6 tips for your first day of work

6 tips for your first day of work
SEEK content teamupdated on 06 February, 2024

Nervous about your first day of work? The first-day jitters that come with starting a new job are completely normal. Whether you’re stepping into the workforce for the first time or beginning a new professional chapter, it's natural to feel a mix of emotions. 

Meeting new colleagues, learning new systems, adapting to the work culture  – there’s a lot to take in. That all-important first day plays a huge role in setting the tone for your time with the company. 

Transitioning into a new job requires more than just showing up. It's about being proactive, open-minded and ready to embrace new challenges. It’s an opportunity to showcase your skills, adaptability and eagerness to learn. Ease your transition with our actionable tips for the first day at a new job, so you can overcome those jitters with confidence.

1. Preparing for your first day at a new job

The first day can come up fast. As the interview nerves fade, you officially say good-bye to student life and prepare yourself for full-time working life. The key to a successful first day on the job comes down to preparation. Here are some different things you can do to ensure you arrive well-prepared and confident.

Research the company culture and expectations

You’ve already likely carried out some company research during the interview process, as it’s a great way to make a good first impression. However, refreshing your understanding of the company culture and expectations before your first day can help you align your behaviour and mindset with the organisation’s values and work ethic. 

Here's how you can research effectively:

  • Review the company website and social media: look for the company's mission statement, values and recent news. 
  • Connect with current employees: if possible, reach out to current employees through professional networks. They can offer invaluable insights into the company’s environment and what’s expected of you.
  • Understand the dress code: is it formal, business casual or casual? Dressing appropriately on your first day is a part of making a good impression. It’s better to err on the side of being slightly overdressed than being too casual on your first day.

Essential items to bring on your first day

Before your first day, it helps to gather everything you’ll need and have it packed and ready to go. Not only does that allow you to concentrate on other things that morning, it can also help you avoid forgetting something. Here are some essential items to bring:

  • Any required documents, such as identification for HR processes
  • A notebook/planner and pen, to take notes during meetings or training sessions (your employer should provide these, but that’s not always the case)
  • A water bottle, snacks, lunch and any personal items you might need throughout the day
  • Any medications or comfort items (employers aren’t allowed to give you OTC painkillers, for instance)
  • A list of questions you have about your role, team or company processes

Plan your commute

A smooth commute can make all the difference to your first day. There’s nothing worse than arriving frazzled and overwhelmed from a stressful journey or, even worse, arriving late. It’s a good idea to test your commute before your first day. Make sure you leave at the right time, as peak-hour traffic and travel can make a big difference to your trip. 

You can also leave the house extra early on your first day and plan to grab yourself a cup of coffee at a nearby café before venturing into work. This will allow plenty of time for delays, and if all goes to plan, give you some time to de-stress and get into the right mindset for work.

2. Making a positive first impression

It’s always nerve-racking knowing what to say and do on your first day at work, especially knowing that first impressions are made within seconds. Here are some tips to help you make the best first impression possible and positively influence how your colleagues and superiors see you.

Introduce yourself effectively 

Introducing yourself effectively is about more than just stating your name and role. It can be a great way to leave a lasting impression. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Have a short introduction ready that includes your name, your new role and a little about your background or interests.
  • Show enthusiasm for your new role and being part of the team.
  • When meeting someone, you might say, Hi, I’m [name], the new [position]. I’m really excited to be here and learn from everyone. What do you do in the team? This not only introduces you but also shows interest in your colleague and will help you remember who they are and what they do.

Body language and professional etiquette tips

Your body language speaks volumes about your confidence and attitude. Here are some tips to ensure your non-verbal cues are as positive as your verbal communication.

  • Maintain good posture: stand and sit up straight to project confidence.
  • Eye contact: make eye contact when speaking or listening to someone. It shows attentiveness and respect.
  • Smile: a friendly smile can make you appear approachable and open.
  • Be mindful of personal space: respect others’ personal space to avoid discomfort.

Professional etiquette plays an important role in making a good first impression. In general, be polite and respectful in all your interactions. 

3. Navigating interactions with new colleagues

Your first day at a new job isn’t just about the work, it’s also about the people you’ll be working with. Having positive interactions with new colleagues is important for building strong working relationships

Tips for engaging with colleagues and building relationships

Engaging with your new colleagues can be both exciting and intimidating. While it can be daunting, take the initiative to start conversations during breaks or in common areas. Ask your colleagues about their roles, experiences in the company and any advice they might have for a newcomer. Pay attention to what your colleagues say. This not only helps you learn about the company culture but also shows that you value their input. 

While it’s important to listen, also share a bit about your background and interests, as this helps in finding common ground. Discovering common interests can be a great icebreaker and a way to forge stronger connections. If there are any group lunches, coffee breaks or after-work gatherings, make an effort to join. These informal settings are great for building relationships.

Be approachable and open

Being approachable and open is key to forming good relationships from the start. Here’s how:

  • Maintain a positive attitude, as this makes others feel more comfortable around you.
  • Show that you are eager to learn and open to new experiences.
  • Use open body language. Avoid crossing your arms or looking down, as these are usually seen as closed-off gestures.

Remember, the goal is not to become best friends with everyone on day one but to lay the groundwork for positive and productive working relationships. 

4. Understand your role and responsibilities

There’s a lot to take in on your first day on the job and it can often feel overwhelming. If you’re wondering what to do on your first day at work, it helps to revisit your job description to remind yourself of your responsibilities. Schedule a meeting with your manager to discuss your role and find out what is expected of you (if they haven’t done this already).

While it can sometimes be tempting to put your head down and work, to show how capable you are without any help, this can lead to mistakes. People expect new starters to ask for help when there’s something they’re unsure about. Asking questions when you need to will help you learn how to do things faster than if you’re learning through mistakes along the way.

Set personal goals for your new role

Setting personal goals can be a great way to help you stay focused and motivated. Consider these tips:

  • Align goals with company objectives: ensure your personal goals contribute to the company's overall objectives.
  • Set SMART goals: make your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
  • Review and adjust regularly: as you become more familiar with your role, revisit and adjust your goals as needed. You might create a roadmap for the first 30, 60 and 90 days.

5. Adapting to the new work environment

Every new work environment brings with it new challenges, like navigating a brand-new space and understanding the company’s policies and procedures. Here’s how you can better understand your new workspace.

Familiarise yourself with the office layout and facilities

Your first day is the best time to get to know the physical layout of your new workplace. Here are some things that can help:

  • Take a tour of the office to learn where things are located, such as the pantry, meeting rooms, restrooms and break areas.
  • Find out about available facilities like printers, coffee machines and any other amenities you might need.
  • For your safety, locate emergency exits, fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

Understanding company policies and procedures

If provided, thoroughly read the employee handbook. It usually contains important information about company policies, work hours, leave policies and other essential guidelines. Don't hesitate to ask your HR department if you have any questions or need clarifications on certain policies.

Observing and adapting to the work culture

  • Pay attention to how colleagues interact with each other. This can give you insights into the informal norms and communication styles within the office.
  • Learn whether the company prefers emails, instant messaging, face-to-face meetings or other forms of communication.
  • Engage in social activities or informal gatherings, as they can be great opportunities to observe and adapt to the company culture.

6. Overcoming common challenges

The first day at a new job comes with common challenges many people face. Alongside normal first-day jitters, new starters often have to overcome uncertainty about their role or feeling nervous about making mistakes. You have to learn the unique systems and processes of your new company, which can take time to master. Then there are workplace dynamics and internal politics to navigate. It’s normal to have to face these challenges and more as you settle into your new position. 

Strategies for dealing with nervousness and uncertainty

It's natural to feel nervous on your first day. Here are some strategies to help you manage these feelings:

  • Familiarise yourself with the company and your role as much as possible before your first day. 
  • Carry a notebook to jot down important information, such as names and roles. This can help you remember details along the way.
  • Understand that it’s expected that you won’t learn everything on your first day or even your first week. Be patient with yourself as you learn.

Don’t hesitate to seek guidance when you need it. If you’re unsure about something, ask your colleagues or supervisor – it shows your eagerness to learn and get things right. Some companies also have mentorship or buddy systems for new employees. If available, take advantage of these programs to get support. 

The HR department is another valuable resource for any concerns or questions about company policies or your role. If in doubt, speak up. Most employees would be happy to help you out. Starting a new job is the beginning of an exciting new chapter in your life. It’s normal to feel a mixture of excitement and nerves on your first day, but with the right preparation, you can walk in (or log on) with confidence.

More from this category: First job

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