Starting your first day at a new job feels like high school all over again. All eyes are on you while you’re paraded around the office learning people’s names and important locations like the break room. It feels like people are sizing you up based on your choice of clothes, but you smile and try to act confident anyway.
First day jitters are normal, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you prepare for it. With this guide, I’ll show you numerous tips for starting a new job, so you can make a good impression on your new colleagues and boss. This way, you'll be not only ready for the fist day at your new job, but be prepared to transition quickly from newbie into a reliable, long-term employee.
Before you jump into this tutorial, download the FREE first day and week of new job checklist. It will help you take action on the material you'll learn in this tutorial.
What to Do On Your First Day of Work
No one said you have to look totally clueless and out of place on your first day of work. Here's how to prepare for your first day at a new job:
1. Ask Your Manager for Recommended Reading Materials
Confirm when and where exactly you’re supposed to go on your first day. In most cases, you'll attend an orientation or shadow your boss or teammate to learn the ropes.
If there’s no orientation, ask your manager for reading materials related to your work, such as press releases, product brochures, annual reports, and company memos. Do this well before your first day, so you have time to review and won’t look clueless when you report to work.
2. Dress to Impress
Dress conservatively to avoid getting sent home on your first day if you don’t know what the dress code is. Even if everyone dresses casually, it wouldn’t hurt to come in smart casual attire to make a good impression. Long sleeves and tailored pants will do for men, and for ladies, a pantsuit and blouse will do.
3. Leave Home Early
Wake up 30 minutes earlier on your first day, so you have ample time to prepare and travel to work without feeling rushed. The short travel time may not motivate you to wake up earlier than usual, but who knows how long it will take with early morning traffic, plus the time you’ll spend finding a parking spot.
4. Learn Your Teammates' Names
You’ll meet a lot of people, some of whom aren’t even on your team. Since it’s impossible to remember everyone’s name immediately, just focus on memorizing your teammates' names. You’ll spend most of your time with them, so the earlier you know their names, the faster you’ll feel comfortable at your new job.
If you happen to talk to someone who was just introduced to you but you already forgot their name, just make a joke of it. Say something like, “Sorry, I was introduced to a gazillion people today.” Then ask for their name again. It’s no big deal, people will understand.
5. Socialize Over Meal Breaks
Your teammates probably have lunch together if they have the same schedule. Wait for someone to announce ‘let’s eat’ to the group then ask if you could join them. If your teammates don’t have lunch together, ask whoever is sitting next to you or the person you’re shadowing if they want to join you for lunch.
Use this time to ask questions about their job, or talk about non-work related stuff such as favorite TV shows or where to hang out after work. You’ll isolate yourself from the team and people will think you’re a loner if you don’t make an effort to socialize.
Tips for Starting a New Job and Surviving Your First Week
The first day is over, and hopefully you made it on time to the office and made a good first impression with your team. While first day jitters are gone, you still have a lot of training, socializing, and organizing to do. Below is a list of everything you should accomplish after your first day at a new job:
1. Complete HR and Onboarding Requirements
All the paperwork for your benefits, taxes, and work documentation are usually completed during orientation or training. You’ll also spend time with the company’s IT and security department, so they can set up your phone, internet, computer access, and ID. You’ll have to complete the paperwork on your own if there’s no orientation though, while your manager will take care of computer access and the equipment you’ll need.
Complete all of these documents on time if you don’t want to get on HR’s bad side or delay your first paycheck.
2. Organize Your Workstation
A new cubicle feels foreign and uncomfortable until you make it your own, so set it up with your usual office supplies and desk items the next day. Try not to personalize your desk to the point that it annoys the person sitting next to you. Unnecessary decor and too many dog pictures add clutter to your desk and make it look unprofessional.
3. Gauge Expectations
Your new boss will set aside time to meet you on the first week. What goes on in these meetings varies from one manager to the other, but expect information about your daily responsibilities and the team’s current project at the very least.
Use this meeting to understand your manager’s expectations for your first week and month on the job, including what it takes for you to succeed in your role. This is easier if the company already has key performance indicators for the position, but if there’s none, clarify what you need to accomplish for them to see that you’re a good hire. While this might feel like you’re pressuring yourself when you just got started, this is the only way to avoid an unexpected termination or a poor performance review.
4. Document What You're Learning
Take notes on everything you learn, including new software, system access codes, and procedures, so you don’t have to bother your teammates when you forget something. Asking easy questions about stuff already mentioned before gives the impression that you’re a slow learner, and by extension not a good asset to the team.
5. Offer to Help a Coworker
You’ll have lots of free time on your first week, partly because you’re still in training and your boss doesn’t have enough tasks for you yet. Don’t waste this time waiting for someone to hand you a task. Help your teammates on whatever they’re working on to show your initiative. Asking your teammates to pass on some of their tasks allows you to see how things are done, and gives you a chance to gain their trust.
6. Confirm Your Manager's Communication Preference
Is your boss an open door or closed door type of leader? Can you just pop into their office to ask a question, or is there another preferred way of communication? Ask about your manager’s communication preference in your first week to ensure you can work well together and avoid misunderstandings.
Don’t wait until you get a reprimand and don’t assume the environment is the same as your last job. Assuming your new manager communicates like your previous boss puts you at risk of interrupting them in the middle of an important call, or not having your questions answered at all.
Your First 30 Days: Accomplishing This Crucial Milestone
By this time you're already comfortable at work to the point where you rarely ask questions and know everyone in your department. You already have a full workload, so the best thing you can do now is deliver on your promises during the job interview. You want your first month to go well, so here are some tips that will help:
1. Keep Your Boss in the Loop
Ask your boss for short biweekly meetings to get feedback on your work, instead of guessing if you did things right. Talk about what you’ve learned so far and new items in your to-do list as well.
Listen to your manager’s feedback to understand how things are done, and why they’re done that way. Since you’ll be working with your new manager for the foreseeable future, understanding how they think early on will make your life easier.
2. Don't Overcommit
I know you’re eager to learn and prove that you’re a good hire, but please don’t overcommit yourself.
You’re still within the first 30 days of your job, so no one expects you to be a top performer yet. What’s important now is to learn how to do things right and build a good relationship with your team. Besides, you don’t want to look overwhelmed and struggle in your first month—a time when everyone is doing their best to go easy on you.
3. Share Credit With Your Coworkers
Share recognition for your work to everyone who trained you to gain their trust and loyalty. You’re new and even if you completed a project on your own, there’s still a huge chance you asked for help at least once. So give credit where it’s due, otherwise you’ll be labeled as a leech that takes but doesn’t know how to give back.
7 More Tips for Starting a New Job Right
1. Keep Personal Time to a Minimum
Avoid personal calls and errands as much as possible, even if everyone else is doing it. Remember that you’re new and haven’t earned the "right" to check out early or browse Amazon to buy birthday gifts.
2. Don’t Suggest Changes Right Away
There’s nothing wrong with trying to impress your new boss and coworkers during your first few days on the job. But there’s a right and wrong way to do it.
One wrong way to do this is to suggest or make actual changes immediately, because no matter how bright your ideas seem, they will be amateur due to your lack of experience with the company.
Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps says,
“Don’t suggest any changes until you’ve been around long enough to understand why things are the way they are, including the implications of such changes and if a move in that direction has been tried before.”
3. Don't Be the First to Leave the Office
Frequently leaving the office before your teammates leave will reflect badly on you, and so will watching the clock like a hawk until 5 PM strikes. People will think you’re only in it for the pay and couldn’t be bothered to finish your pending tasks.
4. Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help
Your boss and coworkers don’t expect you to know everything about the company, its protocols, and all your responsibilities yet.
It’s easy and far more comfortable to pretend that you know what to do, but this will backfire on you later on. “It's better to get those questions out of the way when you’re still new to job, than to wait until later on when your boss expects you to start carrying your weight”, adds Peter Yang, Co-Founder of ResumeGo. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the silly or newbie questions you’re embarrassed to ask.
5. Stay Away From Gossip
Listening to gossip from your teammates might feel like an unspoken office rule when you’re new and have no friends yet. I know I felt that way before. It feels impolite to excuse yourself. Also, trying to redirect the conversation to a different topic feels rude, when they’re so wrapped in up in the latest who-hates-who drama.
Listening to gossip as a newbie might feel harmless but there are hidden ramifications in your job. Robin Schwartz, Managing Partner at MFG Jobs explains,
“Not only do you want to avoid tarnishing your reputation by being immediately labeled a gossip, you don’t want one person’s opinions or unfounded information clouding how you see certain colleagues.”
6. Learn to “Manage” Your Boss
Have you heard of the phrase “managing up”? The definition varies depending on the source, but in essence it’s the process of managing your relationship with your boss, especially if that boss is unorganized, abusive, or a micro-manager.
Tips to Manage Your Boss
- Follow up if your manager often forgets to answer emails
- Understand their routine to find out the best time to make requests
- Study their body language
- Find out their career goals to see where your own goals overlap and figure out how you can help each other
- Learn to clarify instructions or expectations
Your happiness and success at work is affected by your boss’s management style, so it’s up to you to step up where their weaknesses are.
7. Find a Mentor
Your mentor doesn’t have to be your boss, it can be anyone in your team or department. Look for someone who’s knowledgeable, professional, and most importantly, willing to share time and knowledge with you.
Set Yourself Up for Long Term Success
Whew, you survived your first month on a new job! You’ve learned a lot and made new friends by now, so the only thing left to do is cement your place on the team. One way to do this is with an early win—solving a tough problem for the team, or exceeding expectations on your task. It’s unlikely for you to have an early win on your first month because you’re still learning, but it’s doable within your first 90 days.
Talk to your manager to create short (90 days) and long term (1 year) goals aligned with the company’s priorities and challenges, the short goal being your early win. Then create a detailed plan for accomplishing said goal with the guidance of your manager and your team’s cooperation.
Celebrate Early Success
All your hard work will pay off when your coworkers recognize your achievement, even if you’re barely out of your training wheels. Don’t get complacent though, use this early win to spur you on.
Download the FREE first day and week of new job checklist. It will help you take action on the material you've learned in this tutorial.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2017. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.