Your First Day at a Government Job

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Although everyone’s experience is bound to be different, chances are your first day on a government job will likely be similar to starting any other job, filled with meeting people, filling out paperwork, going over policies, and getting familiar with the office culture. You’ll likely have loads of information to absorb, and if your employer has laid out their orientation process thoughtfully, you'll have reference materials for all the first day activities.

No matter what your first-day experience is like, any orientation should cover the basic information you need to know to have a successful first few weeks on the job. If you get to within a few hours from the end of the day and you haven't touched on all the topics below, ask about them.

Meeting Your New Boss and Your New Team

When you meet your manager, the most important information you can get is the set of expectations your manager has for you. In all likelihood, you will be working as part of a team. You won't remember everything about each person you meet, but do your best to remember their names and faces.

As you progress through your first few months, you won't want to go to your manager with every question you have. Try to identify two or three individuals who seem to know what they are doing and who appear to be willing to answer a newbie's questions.

Filling Out the Forms

Your employer will need you to complete paperwork in order to begin your job. They will certainly ask you to complete the forms required by the Internal Revenue Service and state tax forms if you live in a state that collects income tax. Most government employers offer direct deposit of payroll checks, so you'll also fill out a form for that and likely be asked to attach a canceled check. 

Depending on the information and data you're authorized to access, you may be required to complete nondisclosure forms. Basically, these forms force you to attest that you will not release any proprietary information unless allowed to do so by the organization's policies. 

Personalizing Your Workspace and Office Culture

Your workspace will most likely be a desk or a cubicle if you're in an entry-level position. Look at how other employees decorate their workspace to see just how much leeway you have in making the space your own. At least to start, be on the conservative end of the spectrum when it comes to decor.

Your manager or one of your teammates will likely show you around the building, get you set up with an employee identification badge, tell you where to park your vehicle, show you where the restroom is, and where your computer prints come out. This is an opportune time to ask about the organizational culture. Find out what the social norms of the office are, and do your best to follow them until you know which ones are flexible.

High-Risk Policies and Mandatory Training

You may also be asked to affirm certain other policies in writing. These policies are usually those that pose a significant legal risk if an employee violates them. Examples include sexual harassment and workplace violence

The reason employees are made to acknowledge these policies in writing is to mitigate the employer's liability should an employee violate them. If the organization is sued in conjunction with an employee's alleged violation of the policy, the organization can show its track record of proactive prevention.

To go along with the high-risk policies, employers often develop short training modules to outline the tenets of the policies in detail. The training serves two functions. First, the employee gets detailed information about critical policies. Second, the employer mitigates the risk of the employee violating those policies.