Mastering the First Day at Your New Job

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Starting a new job is nerve-wracking to say the least. For most, it is a combination of excitement and fear that manifests itself as butterflies in the pit of your stomach, the inability to sleep, and the constant worry about what you need to wear and bring.

But every first day is also your first opportunity to make an impression, establish yourself as a passionate and hardworking individual, meet new people, and work towards your career goals. We’ve all been there, and chances are we’ll all be there again in some capacity. Here’s how you can put your best foot forward, and make a great impression by mastering your first day at your new job.

Dress for Success

Contemplating what to wear on your first day of work is normal. But it’s nothing to fear! With a bit of guidance and a good look at your wardrobe, you’ll be off to work both looking and feeling great. Start thinking about this early enough to give yourself time for quick last-minute shopping if needed. If you favourite shirt has a hole in it and you notice it in the morning while getting dressed, this might not be an ideal start. So plan ahead, lay out your outfit and examine it closely.

Most workplaces have a business casual dress code. This means no jeans, no spaghetti straps or ribbed tanks, no open-toed shoes and nothing pre-ripped. But if you’ve never interacted with employees at the workplace or if this is your first job, finding the right outfit could be a major stressor.

You might have received an employee handbook when you signed your work contract. If you did, this will be a great tool to find information about the workplace do’s and don’ts. Most handbooks have a dress code section, so if you have access to it, take a peek through and see what they suggest.

Some organizations wait until the first day to give you access to the employee handbook, so if you didn’t receive one (or you did and you still have questions about the dress code), then you have a few other options.

The first and the best option is to reach out to the hiring manager that you’ve been in contact with and simply ask. As the person integrating you into the company, one of their tasks is to make sure you’re set up for success from day one.

If you are too nervous to ask (we understand) or if it’s the Sunday before your first day and there’s no time, you can try checking out the company’s social media platforms for employee pictures. Many companies share photos of their workplace and employees on social media, so it can be a great resource for seeing how people dress while they’re in the workplace.
If none of that helped, there are a few general rules you can fall back on. In general, it’s best to be overdressed than underdressed, and for most places business casual is a safe bet. If you need an idea of what to look for in your wardrobe, here are a few quick business casual pieces you can try:

For men

  • Dress pants, typically of any colour, but if you’re looking for the safest bet, go with black, grey or brown
  • A collared button-up shirt
  • A sport coat
  • A suit
  • Comfortable closed-toed dress shoes


  • For women

  • Dress pants, typically of any colour, but if you’re looking for the safest bet, go with black, grey or brown
  • A collared button-up blouse
  • A blazer or cardigan
  • A knee-length business dress
  • A pant or skirt suit
  • Comfortable closed-toed dress shoes, flats or short heels
  • Make New Friends and Network

    As an adult, making new friends can be a challenge. Long gone are the days where we met on the playground by running up to someone, tapping them on the shoulder and saying “tag.” Office friendships develop in a very different way.

    Introduce Yourself

    Chances are, you’re going to come across a few people during your first day. Take the opportunity to stop and introduce yourself. Shake their hand and tell them your first and last name and the department you’re joining. Then, make sure to ask theirs!

    Repeat names back to people

    Everyone appreciates being remembered. And you’re going to come across a lot of people on your journey through your new workplace, so it’s important to make each and every transaction meaningful in and of itself. A simple, “it’s nice to meet you, Michael” goes a long way in both establishing that you’re engaged in the conversation and helping you remember names!

    Make a List of People You Meet

    When you have a chance, take a few minute to make a list of the names and job titles of people you meet in your notebook. This can go along way when it comes to trying to remember those people later.

    Introduce Yourself to the People Around You

    If you have some downtime, take it to wander around to the offices or desks around yours to introduce yourself to your office neighbours. These will likely be the people who will direct you to the washrooms, file room and floor kitchen, so you should definitely take the opportunity to meet them.

    Let Your Work Prowess Shine!

    It’s your first day at your new job and chances are you want to shine. But you don’t want to make it look like you’re trying too hard. How can you meaningfully accomplish that balance?

    Listen

    Your first day is likely to be filled with training activities. You’ll have constant information firing at you left, right and centre, and things are probably going to be a little hard to process. While it’s easy to get lost in all of the information, it’s important that you listen and ask questions when you don’t understand.

    Carry a Notebook

    Notebooks seem like an archaic tool, but they can really help you out in a pinch! Take notes throughout the day. Good note taking practice is not to write everything down, but to write down the most important things and summarize information. You should also keep a log of questions you have that you can ask at a later point if they aren’t answered throughout your day.

    Put Away Your Phone

    It’s tempting to check your phone throughout the day, but on your first day at your new job, try keeping your phone in your pocket or bag. Starting day one on your phone is a bad work habit.

    Make a Plan

    Once your day is over, take some time (but not too much) to jot down a simple plan. Try figuring out what you’d like to learn and accomplish in the next 30, 60 and 90 days. This will help give you a bit of guidance for the next few weeks as you get acquainted with your new workplace, colleagues and job.

    Your first day at the office doesn’t have to be terrifying. It should be an exciting day where you meet new coworkers, learn about your new workplace and start getting settled into your new job. Good luck!

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