The first day of work is like the first day of school. Both usually involve new clothes and lots of nerves. Take it from someone who just landed a new job a year after hardcore searching, first impressions mean everything. I worked my ass off to hunt for jobs, prepare a cover letter, research the company and complete a few interviews. After lots of intense waiting, one company made me an offer that was oh-so-sweet. I couldn’t refuse, and my first day was quickly upon me. Here are my tips for getting through the big first day with grace and a bit of style:
Early Bird Catches The Boss’ Eye
When my big day came, I woke up bright and early at 6:00 a.m, well-rested from my week-and-a-half break between jobs. On your first day it is more important than ever to get enough sleep and show up on time. Especially if you are driving somewhere new or through traffic, make sure you leave enough cushion to arrive a few minutes early and show up looking perky.
Dress for Success
On my first day I spent a little extra time on clothes and makeup. I even made sure I got a haircut. I skipped buying new business formal clothes as my new employer had a more casual dress code. Despite this, I wanted to look professional on my first day. I needed to prove to these people that they hired the right woman for the job.
Make sure you know the dress code of your new place of employment and plan ahead the day before. Once at work, take notice of what everyone else is wearing to get ideas of what is acceptable for future outfit planning and buying. Although my company does allow us to wear jeans every day if we so desire, I noticed that those higher up in the business dress formally. And you should always dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
The first day is often filled with information, orientation and tours. I am glad I chose the basic heels to wear, as some of my 3-4 inch high wedges wouldn’t have cut it with all the walking. When selecting a bag, you might want to consider a large tote for carting around all your first day items.
Brown Bag or Box It
There are a few essentials you should arm yourself with on the first day. If you don’t have time or are too nervous for a first day breakfast, you can always bring a smoothie to drink on the road or pack a protein bar in your purse. I made sure to bring a Skinny Water with me because I didn’t eat breakfast, and didn’t want my stomach grumbling while meeting people.
Luckily, my boss not only graciously offered to take me to lunch on the first day, but she also showed me around town. I used this rare one-on-one time with her to try and get to know her better. When your boss asks you about your old job, remember to take the high road in answering those questions. As much as I would have loved to share all the horror stories about my previous boss and co-workers over rounds of chips and salsa, I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression. I’m not a complainer. I’m not a gossip. And lunch is only an hour long. Answer as diplomatically as you can and save those stories for later. Like maybe the Christmas party … in three years.
Setting Up Shop
It’s always a happy surprise to see your name already on your cubicle/desk area (bonus points if it’s spelled correctly, too.) If you don’t know the size of your desk area in advance, I would recommend leaving the box of decor and office supplies in your trunk. You don’t want to be lugging a large box around while looking for your cubicle and have it mess up that outfit you worked so hard to iron out.
I don’t think anyone remembers the names of everyone they meet on a first day. Especially in a big company. It is really important to try and nail down your teammates, supervisors, and cubicle mates names first. Try and look at the details of people’s outfits, hair, or offices when meeting them to help them stand out in your mind. And always remember your H.R. person’s name and location. They will be your biggest ally in getting settled in. Give a firm handshake and try to ask questions that will help you make a connection. A smile and eye contact go a long way. You needn’t bombard your boss with questions either. Asking your coworkers questions too will not only help you figure things out, but it will help you break the ice with them as well.
It is a brave endeavor to start the job cycle all over again. Giving up your place high on the totem pole and no longer having a list of trusty contacts who can help at a moment’s need can be scary. Back at my desk all that awaited me was a computer screen with no saved mail folder keeping all the good work related jokes; no familiar screen saver. For a second I missed the familiar comforts of my old office. But then I realized that this was the blank canvas I had been dreaming of for a year. Try not to dwell on the comforts you left behind at your former job. Look forward with enthusiasm at what is waiting for you.
-Written by Beth Livesay