• Anita Chastain, MBA

Starting a New Job? How to Make Your First Day a Raving Success.

Updated: Feb 26


What's the number one thing you want when starting a new job? I think most people would say they want to walk out at the end of the day feeling good about the job they did and believing they made the right decision for their career.


And they'll feel that way (or not) based on how the day went. That's why it's important to be prepared for your first day.


There's more to building a career than conducting a successful job search. Once you're hired, you need to prove to yourself and your manager that this job is a good fit for you. That process starts on day one.


In this article, you'll receive practical advice to help you start the job on the right foot and make the first day a success.



7 Things to Do Before Your First Day


Preparation is the key to success in work and life. Your first goal in starting a new job isn't memorize everything written in your job description, it's to get through your first day (and the first week, really) with as little drama and stress as possible. What you do the night before your first day makes a big difference.


Here are 7 things to do the night before you start your new job:


1. Set your alarm. Being late on your first day at work is unprofessional. It's the absolute worst way to start a new job. I know of an employee who showed up 30 minutes late on her first day of work. She showed up with wet hair, wrinkled clothes, and looking like she just crawled out of bed. People noticed her but not for the right reasons.


Set an alarm, and get up when it goes off. It's as simple as that.


2. Rehearse your elevator pitch. People are curious. Your coworkers and team members want to know about you. Be prepared by crafting a new employee version of a personal elevator pitch. This is an opportunity to create a good impression and build good relationships with your coworkers.


Keep your pitch under 30 seconds. Talk briefly about what you did in your last job. Deliver the pitch with enthusiasm, a friendly tone, and a genuine smile.


3. Figure out the best route to work. Your top priority on your first day of work is showing up on time. Figure out when you need to leave and what route you need to take to get to work on time.


If that means leaving an hour or more before work starts, so be it. You don't want to spend the day trying to overcome a negative impression caused by showing up late.


4. Set out your clothes the night before. The next morning you'll have enough to worry about. The one thing you don't have to worry about is what you'll wear that day.


Choose carefully, commit to your decision, then don't think about it again.


5. Take care of personal grooming. Clip and file your nails and remove chipped nail polish. Pluck the stray hairs on your eyebrows. Don't overdo it on the makeup, and dry your hair - or at least make sure it's dry before you get to work.


When you feel good about your appearance, you'll feel more confident. The confidence you radiate will make a positive impression too.


6. Pack a lunch, but be prepared to go out with your manager or co-workers. Going out to lunch is a great way to get to know your co-workers. Don't turn down the opportunity if asked. Likewise, if your manager invites you to lunch, say yes.


This is a great opportunity for you to get to know your coworkers or manager in a relaxed and informal environment.


7. Get a pen and notepad to take with you. Walk into the office prepared to work. There may be a gap between when you sit down at your workstation and when your desk supplies show up.


If you have your own pen and paper, you can start working while you're waiting on supplies.



Tips for Starting a New Job


Skillset and job knowledge are an important part of success in any position, but there's more to success than that. Your attitude and mindset make a huge difference in how motivated you feel and how satisfied you are in your role.


When starting a new job, you'll feel less stressed and more in control if you have the right attitude and mindset from day one. In fact, the right mindset and attitude can help make up for a lack of skill in many situations.


Related: 15 Things to do When You Feel Overwhelmed



Attitude and Mindset Tips for A Successful First Day


The eight tips below will help you make sure you make a great first impression and make those first days on the job easier for you (and everyone else).


1. Be open, friendly, and approachable. People prefer to help and be around people they like. When you're friendly and approachable, people will want to talk to you, they'll want to help you, and they'll want to include you on their team.


2. Get to know your coworkers but don't be pushy or try too hard. There's a fine line between being interested and asking questions and being nosy or pushy. Know where that line is. Be relaxed and genuine, don't push, and don't try too hard. Just let conversations happen.


3. Offer to help. Just because you're new doesn't mean you can't help out. Your willingness to help out will help you create good working relationships and help you learn more about the company, your job, and the jobs your coworkers do.


4. Ask questions, but don't annoy other people. It's ok to ask questions when you start in a new role. In fact, people expect it. Just be sure to ask the right questions and don't be annoying or demanding when you do.


Before you ask, make sure the answer isn't in the materials you already have. For example, an HR question may be answered in the employee manual or on the company's intranet portal.


5. Radiate positivity even when your nerves are on edge. It's hard to be positive when you're feeling frazzled, but don't let your nerves get the best of you. Take time to calm down. Take a deep breath, relax, take a break.


Your nervous jitters are normal. You'll get through them.


6. Express appreciation to the people helping you. Your manager, coworkers, IT, HR - whoever they are - say thank you when they help you. Gratitude makes a big difference in how you feel and how other people respond to you.


Please and thank you aren't quaint words from the past. They make your interactions with the people around you easier and more pleasant for everyone.


7. Be flexible, even if you don't want to be. In a lot of organizations, change happens frequently. The more flexible you are, the easier it will be to cope with change. Flexibility is the WD-40 of the workplace.


Your willingness to be flexible in response to change will make this job and every future job, easier.


8. Ask for help when you have questions. There is no shame in asking questions. You're in a new work environment. Ask your manager questions. No one expects you to know everything.


When you don't know, take time to ask.



Setting Yourself Up for Success on Day One


It's not enough to show up for work on time, once you get to work, plan to spend some time setting up your work environment for success. The seven tips below will help:


1. Familiarize yourself with the organization's technology practices. There are several technology policies to find out about, including things like locking your screen when you step away from your computer, how to contact IT if you have problems, and how or whether to lock up your laptop and any peripherals before you leave each day.


2. Start sorting through your work priorities. What are the most important things you need to focus on right now to meet the expectations of the job? Depending on the job, the answer may or may not be clear.


Check with your manager if your priorities aren't clear.


3. Complete and return any HR paperwork promptly. If HR requests paperwork, complete it and return it to them promptly. Return it in the form they request, i.e., scanned, signed online, return the original, etc.


4. Complete all training and new hire requirements and submit documentation promptly. Just because you would rather not complete the training, doesn't mean you don't have to. Make life easier for your colleagues who are responsible for these things.


Complete and submit everything they request in the timeframe they've requested.


5. Make a note of any meetings and other demands on your time. You have a lot to remember right now. Don't trust all of that information to memory. Make a note of meetings and similar demands on your time.


Promptly respond to meeting invites. It also helps to make a mental note of how much time you'll spend in meetings so you can prioritize your responsibilities properly.


6. Keep track of important pieces of information. Take notes. Use a notebook, sticky notes, your calendar, or some other tool. Which tool you use isn't as important as actually using it. Don't trust everything to memory. There's no need to.


7. Cultivate a trust-based relationship with your manager. The relationship you develop with your manager is one of the most important keys to your success and satisfaction on the job. Confirm project timelines, work processes, and the priorities of your role.


Ask questions when you need clarification. This prevents communication breakdowns and misunderstanding and builds trust and respect over time.



How Not to Get Lost and Other Things People Forget to Tell You


When you're starting at a new company, there's a lot to figure out and remember. This section covers seven things people don't talk about or forget to mention but are important when you're in unfamiliar surroundings.


1. Use landmarks to find your work station or cube. If you work on a floor with rows of cubes, find something unique or memorable - a plant, sign, window, etc. - you can use to remember where your cube is.


2. Use landmarks to find everything else too. If your company is housed in a large building, every floor and hallway may look the same to you. Use landmarks to help you find your way to the restrooms, coffee station, break room, cafeteria, and meeting rooms.


3. Find out what the food policies are and abide by them. Companies have different policies regarding food and drink at your work station. Find out what those policies are, then follow the rules. You may disagree with them, but it doesn't matter. Follow them anyway.


4. Find out if any phone or floor coverage requirements apply when you step away from your desk. For example, if you need to go to the restroom or walk off the floor do you need to forward your phone line or get floor coverage when you step away?


5. Understand and comply with the break policy. Companies have different policies about when you can take breaks and what you need to do before you go on break. Be sure you know what those policies are and comply with them.


6. Park where you're supposed to. Don't park where you're not allowed. Ignoring the parking rule will catch up with you eventually and it makes a statement about you - and not a positive one.


7. Figure out the organizational culture. Every organization has a type of "personality." Some are formal, some are informal, and many are somewhere in between. This results in a culture of unwritten rules about what's ok and what's not. As the "new kid" you need to figure out what those rules are and follow them.



5 Things You Should Not Do When You Start a New Job


While there's value in know what you need to do to be successful, it's also important to know what you should not do.


Here are five quick pointers on what you should avoid doing when you start a new job:


1. Act like you know everything already and don't need to learn how they do things in this job.


2. Talk about how you did this same thing at your other company when they're trying to teach you how they do things here.


3. Participate in gossip about your colleagues, coworkers, your team as a whole, your manager, or other managers at the company.


4. Post anything negative about your job responsibilities, coworkers, or company policies on social media.


5. Use your company email to take care of your personal business on company time or on breaks.

Summary


While getting a new job is important it's also important to start that new job on the right foot. To make a positive first impression, create a plan to make your first day a success.


Understand what you need to do and what you should avoid doing. Not only will this make starting your new role less stressful, but it will also make your first week less stressful too.



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