Last Updated: May 21, 2015
College graduates work hard to secure internships, volunteer opportunities, and part-time jobs that will eventually lead to a full-time job in their field. Most don't think any further than landing a job, because that journey is hard enough. However, the first day on that job can set the tone for continued and gainful employment within that company or field. No pressure, right? So what is a new employee supposed to do on their first day to ensure success when transitioning from college to the workforce?
1. Get there early
You know how it goes: If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. Being late isn’t an option, and it’s really not an option on your first day. Make sure you know how long it takes to get to your office in morning traffic, and give yourself a 10- to 15-minute buffer. You’ll feel much more relaxed if you’re able to take your time. And worst case scenario? You have to wait a few minutes for your boss to greet your dedicated, responsible self.
2. Dress the part
Even though you may encounter a few familiar faces from your interview(s), this is still a day of lots of introductions and first impressions. Even if you haven’t been given an official office dress code, make sure you look professional and are dressed appropriately. For most jobs, this means business casual: dress pants, khakis, sweaters, button-down shirts, blouses, sensible shoes, etc. No jeans, no ripped clothing, no t-shirts, no sneakers, no flip-flops. Everything should be clean and fit well too.
3. Make new friends
Even if you’re content to keep to yourself at work, it's important to reach out to your colleagues, not just because of the social implications but because it’s helpful to have congenial relationships in the workplace. Most jobs will require you to work as part of a team at some point, a task made easier by connecting with your peers. And at some point, you will get caught in traffic, take a sick day, or have a family emergency that will take you out of the office; you want to have a friend to help keep you in the loop—and it’s nice to be able to do that for others as well. Try to find at least one positive thing about every coworker and always remember the Golden Rule: treat others how you’d like to be treated.
4. Get your bearings
Don’t worry about figuring out every detail of the inner workings of your office on your first day. For now, you simply need get your bearings. You should know which colleagues you will be working with, how to access your work e-mail and other essential technical facets of your job, and where the nearest coffee shop is located, of course! You’ll learn a lot in the first few days, so jot down notes and try to adjust to your surroundings. When you’re comfortable with your work environment, you’ll be less stressed and your day will run more smoothly.
5. Learn about your immediate supervisor
Hopefully you have already researched your new company's CEO and other high-level employees prior to your interview. However, you also may not know who your immediate supervisor is until you meet him or her on the first day. Companies try to choose supervisors who are able to work with different personality types and help their direct reports adjust to the job. Of course, at the end of the day, you are the one who’s ultimately responsible for getting your job done, but it helps to learn about your boss and take your cues from him or her.
6. Appreciate personality differences
Coming from the warm, safe cocoon of your college campus full of like-minded individuals, you may be thrown off by your brand-new office and the many personalities it holds. After all, you just spent most of your college career not only surrounded by people with similar academic interests but by your friends. Out in the real world, you’ll work with people from lots of different age groups, interests, and backgrounds. Remember to be respectful, open-minded, professional, and positive in all of your interactions, and you’ll be fine.
So many of life’s troubles can be traced back to poor communication. Although you cannot control the communication skills of your coworkers, you can focus on your own. Good communication starts with listening. Listen to how your colleagues talk to each other. Is one person incredibly direct? Is another shy? How casual are they in their interactions? How much humor is appropriate? What kinds of questions do they ask? Pay attention to how they communicate in e-mails, office chat rooms, and social media too.
The first day on the job is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Go with the flow, take in new information, and make a good first impression.