Monday, September 1, 2008

7 Ways to Ace Your First Day

In honor of labor day, I thought I'd give some career advice. Hopefully it will be useful. After all 46%, or almost half of all newly hired employees, will fail at their jobs within the first 18 months.

Writing your perfect cover letter, sending in your stellar resume, and keeping focused through your outstanding interview was a lot of hard work to land your new job. Now you have to worry about keeping it! Your first day on the job is important because it is going to set the tone for the rest of your employment. Your boss and coworkers are going to form an impression of you during the first few days that is going to filter their perception of how you are performing as an employee. But don't be daunted! The same focused professionalism that led them to hire you can help you start off on the right foot, as long as you keep these 7 tips in mind:

Be well rested. On your first day, you are going to have a lot of information thrown at you, and you won't process it effectively if you're sleepy. Your boss isn't expecting you to get the hang of your job right away, but it looks bad if you need to be told the same thing over and over again. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can make you 19%-40% less effective at forming memories. Making sure that you're well rested and alert means that you'll be able remember the names and facts that you'll be learning during your orientation, as well as to make connections, and see the complete picture of what your new role will be.

Show up early. This can be tricky, because you don't want to show up for your first day at work two hours ahead of time, but showing up to work late is number one on the list of things not to do on your first day at the job. A good goal to shoot for would be to report for work about 5-10 minutes before your scheduled start time. You should already know your way to your job from your previous interview(s), but you might want to do a test run of the route the day before in case you are nervous. Give yourself more time than you think you'll need, and be prepared to wait in your car or take a walk around the block if you show up too soon. Getting there too early could mean that you show up before your boss is ready for you, or you arrive before the building opens, so it’s important to time it just right. Getting to work slightly early is as important as showing up well rested, so be sure to get to bed on time before your first day.

Dress appropriately for the job. This is especially important in office environments, as problem dress is not discussed until it has become a critical issue. One of the things you do not want to do on your first day at work is to show up inappropriately dressed. Dress conservatively for the first few days until you have an idea for what your coworkers are wearing. You might think that you're getting away with those wrinkled pants or that low neckline just because your coworkers haven't said anything to you, but they might just be saying things to each other. By the time the boss takes you aside to talk about your wardrobe, the damage has been done.

Ask questions. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking them, but be sure that you clear up any kind of confusion. It may seem childish for you to have to stop what you're doing every few minutes to ask how things are done in your office, but don't worry about looking stupid. You'll look far stupider if everyone's time and effort has been wasted because you didn't speak up earlier during a project. "It's my first day" is an excuse that can only go so far. Don't be the guy (or girl) who can't stop talking to show off how smart you are, but don't be afraid to request clearer instructions.

Repeat things to be sure you understand them. Like the point above, you may feel childish or even stupid to repeat back your instructions, but it is vital to be sure that you and your boss are on the same page. This kind of coordination is expected to happen during your first day on the job, and it's when you'll have the most leeway. Your manager and your peers should respond courteously and professionally when you confirm your instructions with them, and if they can’t behave appropriately, well, isn't that something you'd rather learn about the office sooner rather than later?

Speak up if you are either bored or done with your work. We’ve all been there, and it’s better to take an active role in seeking out your boss and asking for things to do than it is to get caught goofing off on the job. Don’t worry about proving your initiative, or worth as a “self-starter.” You’ll be receiving a lot of guidance as you start your new job, and won’t be expected to develop your own projects to work on until you have some experience under your belt.

Don't gossip. It’s possible everyone gets along at your new job, but it’s far more likely that your first day at work will find you in the middle of a complicated mess of alliances and rivalries that have been developing for years. You also haven’t had a chance to see who is genuinely friendly and who is going to talk about you behind your back. By all means, be friendly with your coworkers (don’t be antisocial when you start your new job), but office related subjects (ESPECIALY your boss, but also other coworkers) should be strictly off limits. Try to get them talking about themselves, and stick to neutral subjects.

Knowing what to do on your first day is just as important as knowing what not to do. Keep this list in mind, and remember that they hired you to do your job because they believed in you. You've got what it takes, so don't let them down!

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments:

The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
ss_blog_claim=59c833aa066112eeabade1b22648d49b ss_blog_claim=59c833aa066112eeabade1b22648d49b