Starting a New Job

Getting Ready for Your First Day

Woman looking out the window of her office
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Shortly before my daughter started kindergarten we visited the school she was going to attend. She and the other children who were to be starting school with her visited the kindergarten classrooms, met each teacher, and participated in activities. This was my daughter's first "first," or at least her first significant one. Many more will follow, like someday in the distant future, starting a new job.

It's really not much different actually, except there probably won't be a formal orientation like the one my daughter had. And when you start a new job you're generally not in the company of others who are also new. Oh no. You're the new kid on the block coming into a situation where relationships have already been formed. You're the only one who can't find the restroom, doesn't know where the supply room and mailroom are located, doesn't yet realize that the custodian wields all the real power, and doesn't know not to talk to the boss until she's had her first cup of coffee. There's so much to learn in addition to the duties related to the job you were hired for. It's quite overwhelming for most of us.

Getting Ready

If it's possible, take some time off between jobs—maybe a week or two. You'll need this time to separate from your previous workplace. Leaving co-workers behind can be very difficult.

The number of hours spent at work far exceeds the number of hours spent anywhere else. The relationships, good and bad, are usually very strong ones. Sometimes it can be very cozy, and other times it can be like a big dysfunctional family. You may not always like those you work with; sometimes you can barely tolerate them.

But, you do get used to being around the same people day after day.

Take the time you have off to do some research. Learn all you can about your new employer. Learn about their product lines, their philosophies, and their corporate culture. Call around to see if anyone in your network knows any of your future co-workers and ask that person to introduce you prior to your first day. Wouldn't it 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. Remember, you'll want to wear your most conservative outfits to start off, until you figure out what's appropriate and what isn't. See what needs to go to the dry cleaner or the tailor, what needs to be washed and ironed, and what needs to be replaced. This will save you from having to take care of those things when you may be coming home from work tired. That first week of a new job can be physically and emotionally exhausting.

Plan the route you'll take to work as well as some alternate routes.

Should there be traffic, or if a train line is out of service, you'll be glad you did this.

Tips to Help You Survive Your First Few Days
Fitting In

Your first day is here. That time off sure flew by, didn't it? Put on your favorite suit—you know ... the one that makes you shine. If 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. You should try to arrive a little bit early. Treat it like a job interview, and remember that first impressions do count.

Eat breakfast before you leave your house and brush your teeth and floss. Fresh breath and clean teeth are a must (no poppy seed bagels, please).

Your work day begins when you leave your house. You never know who you'll meet along the way. You may run into your boss or a co-worker. A friend of mine was driving to work one day when a car swung around her and the driver made a hand gesture (you know the one) at my friend. He didn't see my friend's face, but she saw his. It looked familiar and then my friend remembered why. He was her most recent hire, starting work that very day. She attributed his action to nerves, and hasn't said a word to him. Yet. You shouldn't make lewd hand gestures regardless of who the recipient may be, but if you are tempted to, just think of the other person as being a potential boss, co-worker, or client.

So you finally made it to your new workplace. Now take a deep breath and walk in with a smile on your face.

You are happy to be there and there's nothing wrong with showing it. Keep your head up and remember to 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.

Nobody minds. After all, everyone has had a "first day." People generally like to help others and it usually makes them feel good about themselves. I remember a new co-worker who refused all offers of help. I guess she thought accepting assistance would make her look incompetent to our boss. The result was that everyone thought she was a snob or a know-it-all and some people even vowed to refuse to help her in the future.

While it's okay to hold onto some of things you learned in your previous jobs and use that knowledge in your new job, remember that every workplace has it's own way of doing things. Your first few weeks or even months on a job is not the time to change the way things get done. Do not utter these words: "That's not how we did it at my old company." Your colleagues will just be thinking this: "Well, you're not at your old company and if you liked it so much why didn't you stay there."

What You Can Do Before Your First Day
Fitting In

Your Next Few Weeks, Months...

The biggest hurdle you will have to get over will be fitting in with your new coworkers. The faster you become part of the pack, the sooner you will adjust to your new job. Of course, the length of time it take this to happen varies from person to person and from job to job. While you may fit in immediately at some jobs, it may take a little longer in others. And some people seem to fit in immediately wherever they go. All you can do is try your best and do your job the best way you know how. The following tips may help:
  • Ask questions. You're new and it's better to do something right the first time around than have to do it over.
  • Smile a lot 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 work mates if you are nearby, but establishing relationships with your current ones is much more important.
  • Figure out who has the authority to give you work to do and who is just trying to have you do their work. I worked with a woman who would try to push off her work on any unsuspecting person. It took a while to realize that she didn't have the authority to hand out assignments.
  • Pay attention to the office grapevine but don't contribute to it. You don't want to 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 life has changed and it will take getting used to.

What You Can Do Before Your First Day
Tips to Help You Survive Your First Few Days

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