“I am starting my first job on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I interned there last summer, so I know some people, but I’m still worried about how to act on my first day. I’m the only new employee fresh out of college. What can I do to fit in and make a good impression?” – Anonymous, Chicago, IL, age 22
First, congratulations! You perfected your resume, nailed the interview, impressed during your internship, and got the job! Now it’s time for the real work: making a good impression on your first day. Here are some simple rules that you can follow to get off on the right foot.
Rule #1: Do your research. The week before your start date, e-mail your new boss to see if there is any research you should do to prepare for day one. Complete that research and also review the company Web site, any financial information you can get your hands on, and any current articles written about your company or your assignments/client.
Rule #2: Dress the part. First impression matters, and it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Wear a suit the first day unless you are specifically told otherwise, and then observe co-workers to determine what is appropriate on a day-to-day basis. If you wear commuter shoes, change into your work shoes before you walk in the door (after your first day, you can relax a bit and change at your desk when you arrive… but not on day one).
Rule #3: Pack a lunch. Usually on your first day, someone (your boss, or perhaps a group of colleagues) will take you to lunch. But if you start work on a busy day, or if your company hasn’t arranged lunch, be prepared so that you don’t have to step out on your first day. You can always ditch the sack lunch and eat it on day two, but you can’t always correct the impression of being an employee who “takes lunch” in a culture where people may not.
Rule #4: Arrive 15 minutes early. No more, no less. Do a trial commute beforehand – on a weekday – to make sure you know how long it’s going to take to get there.
Rule #5: Introduce yourself. Just like your parents taught you: make eye contact, shake hands firmly, don’t be shy, and don’t wait to be introduced. If someone doesn’t offer to take you around, introduce yourself to your co-workers.
Rule #6: Take notes. Take a pen and paper everywhere you go, and then use them diligently. Taking notes makes you look detail-oriented and attentive.
Rule #7: Be resourceful. For first-day questions, such as how to order supplies, or how to complete the HR paperwork, look for someone other than your boss to answer the question – a Human Resources rep, a colleague, an assistant, or someone you met during your internship or orientation are all good targets.
Rule #8: Look busy. If you have assignments and feel busy on your first day, consider yourself lucky – you are in the minority. Usually it takes a couple days for the pace to pick up. In the meantime, stay busy! Read online articles related to your company or clients. Organize your Outlook calendar and inbox just how you like them. Set up a filing system on your computer. Read the employee handbook. Read back issues of the company newsletter. Set up your voicemail message and e-signature. Just don’t look bored and please, no Facebook or Words With Friends.
Rule #9: Check in before you go. If you are told that the workday ends at 5 p.m, check in with your boss at 4:45pm and if he/she needs anything before the end of the day. Stay a couple minutes late, and don’t leave without saying goodbye to (and thanking!) your boss.
Photograph by graur razvan ionut.