get a good night’s sleep and enjoy a healthy breakfast the next morning. The image below is a reminder from Consumer Health Digest on just why sleep is important:
CRUSHING YOUR FIRST WORKDAY – THE BOTTOM LINE
The above cheat sheet will hopefully help you focus on the right things before, during and after your first workday. Just remember to cut yourself some slack – you’re not the first new employee and you most likely won’t be the last.
If you make a mistake, you’re not going to ruin your career and chances of redemption the following day. So, stay focused and relaxed and keep reminding yourself that they hired you so they know you have the potential to be a success at your new job.
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