Happy New Year! With several professionals starting their first or new career today, it seemed appropriate to share a few pointers for your first day on the job. About two years ago this week, I was starting my first day on the job with AgCareers.com, and here are a few things I think I did well and a few I wish I would have done better:
10 Things to Do Your First Day on the Job
1. Overdress. But Just a Little. Your first day on the job can feel a bit like a dance. You’re not sure what you’re in for, so you just need to show up prepared as best you can. I work in an office setting, so even though I was told the dress code was business casual, I showed up in a black blazer and black pants to make a good impression. While I was overdressed slightly, I feel I made it known that I was professional and ready to work. If you work in an outdoor setting, be sure to dress in layers and be prepared for whatever environment you might be working in.
2. Show Up Early. At least 10 minutes early, but no more than 15. Your supervisor likely won’t arrive until around the time that they normally do, so you could be awkwardly standing around for a while if you arrive too early. Be eager but be sensible.
3. Ask Questions. The most important to-do your first day on the job. You’re going to have information coming at you like bullets in The Matrix. Information about the job, about the workplace, about your coworkers, about the company, about the culture, about benefits, about paperwork, etcetera etcetera. It will all seem to pile up and you could find yourself only able to grasp small snippets. Be sure to take a moment and ask a question if you’re confused or if you’d like to know more about something or someone. It’s better to be clear about it upfront than be confused later and maybe for a long time.
4. Take Notes. You won’t look dumb, I promise. With all that information to absorb and consider, you’re going to need to write it down. You’ll probably still feel overwhelmed, but at least you can go back later and have it all there. Even write down names or information about your coworkers. My first day, I had two people in my office confused and didn’t realize until months later that I had their names switched around. Now I still confuse them from time to time. If you take notes, whether about a company policy or a publication your company puts out, it will be that much better ingrained in your mind.
5. Smile. You won’t make a good first impression unless you smile frequently. Be positive, excited and eager to be there. Smile when you meet new coworkers, when you tell others about yourself, when you learn about others and when you learn about your upcoming projects or tasks. If I meet someone for the first time and they don’t smile when they shake my hand, I immediately have negative impressions. Smiling can also ease any nervousness you might have.
6. Get to Know Your Workspace. This is important in all work environments. If you work on a farm or in a shop, find out where equipment and tools are kept that you will be using. If you work in an office, find out where any resources or materials you will need will be kept. Knowing upfront can help you avoid asking questions later.
7. Don’t Be Shy. Relax and be yourself. It’s better if your coworkers get to know the real you up front than the person that you’ll only be the first week there. They’ll feel more comfortable around you as well if you’re comfortable around them. Also, ask them questions about themselves and their lives outside of work. Establishing relationships that very first day on the job makes way for a great career.
8. Put the Cell Phone Away. At least for the very first day, try not to use your phone at all unless you’re using it to save your supervisor’s number or retrieving information for your W-2. Don’t check text messages, don’t check social media, just stay away unless you’re prompted by your supervisor or coworkers to use it. For me, it was difficult to not let my husband know how my first day was going, but it was important for me to be fully engaged and impressionable that first day on the job.
9. Say Thank You. Throughout the day, say thank you when a coworker helps you with something or offers you anything (like lunch). Also, tell your supervisor thank you at the end of the day for helping you through your first day on the job and helping you get acquainted with the office and company.
10. Decompress. Go home at the end of the day. Do something you enjoy. Get plenty of rest. Take some time to absorb your first day and prepare for the weeks ahead now having a little bit better idea what’s in store.
Best of luck your first day on the job! If you find yourself needing any other helpful workplace advice along the way, check out AgCareers.com’s newsletter archives or infographics for helpful advice on nurturing your career.