Whether you’re moving up in your career or returning to the workforce following a prolonged stint of travel overseas, making a successful first impression on day one should be at the top of your priorities.
The melting pot of excitement and anxiety that comes with starting a new job can affect even the most easy-going of individuals. While you don’t have to take your performance too seriously come day one, being seen to be organised and open-minded can be all it takes to nail your first impression.
So, if you’re looking to get off on the right foot or simply want to make the process much less terrifying, we’ve curated some insightful hacks to nail your first day.
1. Plan your outfit in advance and keep it formal
Look to your code of conduct in your contract (you should have had access to this upon receiving the job offer) for hints to the level of formality in your place of work. Otherwise, think back to your interview – did you notice what everyone else was wearing? Contacting HR should be your last port of call, but not ruled out completely if you’re really unsure. Once you’ve established the dress code, a good rule of thumb is to appear slightly on the more formal side, as opposed to being too informal advises Liz Wessel, cofounder and CEO of WayUp, an organisation connecting early career professionals with employers.
2. Plan your journey, get there early
To the tune of Goldilocks… arriving 20 minutes early, too keen. Arriving on time, you might as well be ten minutes late. Arriving 15 minutes early, just right. The last thing you want to do is show your manager up by beating them into work, or worse, make them wait on you. Get organised, plan your trip, and allow yourself time to walk through those doors completely unflustered.
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3. Do not, we repeat, do not fake it ’til you make it
It’s day one and you’re new, which means you’re essentially rocking around with a get out of jail free card. Keith Rollag, professor of management at Babson College and author of What to Do When You’re New recommends leveraging your newness. “Saying, ‘I’m new here’ can be powerful because it triggers a helping response in others. It opens a lot of doors; most people are hardwired to be welcoming.” So before you chain yourself to your desk to nut out the operating system, don’t feel as though you can’t wander around the office to get to know people. “Success will be more determined by relationships you make versus how much you read on your first day,” says Rollag.
Which brings us to… the ‘unwritten’ office rules
Use your newness to ask questions that will bring you up to speed with the ‘unwritten’ office rules. Who does the dishes? Where can you put your lunch? Which cupboards are for communal use? Where are the bathrooms? How long is lunch?
4. Prepare an elevator pitch
You’re going to get asked over and over from colleagues about who you are, where you’ve come from and what you’ll be doing in your new role. Having a 30 second pitch to recite at the drop of the hat will save you coming off unenthusiastic or unprepared. Plus, it’ll help strike up a conversation. People love an excuse to talk.
5. Be yourself, but in a conservative, professional way obvs
It’s important to smile, look the part, and be open to interaction. Resist the urge to keep to yourself if you’re naturally shy in temperament as people might interpret this as disinterest. Conversely, while confidence is a bonus, bold personalities should try and keep it under wraps for the first few days. Waltzing around the office super casual with a takeaway coffee in hand whilst firing up convos at the water cooler about last night’s episode of Dancing With The Stars also sends an unbecoming message. You were hired for a reason, there’s no need to overdo it.
6. To bring, or not to bring
Bring a pen, notepad, personal information (for form filling), prepared questions about the role, management and social landscape, and your phone on Do Not Disturb at the bottom of your handbag all dang day.
Do not bring your CV, personalised items for desk (give it three weeks MINIMUM, please), your lunch (use this time to have lunch with your boss or colleagues no matter the cost), and shoes you’ve never worn before (the last thing you need to consume your time and energy is sore feet and blisters).
7. Keep your mind open and your expectations nimble
And last but not least, it all comes down to your attitude, baby. An open mind and keenness to learn is an early win in any employers eyes. Try not to judge people, or the job, too early and be adaptable to the role’s responsibilities. The strategy behind the tasks at hand may be vastly different to the approach in your last role. Ask questions to employ their frame of mind before drawing any conclusions or overhauling their processes.