Here it is. The first working day. You have signed your first contract? You have a notebook, a pen and some cash with you? Good, then you’re ready to go. You should never plan on getting to the office on time on your first day. You should plan to get there extra early – to show your boss that you’re likely to go above and beyond expectations and, most importantly, because that allows you to be totally cool, calm, and collected.
Behave professional on your first day. Keep your cell phone on silent (and leave it in your bag). It’s definitely not the time for personal calls or sending funny pictures of cats in a WhatsApp group. Remember that you are the new guy here and everyone will watch you closely (that’s just a normal behavior of human beings: A new possible threat in the comfort zone has to be observed extra carefully).
The unwritten rules of the office
Be open-minded and self-confident on your first day of the job: You’re not just anywhere, you are part of this team now. Say hello to everyone who passes by your desk—smile, introduce yourself, and ask about their role. If you’re bad at remembering names, try to repeat them during the conversation. It will not only help you remember but also shows that you’re listening (“Have a great day, Thomas!”). If you forget someone’s name, be honest and state it in a friendly way (“Sorry, I’ve met about a hundred people today.”)
Learning where you can get coffee is always a route to success. And: figure out the unwritten rules of the office. Are you, as a newbie, perhaps the one who has to wash the dishes now? Which refrigerator unit are you allowed to use?
Simple, but important questions for having a good mood in the office in future… Remember: you will spend more time with your colleagues from now on than with your best friend.
Never eat alone
One of the best opportunities to get to know your team is lunchtime. Often it is traditional to take new employees out to lunch on their first day.
Furthermore, you can always ask your colleagues to show you the neighborhood and grab something to eat outside.
Today, you will get a lot of information from listening, observing and asking questions. And what’s of more importance: you will meet a lot of new people. There’s nothing worse than meeting new colleagues and having nothing to say besides: “Nice to meet you!”
But, as always, there are ways to prepare yourself for the conversations you will have in the elevator, in the tea kitchen, during lunch or on your way to a meeting room. Have a few ice-breakers in the back of your mind. “Hi, I don’t know too many people here, as it’s my first day at this company. I’m Julia and I work in the Finance department” or “What do you do?” are classic conversation starters with people who don’t work in your area. “What’s your story?” shows deeper interest in the person you’re talking to. And that’s the key point: Usually, people love to talk about themselves, so make it easy for them and ask them questions they will have an answer to.
An evergreen is obviously to talk about the weather – that’s a topic everyone has an opinion on. If the sun was shining last weekend: What has your teammate done? Something nice? Or catch up on the latest news, but don’t get too political or extreme (if this is not part of your job). The conversation on your first day should be a cautious approach to the atmosphere in your new team.
Get to know the source of information
And then there might be the first processes your colleagues will show you in detail. “I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the info that’s being fired at me today. In your opinion, what’s the key theme I should have a closer look at?” This is a good example of an honest question that also shows your commitment to learning necessary requirements in due time.
Questions like “How did you approach getting a full understanding of this complex project?” show personal interest and appreciation of the experience your colleague has. Ask your teammates how long they’ve worked here: these colleagues will be a valuable source of information!
Take notes, structure them and remember names
Even if your workday ends at 5, stay a little longer. But only a little. Finish up any paperwork from HR, organize yourself and go through your documents again.
When you’re back home, take note of the most important things you have learned today. The easiest way is to structure the tasks you will be responsible for in future on a sheet of paper and write down the areas you want to explore in more details. Try summarizing the responsibilities of your teammates – then you target your questions at the right people.
Keep your expectations low. The purpose of the first day is to get to know people and understand what your duties will be. Be patient. It takes some time to fully understand the organization, the job roles and all the processes.
And remember: the first days at a new job are the ones for asking questions! You are new and eager to learn. Try solving the problem yourself before approaching your colleagues (sometimes Google can be a lifesaver), but make use of still having a ‘puppy license’! The first day at the new job might be exhausting – but more important: exciting. Enjoy it!