If you’ve never had a job before, it can be quite a shock to the system getting to know what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to act. Everybody knows first impressions count, and when you begin work you have an excellent – but also vital – window of opportunity. It’s a chance to start off on the right foot and build from there, whereas a negative start can be difficult to shake off.
When you start a new job most people will give you the benefit of the doubt, so mistakes and honest misunderstanding will be acceptable up to a point.
Most of your co-workers will also remember their first days only too well. Given this readymade goodwill, the trick is not to take it for granted, or abuse it. Go in with the wrong attitude and you’ll build up almost unshakable resentment – even unreasonable resentment.
Here are few tips for getting it right:
Once you settle in you can go with the flow on punctuality, dress sense and language. On your first day you need to be acting almost as you did in your interview. Creating a good impression and not looking like you don’t want to be there.
If you’re the confident type you might want to try and impress your new workmates by being pushy or sharing your ideas openly. Try not to do this; you’ll have time later on and you won’t be expected to come into a new situation and have all the answers.
If you’re given a job, do it as well as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Better to ask a question than sit silently hoping that what you need to know will turn up.
Even if you have to quietly write down people’s names, do it on a notepad – it helps you break through the communication barrier. It also avoids you having to ask someone else: “what’s that person’s name I was just talking to?” You can also jot down any other rules and ways of doing things so that you’re not blundering along and making obvious bad moves.
All of your new colleagues will be busy doing their own jobs. Sometimes you may feel neglected or under used. There’s no harm in asking for a job or volunteering to do something for somebody. You may be new, but your offer will go down well and put you in some small measure of control in your new surroundings.
Generally, you’re looking to be positive and start with small wins. You don’t need to come in with all guns blazing. Let your work and your attitude speak for you. After a few weeks, you’ll have built up enough confidence and goodwill to be yourself.
Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organisation show to everyone you interact with. Being a part of the set up means you want to be there and like the people you’re working with.
You are now part of a work team, and teams work together to solve problems and get the job done. That said, on your first day, you should never try to guess the group or team culture. You need to find this out slowly.
Remember, it is your willingness to be part of the team, rather than your attempts to be part of the team, that counts.
On your first day it pays to look smart. Casual dress codes are often the norm, but on your first day if you walk in looking too casual it suggests you are not taking your situation seriously.
You can dress down – or to fit the workplace style – later on. Whilst looking smart means efficient and reliable, too casual means disorganised and uncaring.
Most workers know that this is not necessarily true – but, remember, it’s still all about first impressions – and you won’t have had a chance to let everyone know how efficient you are by your actions alone. That’s why you need to look smart and professional on you big day one.
You’ve made a good impression. You’ve been positive and helpful. So don’t go and ruin it all by rushing to get away before everyone else.
Keep remembering that there are subtle rules about who can leave first and why. If everyone is working late or on a difficult time-consuming job, they may not want to stay late either.
In this case, the very least you can do is to make sure you are available to do something or help somebody, right up until leaving time.
Disappearing on time, unless you been told you can go, is not creating a good impression – worse, it’s creating the wrong impression.
As a general rule for your first day, don’t stiffen up and be fearful. You might find that you’re scowling or not smiling because you are afraid or feel intimidated. Don’t worry: You’ll meet lots of new faces, but most people will recognise you for what you are and be helpful.
The office politics also need not concern you; you are a newcomer. It’s unlikely you’ll be treated to any adverse remarks about the company or its people, and any you may hear, you need not comment on.
On day one, you are very much a guest. Take any advice you can get and don’t offer too many opinions. It’s also a good idea not to make personal phone calls or disappear for a long lunch break. You’re subtly being looked at and commented on even though you don’t realise it. Making a phone call to a friend for half an hour will be remembered, even if you think nobody is paying you any attention. People at work don’t always tell you what you are doing wrong.
Having said all of the above, you should still enjoy your first day. Goodwill is on your side. You are new and fresh and an unknown quantity. There is everything to play for and if you aren’t afraid, and you aim to be positive, you’ll be a winner without even having to do too much.