How to navigate the first day at a new job

Career Advice
JC Cornell

By JC Cornell
June 9, 2020

November 29, 2023

0 min read

First day at a new job – Congratulations! You have made it through all of the job searches, interviews, referencing, background checks, etc. Now you just have to make it through the first day!

Your first day is just as important as all the other steps you have been through.

While you have already created a great first impression with all the managers you met during the interview process, you haven’t met your co-workers yet. And these are the people you will spend most of your time with!

Here are some tips to help you make a great first impression.

1. Whatever you do – Don’t be late!

It is important to arrive at least 15 minutes before your official start time on your first day at work. Once you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist and inform them that it is your first day and who you are here to see.

Let them know that you have arrived 15 minutes early and ask her to inform your first day contact that you are already there. This will demonstrate that you are punctual and respectful of other people's time.

2. Have your 30-second elevator pitch ready to go

Throughout the day you will continuously be asked about your previous role and about yourself. Practice your 30 second intro before your first day – you will say it more than you expect

3. Put your phone on silent

No one enjoys being interrupted, particularly when they are taking time out of their busy day to provide you with orientation or training. It’s simply good manners to turn your phone off.

4. Say hello to everyone

No matter what your new position is, no one is below you. Nor is their job less important than yours.

Say hello to the receptionist, cleaners, mail room staff, and photocopy team. These are people you might need to turn to in an emergency. One day they might even save your job by doing theirs.

5. Make the effort to learn people’s names quickly

You will be introduced to a lot of people in your first day. While it will be easy for them to remember you, it can be very hard for you to remember 50 new co-workers' names.

Address people by name when you run into them later on. If you don’t remember their name, own up to it and politely ask for it again. Making the effort to address everyone by their name creates goodwill with new colleagues.

6. Don’t be a ‘know-it-all”

Walk in with an attitude of learning. No one wants to know how you did that task in your old job; this is your new job, and they do it differently. If you notice that tasks can be done more efficiently, absolutely make yourself a note.

You will want to speak up about improvements in due time – doing so on the first day makes your co-workers feel like you are putting them down or showing them up as incompetent.

7. Plan for lunch plans

Every office has its own lunch culture. You may be invited to lunch by your boss or colleagues – but there’s no guarantee. When it gets to 11:30 am, if no one has said anything to you, ask your colleagues about the culture around lunch.

Ask for recommendations on good places close by. Then invite them to join you for lunch – either out or grabbing something to bring back to the lunch room. Show you are friendly, open, and inclusive.

But whatever happens, lunch-wise, make sure you have a solid breakfast that day so it can sustain you through all those morning hours of orientation and training.

8. Dress to impress

If you have been to the office for your interview, you will have noticed the dress code. Before your first day, ask your manager about your department’s dress code – IT dresses differently from Legal.

Make sure to dress a little bit smarter than the norm. You don’t want to be wearing shorts to everyone else’s dress pants.

Take note of what everyone is wearing throughout your first day, and plan your weekly wardrobe from there. Remember to check what Friday’s dress code is too – every company’s version of “Casual Friday” is different.

9. Take notes

Your first day is often spent between meetings, orientation and a pile of paperwork. Occasionally you will get started on training or project work straight away.

Wherever the day goes, make sure to take notes – you will thank yourself later. That way, when you need to repeat the same steps later in the week.

When you come across something difficult, you are able to ask, “I got to step 5 of my notes, but I seem to have missed something before step 6.

Are you able to show me what I missed?” It shows that you paid attention and appreciated the time that was spent training you. It also shows you listened and learned.

10. Listen and ask questions

Listen attentively as processes and procedures are detailed to you. Ask questions to clarify. Don’t pretend you know. Asking questions now will save you pain later on.

11. Take initiative when you have nothing to do

Even if you are given a mountain of paperwork to complete, you might find yourself without anything to do by noon!

Go to your manager and let them know that you have finished everything already. Ask if there are small duties in your role that you can get started on now that you may not have time for later or that your colleagues generally don’t have time for.

Offer to organise the supplies cupboard. Do the filing. Rename all the technical drawing files that are currently waiting for classification. Don’t sit on the internet or spend your day staring at the ceiling.

12. Be flexible – there will be surprises

No role is ever 100% what you expect. A new job is about more than your daily duties. There are people, office politics and windowless cubicles too.

Give yourself the chance to really feel out a new role and settle in a bit before you decide it isn’t for you – you might just be surprised how it all turns out.

Lastly, remember that you are brand new. No one expects you to know the name of the printer you need to network your computer to, or that every corporate document needs double line spaces between paragraphs.

These are the things you will learn as you go. Be open to learning and corrections, and ask for clarification when you need to.

Mostly, relax and enjoy your new role. You worked hard for it.

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