Surviving Your First Day at a New Job

Image courtesy of: Clarity25

You dusted off your resume. Polished it up. Killed it in the interview. And Congratulations, you were hired!

Initially you are excited, relieved and proud – (as you should be!) – but as the starting date of your new position looms ever closer, often these first feelings are overshadowed by a growing sense of nervousness and anxiety, climaxing five minutes before you walk in that front door for the first time. Natural insecurities and doubts prevail: Why did they hire me? What if I don’t know what I’m doing? What if I don’t fit in?

Before you let these nerves get to you, it is important to know that if you care about this job even remotely these feelings are far more common than not, and it is a fact that everyone at the office you’re about to walk into had a first day there at some time or another. Having said that, though the first day on a new job won’t define your entire existence there (cumulative hard work and results will), it sets a tone that will either work for or against you, depending on how you play it. And like most things in life, a little upfront planning will go a long way to ensuring your ultimate success.

Getting There: “Nobody plans to fail, they fail to plan.”

Plan your route: Nothing is more important on that ominous first day than simply making it on time. Seems easy enough. But though you can count on your own punctuality, often times it seems like every other car on the road is conspiring against you. Plan for that. Plan for the broken down Civic in the middle of the intersection. Plan for the grandmother with Cataracts oblivious she is driving in the fast lane. Make sure you leave with ample time to get there and plan your route in advance. This is valuable time that can be used to get calm and focused, instead of weaving through traffic at break-neck speeds, cursing out everybody in you’re way because you’re now late.

Dress right:  When you’re looking good, you’re feeling good. Plan what you’re going to wear, being conscious of your new environment, the night before so you don’t have to make frenzied and hurried decisions in the morning. Putting on something that feels and looks good has a tremendous positive effect on our psyche and confidence, and is essential to a first impression. Conversely, wearing something ill planned or inappropriate can leave you feeling awkward and out of place all day.

Do your homework: Learn as much as you can about your new employer/company before you start – partners, managers, clients, any press on the company. This will allow you to get a sense of how the company works before you ever step in it. (This is also good advice for all jobs you’re interviewing for, so you can prioritize your choices should you start getting offers. Some companies will be a far better personal fit for you than others.)

Making a Connection:

The routine: Be vigilant of your new office culture – there are often very obvious hierarchies if you take the time to check it out. Every office has its little eccentricities and specific ways of doing things, the quicker you spot them the quicker you’ll be welcomed in. And remember to be flexible. Just because you did something a certain way in your past situation, doesn’t mean it’s going to fly here. New environment, new protocol.

Introductions:  Make a concerted effort to get to know your colleagues. Often co-workers will go out of their way to be welcoming on your first day. Be open to this. A warm smile and a firm handshake will go a long way. As well, if there are people that you haven’t formally met, introduce yourself. It is important to get to know people at all levels. Though you would never want to forget your superior’s names, it is just as advantageous to get to know the assistants, temps and interns, as more often than not they’re actually the ones getting things done and a sincere introduction by you will be noticed and appreciated.

Information: On day one remember you are student not a teacher. Know you know enough to be there (you were hired after all!) but also know enough to know you can always know more. Don’t regale your mentor with stories of the way you used to work, you’re in a new environment and that comes along with a whole new set of work practices. Inevitably as you’re being whisked around for a tour many names and information will be thrown out to you: You’re not expected to remember everything on day one, so be inquisitive and ask questions – be a good student.

The water cooler: Positivity breads positivity. Often in an attempt to make you part of the group, some employees will try and bring you up to speed on all the office gossip. While this can be funny and entertaining, try not to engage in this. Often conversations like this come back to haunt you down the line. Remember they’re not your friends, they’re your co-workers – be professional. Conversely, if asked about your old job, even if you had a really bad experience, pull from the positive – it puts you in a better light and generates far more long-term respect.

First Day Work Ethic: The first day at a new job is often like the first day back at school. There will be a lot of action, a lot of information, but you will probably be expected to get very little actual ‘work’ done, as you’re getting the lay of the land. This does not mean however that you should leave right at 5pm sharp. Symbolic actions like putting in that little bit of extra time, even if you’re not swamped right off the bat, are often noticed and appreciated. Slipping out 5 minutes early because you don’t have much to do will undoubtedly have the opposite effect.

Making Connections Last:

Ultimately you will be judged on your job performance and productivity. Work not only hard, but smart. Creating a comfortable, flowing work atmosphere is often imperative to maximum efficiency. Though you may have first day jitters, setting the correct tone – professional and engaging – from day one, will go a long way to helping create the best environment for you.

Finally, a special thanks to everyone at PickTheBrain that made my first day at work truly joyous!


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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