12 Ways to Impress Your First Days on the Job
If you’re the kind of person who laid out your clothes the day (or even a couple of weeks) before the first day of school, then you’re probably the kind of person who is worried about how to impress the first few days on the job. You’ll need to leave your parachute pants and slogan tees at home, but there are other ways to make yourself stand out that don’t involve waking up hours early to tease your bangs (don’t try that at home. Or ever). Here are some tips on how to walk into work prepared to take on the first few days with confidence:
1. Ask if you need to bring anything with you.
Don’t assume you won’t need to bring anything with you on your first day. Reach out to your new supervisor and ask what you might need to have with you. You might need to fill out some paperwork, so also check with the right departments to see what documentation you might need to bring with you so you don’t have to set up several appointments because you were missing important items.
2. Arrive on time.
Your first day on the job is not the day to leave home with 5 minutes to spare and sit in the Starbucks drive-through line and hope it goes quickly. Be prepared to get to the parking lot early. You don’t want to be waiting outside the building for it to be unlocked, but you don’t want waltz into work 5 minutes late, either. Interview rules apply here, so 15 minutes early should suffice for you to give some warm greetings, get settled, and use the restroom before your day begins.
3. Introduce yourself often.
Don’t settle into your new desk (or whatever it is you do) and wait for people to approach you. Not only will you appear rude, but you won’t learn anyone’s names by hiding behind your computer. The first few days can be overwhelming with the number of people you meet, all of the new tasks you have to learn, and even the simple stuff like fridge etiquette, but it’s still worth putting yourself out there (I’m talking to you, fellow introverts). Make the rounds, introduce yourself, and chat with your new co-workers during your morning coffee break. It’ll set the right tone and give the impression that you’re already a valued member of the team.
4. Remember names (and other essential details).
There’s nothing more awkward than needing something from somebody and not knowing their name. Do your best to remember the names of your coworkers right away, even if it means writing their names down. If you don’t, you’ll be running around the office looking for “the copy guy.” If someone mentions their kids or the fact that they like mountain biking, try to remember those things, too. If it was important enough for them to mention in the first few minutes of a conversation, that probably means that’s a big part of their lives. Stash it away to ask them about later. They’ll be flattered, and you’ll look awesome.
5. Take notes—literally.
No one is going to be weirded out by you hauling around a notepad Nancy Drew-style your first week. Have one with you wherever you go—to take down names, important facts during meetings, and any other information that might come your way throughout the day.
6. Take advantage of training time.
Don’t be one of those people that assumes just because they’ve done something similar before that they have nothing to learn. Even if you’re an expert in your field, you’ll have a lot to learn in terms of office culture. Ask as many questions as you can, even those you think you might already have the answer to. Worst case scenario, you’ll have reaffirmed what you already know, or perhaps you might even learn something new. It might also be helpful to sit down and come up with some questions you might have before you ever step a foot in the office—if they’re answered throughout your job training, great! You can cross them off. If not, you’ll have a constant stream of meaningful questions to ask any time you get the chance.
Remember, no one expects you to have all of the answers the first day. Now is the time to take in as much as you can by observing, asking, and taking notes. Once you start taking on more tasks, you’ll rarely re-enter that training environment where you’re the student taking in as much about the job as you can. You’ll be expected to have more answers than questions. For now, be ok with the fact that you don’t know everything and even if you do, be willing to play dumb.
7. Figure out the culture (without getting caught up in drama).
Observation is key here. If you go around asking people who the pot-stirrers are, which co-workers are the boss’s pets, and which people are the least popular, you’ll find yourself in the middle of office drama quicker than you can say, well, “drama.” In the midst of your question-asking and note-taking, don’t forget to observe how your coworkers interact with each other. Take a mental note of where everyone falls into the order of things so that when you do need something from someone, you know who you can trust. You probably don’t want to go to the office gossip if you need tips on how to negotiate your work schedule with your boss. If you pay attention, your new coworkers will tell you a lot without saying a word.
8. Know who to follow up with.
During your training, make sure to ask, “so who do I ask if I have more questions about_________?” Assume that the person training you might not be an expert on everything you’ll need to know to function from day to day. You’ll probably need to follow up with individuals from other departments. Get clear answers on who to go to if you run into issues with specific problems so that you’re not being sent in circles when you need help with something.
9. Know your boundaries.
If you let people walk all over you the first few days on the job, they’re going to continue to take advantage of you in the future. Set clear boundaries for yourself and communicate them often so that people know what is ok to ask you for and what’s not. For example, if you’d like to make it to as many of your kids’ sporting events, and you’re discussing some major projects coming up, you’ll want to communicate when you’re willing to work extra hours when necessary and when is off-limits. Better to communicate that often and early than letting someone down later because you didn’t set clear boundaries.
10. Invest time and energy.
While the first few days on the job will mostly be focused on training, you can’t just be a sitting duck. Show your new boss and colleagues that you’re the kind of teammate they’re lucky to have by showing up a few minutes early, taking initiative, and investing in relationships. A little will go a long way early on, so you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes by being that annoying go-getter that makes everyone roll their eyes behind your back, but putting in the work early will make a good first impression that will last well past your training stage.
11. Make a plan to make changes.
Don’t assume you can come in on your first day and reinvent the wheel. While you can’t actually implement the changes you’d like to make right away, it’s never too early to start noticing things and take note of them for a more appropriate time. Once you’ve taken the time to take in everything you can about your new position, you’ll be able to make changes from a place of authority. Your first few weeks on the job should be spent building relationships and learning the ropes.
12. Figure out your resources.
The best time to find out who you can go to if you run into problems later is before you have an issue. As you sign paperwork with human resources, ask them who you can talk to if you have questions about insurance, an issue with a supervisor or coworker, or if your company offers other resources if you find yourself struggling. Having a plan in place by figuring out what resources are available to you before you need them will help you to feel more prepared as you take on more responsibilities and face new obstacles.
Learning a new role takes patience, determination, and time. Remember: one of the best things you can do is to give yourself permission ahead of time to make mistakes because, whether you like it or not, you’re going to. Take the time to prepare beforehand and once you’re there, take it one day and one challenge at a time. If you do, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more confident as you take ownership over your new role. Still need some help? Executive Drafts has career consulting services to help you such things like navigating career transitions, how to introduce yourself to recruiters, and how to set yourself up for success at a new job.