how to ace your first day at a new job

You got the job! After the initial excitement wears off, reality sinks in. Now you actually have to go there, every day for who knows how long and do the job. Not just do it, but do it well, better than everyone else; certainly better than the last person in that role. Or, if it’s a new position, make your mark on it so that no one else can claim it. There’s also the tiny little matter of your brand new coworkers. What if they don’t like you? What if you don’t like them?

First day jitters, like performance nerves on opening night, are natural. Thinking, feeling people get nervous in new situations. You’re walking into the great unknown and given the percentage of your life you’ll spend on the job, you want it – need it - to go well. No wonder you’re nervous.

ace your first day at a new job

first things first, remember why you were hired

They hired you, and not because they felt sorry for you. Unless the hiring manager selected you on the recommendation of a Ouija board, you can take comfort and courage from knowing you have the skills and aptitudes they need.

You interviewed at least once in person and met a variety of people through that process, proving you can communicate well enough to impress the hiring manager and you’re a good fit in the organization’s corporate culture. You didn’t embarrass yourself, regardless of how you think the interview went. You got the job, because you nailed the interview, most likely beating out several other highly qualified candidates in the process.

Now that you’re (hopefully) breathing a little easier, here are some suggestions for taking hold of your first day on the job and rocking it.

prepare ahead of time

We’re a broken record when it comes to promoting preparation and your first day on the job is no exception. Before your first day, take a trial run at the route you’ll take to determine how much travel time you’ll need. Identify alternate routes just in case. You don’t want to arrive on your first day sweaty and panting, hair messy, shoes in hand, because you got on the westbound bus instead of the eastbound one and had to sprint twenty blocks to get there on time. Not pretty.

establish a morning routine

And speaking of preparing… don’t wait until the morning of your first day to establish a morning routine that works for you. Assess how much time you think you’ll need to get ready in the morning and set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than that. You’ll be glad for a few minutes of quiet contemplation – maybe even some yoga breathing - before the day begins. Lay out your clothes the night before. Gather your laptop and/or materials you may need so you’re not scurrying around looking for them in the morning. Prepare and refrigerate your lunch the night before so you can grab it and go.

Do you shower in the morning or the night before? Can you fit a workout into your routine? Will you have to switch gym time to after work? Do you eat breakfast (you should) or do you down a smoothie on the run? If you haven’t been a breakfast person, today is a great time to start something new. Prepare for breakfast the night before; make-ahead and prepare-ahead recipes are great; so are things you can make and freeze, like nutritious breakfast muffins or breakfast fajitas. Get the coffee pot set up so you can hit ‘start’ on your way to the shower. If you have a family and everyone has to leave in the morning, preparation is even more important to avoid stress and collisions in the bathroom.

make the right first impression

The adage ‘you only get one chance to make a good first impression’ holds true in the workplace. First impressions matter. People size you up from the moment they meet you. Smile, present a firm handshake and introduce yourself. Let them know you’re looking forward to being a valuable member of the team or organization. They don’t need to know your heart is pounding and your mouth is dry. Remember, everyone you meet had a first day on the job too.

An important first impression element is how you present yourself. The organization’s dress code will likely have been part of your interview discussion; you may also have had a chance to see what people actually wear to work. Consider carefully what you wear the first day and into the first few weeks of your employment. Dress simply and professionally, even if your coworkers are in t-shirts and jeans. Your clothes should fit you well and be in good repair, including your shoes. Tend to your hair and makeup if you wear it. Make sure your nails are neat and clean.  If you can afford something new, now’s the time to get it. Nothing boosts your confidence like a crisp new blouse, a new power tie or a smart computer bag.

arrive on time

Nothing says eager and ready to rock like arriving early. Not too early – you shouldn’t need a flashlight to make your way to the office - but 10 minutes before your call time sets the right tone.

remember today is just day 1 of many

Your first day on the job will likely involve little actual work and lots of ramping up, meeting new people and onboarding. Larger organizations have official onboarding processes that involve training and meeting with team members and management. You may be assigned a mentor – lucky you! If not, ask if there’s someone you can shadow. Greet each new opportunity with enthusiasm, even if you spend most of the day wandering through the company Intranet or reading company collateral.  For most new employees, the first day is daunting and overwhelming. Don’t forget to breathe, listen, observe and ask questions.

don't forget to enjoy it

Many organizations go out of their way to make new employees feel welcome. You may find your workspace set up with new pens, sticky pads and folders or a new plant, or you may find streamers and balloons. Your new manager may invite you out for lunch on your first day. Go and enjoy it, even if you’re chewing while you take notes.

embrace change

It’s said life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. A new job signals big changes that require us to adapt. Think about some initiatives you’d like to engage in or new skills you want to acquire in this new position. Don’t wallow in the past; your last job had its ups and downs, and this new job will too. The best part about the great unknown is its limitless potential. You may not feel you have much control over how early days of your employment unfold, but you can set your attitude on positive and head for success.

Relax and enjoy your new work life!

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