Were you ever the new kid in school? Remember the fear, the anxiety, the excitement? Let’s fast-forward a few years to your first day on the job. It’s the same feeling, except you don’t have to worry about getting beaten up on the playground (though you should watch yourself in the cafeteria).
Of course, you can take comfort in the fact that you know a little bit about your new company from the interviewing process and from your research. But if your only exposure to your new employer was through a recruiter, or if you’ve had to relocate to an office you’ve never seen before, your first day may be like walking into a party full of strangers.
The following tips can help you make a smooth transition and offer some realistic expectations about your first day:
Get There Early
You will be excited, so you will probably wake up early anyway, but make sure you have planned your route and timed the morning commute. This is not the day you want to get lost, oversleep, or show up with your hair still wet. Don’t show up too early, however. I know you want to make a good impression, but you shouldn’t kiss too much butt on the first day.
Although it may feel like it, you won’t actually have a big sticker on your forehead that says, “I’m the new person. Please talk to me.” Some people won’t know who you are. They might think you’re a temp, a client, or the person who fixes the copier. Don’t be shocked if people just glance at you and don’t make an effort or give you only a half-hearted hello. As scary as it may seem, it’s up to you to take a first step and introduce yourself.
Where’s the Red Carpet?
This may be the first day of the rest of your life, but remember that it’s just another day for everyone else. This is not to say that your new co-workers won’t be excited to see you, but don’t be shocked if they don’t fall all over themselves the way they did when you were being recruited. Some of your coworkers won’t even make an effort to meet you right away. It may take them a few days to make it to your office or desk.
Perhaps you envisioned a “Welcome to the Team” banner, flowers in your office (okay, your cube), lunch with the boss, or coworkers patting you on the back and telling you how glad they are that you’re there. It certainly could happen, but don’t count on it. That way, if you do get the royal treatment you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
When Do I Get to Do Something?
Don’t be surprised if the most challenging thing you do on your first day is write down your name and social security number a bunch of times. Much of the day may be spent filling out paperwork. The human resources department will likely have mountains of sheets for you to complete: tax forms, insurance papers, 401K choices, policies and procedures. Then you may have to meet with the technical staff about the network, your computer, the firm’s intranet, passwords, or even how to use the voice mail system. Most of it probably won’t work properly, so you shouldn’t get frustrated. It can seem mind numbing, but this is important stuff, and needs to be addressed early. Don’t worry — not every day is like this.
The CEO Took Me to Lunch
If you are part of a formal training or orientation program, your day will be fairly structured and might begin with greetings and presentations from top executives. Keep in mind that this could be the only time you’ll be meeting directly with these people. In a smaller company, a top executive may take you out for lunch. Again, don’t think this happens all the time. Take advantage of the special circumstances and establish a connection. Don’t be intimidated. You already have the job, now you have to start forging relationships and making yourself memorable, so that the next time you see a higher-up (especially a CEO) he or she will remember you.
You should look forward to your first day of work, but like so many other first days in your life, you may be too overwhelmed to enjoy yourself or even remember much. Or you may find yourself bored stiff, sitting at a desk feeling completely useless. Either way, keep in mind that your first day on the job will be unlike any other…which is probably a good thing.