How to cope with your first day at work

Kid holding apple to represent first day scenario
© Isabel Poulin | Dreamstime.com

Starting a new job? Follow our guidelines and you’ll breeze through your first day with ease.

Like the first day at school, your first day in a new job can be just as monumental. Going into unknown territory and being left to find your way can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn the tricks, and you’ll breeze through that scary first day without a glitch.

While it is good to make an impression, it is best not to be remembered as the person who erased the entire office database on their first day. It’s a day full of questions, and they’ll be swimming around in your head. While day one can be a little overwhelming, it’ll be no time before you find your feet.

Where am I?

When you first arrive at a new job, you may find yourself questioning whether you’re in the right place. It’s quite natural to be a bundle of nerves – feeling lost and out of place is inevitable when you’re in a new environment. To make yourself more comfortable, you may want to familiarise yourself with your surroundings and work out how to get from A to B – this can include simple things such as knowing the route from your desk to the bathroom (and back again).

What am I doing here?

You may need to employ survival tactics as you adjust and settle into your new job, but don’t worry, you’ll slowly ease into a routine. In the beginning, something as trivial as how to operate the photocopier might elude you, but it is important to overcome your insecurities and become more confident. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re unsure of anything – it is better to appear a little lost and confused than to make a major, but avoidable, mistake in the future.

Who are you?

Introductions can be scary, so how should you introduce yourself? Should you go for a small wave and a smile, or a strong, firm handshake? Many of your new colleagues will be meeting you for the first time, so try to come across as approachable and friendly. It is also a good idea to remember little things that people tell you about themselves so that you have something to talk about further down the line. Don’t worry if you don’t remember everyone’s names straight away. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be tagging each others’ pictures on Facebook.

Will you be my friend?

Some companies allocate new employees with a ‘buddy’ to show newbies the ropes and help them settle in. If not, it can be worthwhile finding your own office insider so you’re not left sitting alone at your desk all through lunch. A work buddy can be a useful source of knowledge as they’ve been in your position before and can give you tips about how to navigate your way through company procedure, as well as office politics.

What should I wear?

It is important to find out, before you start a new job, if there is a particular uniform or style of dress you should wear to work. For an office job, the dress code may be smart casual or require a suit and tie, whereas for an outdoor or manual position overalls and comfortable clothing will probably be more appropriate. Turning up in stilettos will not cut it if you’re working on a boat! You will also need to consider whether there will be any particular tools or equipment that you may need for your job.

What does this button do?

You may have to be allocated an identification pass or undergo security procedures before you have the authority to be on premises at work. The first days could also involve training to help you become familiar with different machinery and technology so you have the ability to work in a particular area. For example, if you work for a transport company you may need to know how to safely cross train tracks or operate a particular type of truck. And if you’re a chef you may require initial training in OHS procedures and cooking equipment.

Is it lunchtime yet?

Your stomach is growling and you can’t concentrate because you’re daydreaming about the gourmet sandwich you have stashed in the fridge, but when is it OK to dig into your tucker? And what other breaks are you entitled to? If you work a certain number of hours, you may be allocated a tea break to allow you to get out and stretch your legs. Be aware of your entitlements so you can make sure you’re not being taken advantage of, and that you’re not taking any liberties.

When can I leave?

There usually isn’t a school bell to signal the end of the working day, so you may need to wait, watch and do as others do. If everyone is still velcroed to their desks around home time, it’s a good idea to let your boss know that you are about to leave in case there was anything they wanted to tell you. Last but not least, don’t forget to say goodbye to your new colleagues at the end of the day.




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