written by: Saoirse OMara•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/19/2011
You have to start a new job tomorrow but how should you behave on your first day on the job? Here are 9 essential tips to avoid possible pitfalls and get you through your first day without problems.
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Don't Be Intimidated
The first day on the job might be intimidating, especially if this is your first job after school or college. You don't know your new colleagues, you may not know what behavior is expected, and you will be unfamiliar with your new workplace. Maybe you have been shown around before, maybe you even know some of your colleagues by name, but that is not knowing them.
Of course you'll strive not to make any mistakes. After all, sympathy and antipathy are often decided at the first meeting. If you follow the 9 tips below, you should get over your first day on the job without stepping into any pitfalls.
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Tip #1: Be Friendly But Not Too Open
If you want to survive the long run, you need to come to good terms with your colleagues. Nothing is more non-motivating than working with colleagues who openly do not like you. Your first day on the job is your first opportunity to gain their acknowledgment, assistance, and maybe even the respect of your colleagues. Be friendly toward them. When they tell you about themselves, show interest but do not be too investigative. On the other hand, don't offer too much about yourself on that very first day. If you offer the wrong message, you may raise some red flags without even knowing it.
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Tip #2: Be Curious About Your Work
As long as it concerns your work and your new company, ask as many questions as you want. Show that you want to get to know your tasks and your company fast. Be interested in what others tell you about the company. Ask colleagues if you can observe them or if they can show you something new. If you've been given a task and do not know what to do, don't be shy and ask for help. You will see that most of your colleagues will be happy to help you if you ask them. This shows your motivation and your intention to avoid mistakes.
Be prepared for your new colleagues to be busy on your first day on the job. Accept this and learn where you can. Don't sit around waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Ask how you can help.
Most probably, you'll have an orientation period. This is intended to be a training period by most companies. Use this time to get acquainted with all your colleagues and learn as much as you can about the work processes (and the hierarchy within your new company). The more information you can gather during your orientation period, the less time you'll have to spend on these things later.
There may be times when you'll have nothing to do because you won't be able to start a project without instructions. Ask for manuals of your tasks to spend this "free" time wisely. If your company has any manuals, the HR department will certainly be happy to provide you with them.
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Tip #4: Outward Appearance
Ideally, you probably asked about the dress codes during the job interview or at the time you signed the job contract. If not, there is one simple rule: being overdressed is better than being under-dressed. For an office job, that means a business suit. For a blue collar job, on the other hand, you should at least wear clothes which can get dirty, for example a pair of simple jeans and a t-shirt. You can still ask about your new workplace job etiquette on your first day on the job.
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Tip #5: Arriving Half an Hour Early or Just in Time?
As long as you don’t know the company, be early! Half an hour is not necessary but about ten to fifteen minutes will give you enough time to find the way to your new workplace. If you arrive just in time, you might leave a bad impression right on your first day on the job. Always take into consideration that something unusual could happen on your way to work which could delay your arrival, for example a delayed bus or a traffic jam.
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Tip #6: Lunch Time
Because you may not know whether or not you have the opportunity to go out for lunch, it's best to bring your own lunch to work. Take something with you that you can eat at your desk “as is" and is something you don't have to heat up before eating. A sandwich and yogurt cup would be perfect. Remember to bring your own spoon for the yogurt! Now you are on the safe side and can find out about your company’s “lunch customs" without worrying about going hungry.
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Tip #7: Your Desk: Your New Realm
You might wonder if you can bring some personal pictures or other decor stuff for your desk. Refrain from doing so on your first day on the job. Take your time to find out whether or not it's appropriate. Most probably, your colleagues won't mind one or two small pictures on your desk but you can’t be sure before you observe the rules on decorating.
This is one simple rule: You shouldn’t be seen as the first to leave your new workplace. Job etiquette might even require you to stay ten or fifteen minutes longer after work. Of course, overtime shouldn’t be normal your first day, or even the first few weeks on a new job.
Watch at what time your colleagues prepare to leave and leave some minutes after the first of your colleagues and you should be safe. However, if you have been given an urgent task, you should try to finish it before leaving.
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Tip #9: Last But Not Least: Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
Whenever a colleague (or your boss) answers a question or explains something to you, remember to say thank you. This might seem absurd to you, especially if the one helping you is only doing his or her job. Still, a thank you doesn’t cost you anything and can go a long way and noticed by your new colleagues and your boss. Show your appreciation when someone helps you and they will help you again.
By following these 9 tips for your first day on the job, you will ensure success!