Starting a New Job

Getting Ready for Your First Day

Woman looking out the window of her office
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When you start a new job you're generally in the company of others who already know their way around. You may find yourself in a situation where you can't find the restroom, supply room or mailroom. It's important to get the lay of the land so that you can perform effectively in your new role right away and start making inroads with the people who can help you do your job better.

There are several ways you can get yourself immersed into the company's culture and history ahead of time and during your first few weeks to make the transition to your new job easier and set yourself up for future success.

Get Ready for Your New Position

If it's possible, take some time off between jobs to make a separation from your previous workplace. For many people, the number of hours spent at work far exceeds the number of hours spent anywhere else. Leaving co-workers behind can be very difficult and the relationships you've formed may be very strong. You may not always like those you work with, but you do get used to being around the same people day after day.

Do some research during your time off. Learn all you can about your new employer, their product lines, philosophies, and corporate culture. See if anyone in your network knows any of your future co-workers and ask for introductions prior to your first day. It would be nice to see a friendly face when you walk through the door on your first day.

Plan what you're going to wear during the first week of work. You'll want to wear your most conservative outfits to start off until you figure out what's appropriate and what isn't. Take care of items that need to go to the dry cleaner or the tailor, as this will save you from having to take care of those things during your first few weeks when you may be coming home from work physically and emotionally tired.

Map out and plan the route you'll take to work as well as some alternate routes in case of traffic, or a train line that goes temporarily out of service.

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Adjusting to Your New Environment

On your first day, put on your favorite suit, the one that makes you shine. When you feel confident, you will look confident. Whether you're driving to work or using mass transit, be sure to leave plenty of time to get there and try to arrive a little bit early.

Treat your first day like a job interview and remember that first impressions do count. Eat breakfast before you leave your house, because you may not have any time for a food break before lunch at your new office.

Your workday begins when you leave your house, and you never know who you'll meet along the way during your commute. You may run into your boss or a co-worker at the local coffee shop or subway station. Put on your professional behavior in case you have any interactions with other people that could be your potential boss, co-worker, or client.

Walk into your new workplace with a positive attitude, and make eye contact with whomever you meet. Be polite and friendly to everyone, whether it's the receptionist, the mailroom clerk, a colleague or your new boss. Introduce yourself and remember that it's okay to ask questions.

People generally like to help others and it usually makes them feel good about themselves. If you refuse all offers of help, perhaps because you feel that accepting assistance might make you look incompetent to your boss, the result could be that everyone assumes you're a snob or a know-it-all and some people may even vow to refuse to help you in the future.

While it's okay to hold onto some of the things you learned in your previous jobs and use that knowledge in your new job, every workplace has its own way of doing things.

During your first few weeks or even months on a job, resist the urge to change the way things get done unless it's part of your job duties. If you find yourself saying "That's not how we did it at my old company," your new boss and colleagues may question your loyalty or dedication to your new job.

Tips for Your Next Few Weeks, Months

  • Ask questions. People will understand that you're new, and it's better to do something right the first time around than have to do it over.
  • Smile and be friendly. Get to know your co-workers, learn a little about their families, and find out what their interests are.
  • Use your lunch hours to get together with your current co-workers. It may be tempting to meet up with your former workmates if you are nearby, but establishing relationships with your current ones is much more important to your work future.
  • Figure out who has the authority to give you work to do and who is just trying to have you do their work. Some people attempt to push off their work on an unsuspecting person, even if they don't have the authority to hand out assignments.
  • Pay attention to the office grapevine but don't contribute to it so that you don't gain a reputation as a gossip monger.
  • Don't complain about your boss, your office mate, any co-workers, or your previous job.
  • Continue to arrive at work early and don't rush out the door at the end of the day. That doesn't mean you have to be the first person to arrive and the last one to leave but don't be the last one in or the first one out.
  • Volunteer for projects that will help you get noticed but first complete projects your boss has given you. Take on a new project only if you are confident you can complete it well and on time. Volunteering will make you look good only if you can follow through with it and will make you look very bad if you can't.
  • Keep a positive attitude and an open mind. Your work life has changed and it will take getting used to.