Starting a new job can be nerve-racking, and the first day of that new job can be the worst. However, there are ways to make it the best, once you have some tips on how to do so. The key is knowing some first-day hacks when you start a new job.
“Having a few tricks up your sleeve to ease the entry helps you to focus your attention on what really matters: Making a great first impression with your new boss and colleagues,” Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, tells Bustle. “Even though it’s only your first day, they’ll be watching you closely. It’s hard to shake a negative impression at any point in our careers, but on day one, there’s no history to prove that you are really more than what your colleagues see.”
Cohen also says that if everything doesn’t go as planned, don’t worry. “When you trip up, however harmless the mistake in judgment, the reaction can be swift, harsh, and long-lasting. So lay low, practice first-day job hacks, and know that, with time, your relationships will be strong enough to support an occasional lapse,” he says.
It's important critical to make a great first impression. Below, career experts share first-day job hacks to help you along the way.
1Research Your Coworkers
Just like you may Google a date before you meet them in real life, it’s also a good idea to do some research on your new coworkers before you meet them face-to-face. “In order for you to develop strong working relationships, you need to get to know the people that you work with,” Steve Pritchard, HR consultant, at Cuuver.com, tells Bustle. “Although you might feel a little weird doing so, it can help to [research] your new workmates before your first day to get an idea of their interests, as this can really help you to strike up a conversation and to get to know them.” Of course, this doesn’t mean stalking them in an obsessive way, but in a healthy social-media-browsing one.
Principal IT Project Management Consultant Phedra Arthur also believes in some Google research ahead of time. “It’s not in the spirit of cyberstalking, but to help give you conversation points to build rapport and find common ground, she tells Bustle. "LinkedIn is usually a great place to start: Do you all belong to similar groups? Have similar hobbies? Did they share a blog post you can comment on? Do you also have a black Labrador? Keep it casual and don’t get too personal. Again, it’s about establishing common ground based on similar interests.”
Even if you’re not a morning person and snooze a dozen times, the first day at your new job is not the time to do so. “Arrive 15 minutes early,” Katia Ameri, Founder & CEO of Mirra, a person-first skincare brand built on self-acceptance, tells Bustle. “Obviously, don’t arrive late. And on your first day, I consider being on time as the equivalent to being late. You want to prove to your employer that you’re excited and humbled to be working with the company, and there’s no better way to do that than to show up early.” It also shows excitement, Ameri says.
“As an employer, that’s the best thing I could ask for, but there are limits," Ameri says. "No one needs you to show up an hour before you’re supposed to, but arriving 15 minutes early is the perfect sweet spot.”
3Take Notes On People — Literally
When you start a new job, you’re usually given a tour around the office and shake 101 people’s hands. But how are you supposed to remember them all? Easy: Take notes, Alice Hoekstra, a career happiness consultant, tells Bustle. “To make it easier to remember everybody, keep a note open on your phone or keep a blank sheet of paper handy,” she says. “When you have moments alone, write down the names, short descriptions (‘redhead’ or ‘tall with glasses’), and interesting details (‘loves dogs’ or ‘mechanical engineer’) about the people you’re meeting.”
Hoekstra also suggests giving yourself homework. “Take these notes home and look over them at the end of the day so you remember more of your coworkers and make a winning first impression.”
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, agrees on note-taking, and also advises drawing a layout with people's names and where they sit. “Unless you have a rock-solid memory, it’s is a great idea to map out the office and names of new people you are meeting,” she says.
4Take Notes On Everything
Rachel Jay, senior career writer at FlexJobs, recommends taking notes on everything. “A lot of information will be coming at you on your first day at a new job,” she tells Bustle. “You’ll likely be going over processes and schedules, meeting new people, and learning new programs. Names and passwords will be need to be remembered, too — start writing it all down. It’ll help you keep everything clear and prevent you from needing to ask your new boss to repeat everything multiple times.”
5Ask A Lot Of Questions
Just like in any relationship, with friends, family, significant others, you name it, questions are not only educational, but help you get to know someone better — in this case, your new job and coworkers.
Mary Pharris, director of business development & partnership at Fairygodboss, a career community for women to share their workplace experiences, says it’s important to ask questions on your first day at your new job. “You likely have a ton of questions, so ask them,” she tells Bustle. “The more information you can get upfront, the better. It also shows your new employer that you are engaged and already thinking about the business.”
Steve Wang, who has worked in human resources for more than 15 years as a hiring manager and recruiter, agrees that asking questions sooner rather than later is key. “Don't be ashamed to ask everyone plenty of questions,” he tells Bustle. “It’s better to get your questions out of the way now than to wait until later down the line when the company actually expects you to start performing.”
And one sure-fire way you’ll remember to ask questions is by thinking about this fortune cookie wisdom. Cat Jones, program coordinator for Equality House and a freelance writer, has this fortune taped on her computer, she tells Bustle: “It is better to ask some questions than to know all the answers.” She says that when a coworker has some downtime, ask them about their experience and tricks for success.
“It’s hard to say you need help, but it has two undeniable benefits — you get to know your coworkers, and you show your dedication to being an asset from the very beginning,” she says.
Jennifer Schwab, expert on Millennial women’s empowerment and founder of ENTITY Academy, a six-week long mentorship program designed to teach and inspire young women entering the workforce, believes that good listening skills are crucial on day one of your new job. “Do more listening than talking,” she tells Bustle. People will ask you questions and want to hear about you, so be friendly and provide good, but not-too-detailed, answers. Save some of your cards for future hands. A bit of mystery, especially at first, is a good thing at the office.”
She also feels it’s important to listen to little details, too. “This showcases your interpersonal skills from the get-go,” she says. “How impressive will it be when you are at lunch with a colleague in your third month and you blurt out, ‘So how did your wife do in that triathlon she was training for?’ People will always be impressed when you remember small, but important, things about themselves and their loved ones.”
Sweeney agrees. “Ask about others and share less about yourself,” she says. “Be interested, be open-minded, and be ready with great ice-breaking questions so that you can open up conversations easily.”
7Ask Your Boss How Your Success Will Be Measured
With any job, it’s good to have goals and deadlines, whether they’re short- or long-term, and it’s crucial to have a game plan from the get-go. “First and foremost, ask your boss how your success will be measured and over what time frame,” Cohen says. “Without context and expectations, you will have no clue as to deliverables, the time to come up to speed, and the resources you will need to deploy to achieve success productively and efficiently. Your goal is to position yourself so that you are viewed immediately as a dynamic colleague and employee, as well as proactive in how you navigate a new situation.”
Arthur, too, believes in clear communication with your boss about job expectations, and getting those into place starting on day one. She calls it "radical transparency.” “If your boss never has to wonder what you’re working on, they will love you forever,” she says. “My first day, I always set up a Trello board, give my boss access, and let them know that this board will always represent what’s on my plate. Not only do I give them view access, but I tell them to feel free to move cards around or reshuffle priorities as they see fit."
8Have Short Check-Ins With Yourself
Aside from checking in with your supervisor on day one, it’s also advisable to have check-ins with yourself, Jane Scudder, a certified leadership, personal development, and career transition coach, tells Bustle. “Maybe it’s a bathroom break at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. where you mentally ask yourself, ‘How are you doing?’ or maybe you set a reminder (without an alarm!) that includes an emoji that will make you smile and remind yourself of the hard work you put in to get you where you are.” Scudder also says you can have a check-in before you head to your new job, too.
“To help ease any nerves, give yourself a short morning pep talk, even in the shower,” she says. “Feel silly doing this alone? Ask a friend to send you a nice text message that morning.”
9Start Good Organizational Habits Right Away
Rachel Lehn, manager of business operations at Perfect Search Media, believes that implementing good organizational habits is important — your first day and onward. “Starting a new job is a great time to implement a new organization system, whether you use a bullet journal, a spreadsheet, or an organization app,” she tells Bustle. “And don’t let your inbox pile up from day one!”
Jones, too, thinks that even if your predecessor left things not-too-organized, that doesn’t mean you have to follow in their footsteps. “A clean working space feels better to everyone, and your boss might not even be aware of how stressed that space feels,” she says. “Before anything else, create a place for everything and put everything in its place. When you have some free time, use it to look through everything before trashing it all — you might find something that gives you an immediate advantage.”
10Begin New Routines
Structure is everything in life, especially when it comes to your work day — from how much time you allocate to projects to how much time you spend taking breaks. Pritchard recommends creating new routines, especially on your first day.
“Getting into a solid routine can really help you get into a good working rhythm,” he says. “It can help make sure that you habitually do everything that you need to in order to keep focused while at work. To help this to happen, you should take any chance you can to get into a routine on your first day.” And though you may believe these are work-related routines, he also says the routines encompass more than that. “Whether it’s going out to a sandwich shop with a work colleague at lunch time or taking 10 minutes to make a cup of coffee for you and your coworkers in the office, you’d be surprised at how much these little things can help you get into your stride at the start of the day.”
If you’re feeling anxious — and even if you’re not — it’s important to practice self-care techniques every day, whether that means going for a short walk during your break or taking a few minutes to meditate (Headspace is a great app with short meditations).
“It’s normal to be nervous when starting your new job,” Heidi McBain, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of the book, Life Transitions: Personal Stories of Hope Through Life's Most Difficult Challenges and Changes, tells Bustle. “So when you start feeling anxious and worried, focus on your breath and your five senses to help you feel present and grounded in that moment in time.”
12Come Up With Ideas, But Save Them For Another Day
When it’s your first day of work, you may have a mix of anxiety and excitement and may think of 101 ideas to share with your coworkers or supervisor. However, wait, Jones says. “Have ideas, but don’t pitch them yet,” she says. “You don’t really know the company’s style yet, and bursting in and pitching explosive ideas on the first day can look to your boss like you’re trying to take over.” However, Jones does suggest holding onto those ideas for the future once you get a feel for the company environment.
“Bring up an idea every now and then,” she says. “You’ll look like a rock star instead of like you’re launching a takeover.”
Geoffrey Scott, a payments consultant & hiring manager for PayMotile.com, a company that specializes in providing merchant accounts for small to mid-size businesses, also believes you should not direct all your energy into work on day one. “It seems like a given, but many people immediately jump into their new tasks with such vigor that they neglect what a first day is really about — getting set to succeed,” he tells Bustle. “Don’t feel pressure to immediately start contributing at a high level — that will come with time. Instead, begin forging relationships with coworkers and management, get a lay of the land, and really pay attention to what your team leader has to say. Absorb whatever is necessary to thrive in your new environment.”
13Set Up 1:1s & Look Out For Mentors
While you may not love the idea of networking, it is necessary, especially when it comes to your new workplace. Professor Dave Ferio, an HR expert at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, is a big believer in networking. “On day one, introduce yourself to others in the organization and request one-on-one meetings to learn what they do,” he tells Bustle. “This will help you gain credibility and develop a strong network of internal contacts and information sources, both within your immediate working area and beyond.”
Shane Green, world-renowned speaker, television personality and author of the Culture Hacker, also recommends finding a friendly expert. “While some companies will offer a mentor for your first few weeks to help orient you to who does what and where everything is, you will most likely need to find your own mentor,” he tells Bustle. “Look for someone who is friendly and welcoming and seems to know their way around the work space. Don’t be afraid to go up and ask them questions or get some insights in those first few weeks. This will help ensure you don’t break any unwritten office rules or norms.”
All of the above said, you should now be able to walk into the first day of your new job confident and ready to ace it. The good news is, everyone’s been there, and it’ll only get easier once you get past the first-day anxieties. With the above hacks, you can’t go wrong.