Having spent my entire career in the recruiting and human resources space, I’ve personally helped hundreds (maybe even thousands) of new hires navigate their first days of work. I’ve also lived through a few first days on the job myself! While everyone handles their first day a little differently, I’ve noticed that the people who stand out in all the right ways inevitably employ a few key strategies. Sure, there’s no magical formula to ensure that your first day goes off without a hitch, but these surefire tactics will help you make a killer first impression.
Here's how to crush it in your new job.
Wondering, how do I overcome anxiety in my new job? The first day at a new job is sure to generate some anxiety, so try eliminating early morning stress by preparing in advance. Laying out what you’re going to wear, packing your work bag, deciding what you’ll have for breakfast and figuring out what time you should leave for the office the night before your first day will help to ensure that you start your morning off on the right foot. This should practically guarantee that you’ll be able to confidently stride into the office five minutes before you were scheduled to arrive feeling calm and ready to handle your first day like a boss.
A surprising amount of work goes into the new hire onboarding process, and your new manager will likely be handling some last-minute preparations (organizing your workspace, setting up meet-and-greets, scheduling training sessions, making sure your computer works, etc.) before you arrive. Be respectful of everyone’s time by doing everything in your power to get to the office about five minutes early so that you can start right on schedule.
Believe it or not, it is possible to show up too early. This might put your new boss in an awkward position – does she rush through her morning prep to greet you right away or make you wait out in the lobby until she’s ready? Arriving too early puts unnecessary stress on the people who are working to make your first day a success and can be almost as irritating as arriving late – almost.
Maybe you're wondering, what should I bring to my first day of work? The answer is always your confidence and a notepad. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement (or anxiety) of your first day and forget to take notes or ask questions. Bring a notebook to every meeting and jot down the things you know you’ll want to remember or that you’re likely to forget. Your new co-workers will probably be happy to answer your questions but may get a bit annoyed if they have to answer the same ones over and over again.
A lot of new employees tend to be shy about asking questions on their first day, but this is the time to do it! And I’m not just referring to questions about where the bathroom is and the best place to grab a sandwich. Challenge yourself to ask questions about the company, upcoming projects, how you can help, and why certain things are done the way they are. This will show that you’re already engaged and thinking about how you can contribute. What manager wouldn’t love that?
Figuring out who can help you with different aspects of your onboarding process will play a key role in your success. Asking questions about who you should go to with IT issues, who can help you with your 401(k) enrollment, and who you should check in with when you aren’t sure what to do next will give you more confidence, increase your efficiency and make your first few weeks on the job much less stressful.
Making an effort to cultivate a relationship with your new colleagues on day one is a great way to demonstrate your dedication and enthusiasm to your new team. And it never hurts to have a few friends around the office, either! Try asking the people you meet with about their roles, what they’re currently working on, how long they’ve been at the company or if they have any advice for surviving your first few days. Showing a genuine interest in getting to know your co-workers (and spending more time listening than you do talking) will help you to create a positive, lasting first impression and lay the foundation for great working relationships.
Keep in mind that everyone you meet with is taking time out of their busy days to help you. Whether you’re asking the receptionist for directions to the nearest coffee shop, getting a quick benefits overview from the HR manager or sitting in on an hours-long training session with your new boss, be sure to take a moment to thank everyone for their time and help. It’ll make them feel great (everyone likes to be appreciated!) and will go a long way toward ensuring that they’ll continue to help you out as you learn the ropes.
The first day at a new job is stressful – you have to learn your way around a new office, meet tons of new people, and survive an onslaught of new information all while trying to avoid looking like a deer in headlights. Remember that it’s impossible to learn everything you need to know in a day (or a week or a month!). You’re going to forget people’s names, you’re going to ask a few of the same questions twice, and you might even suffer through a few embarrassing moments – and that’s OK. Be kind to yourself and remember that finding your comfort zone will take some time.
Jaclyn Westlake is a career advice columnist, creator of the Job Hopper's Job Search Strategy Guide and founder of The Job Hop. With more than ten years of experience in the recruiting and human resources space, she is passionate about empowering job seekers to achieve their career goals. She's also particularly fond of coffee, every dog in the world, and the city of San Francisco.