6 Essential Tools You Need When Starting Your First Job

by Jordan Sherwood

Your first professional job is an important milestone, and one that you’ve worked hard to earn. You’ve finished college, polished up your resume, and emerged as the top candidate from among an increasingly competitive pool of job seekers. Now that you’ve landed the job, you can shift all of your professional energy toward making a strong first impression.

When starting your first job, you’ll be battling first day jitters when it comes to a host of other firsts: your first one-on-one with your boss, your first team meeting, your first professional presentation. The best way to combat these nerves is to be prepared.

As the newbie in the office, there are many steps you can take to ensure that you establish yourself as professional, competent, and confident from day one. Whether you're making your foray into a STEM field or beginning your starter job en route to your dream career, the early days are your first chance to make your mark on your industry. Here are six tools you can use to gain more confidence in yourself at work so you can inspire confidence in others.

The Right Technology

When I landed my first professional job, I learned that I was taking over the position from someone who had held it for over a decade—and that was immediately apparent when I saw the computer installed on my desk. I knew that all of the technology at my workstation would need to be updated; there was no way I could be productive without a more powerful (and portable) computer. You’d be surprised that even in some STEM-focused workplaces, up-to-date technology is not necessarily a given. I hesitated to make a purchase request as a brand new employee. Would I seem like a diva who couldn’t make it work?

I called IT to see what could be done, and to my great fortune an IT specialist appeared. She gave me the perfect advice: You never have more leverage than on your first day, when you’re proving to your boss that you know how to get things done. Make all of your technology requests from day one, with brief but convincing arguments for why they are essential. When your boss sees how much you’ve accomplished in your first week on the job, she’ll wonder how she ever survived without you.

A Customized Workstation

The Good Brigade / OFFSET

When starting your first job, you’ll be battling two competing instincts: how to fit in with your new coworkers, and how to stand out to your boss. One way to stand out is to take control of your workspace to increase productivity.

One simple way to customize your workstation is to simply rearrange your space to maximize your comfort. This small adjustment will signal to your colleagues that you are ready and willing to take charge of any situation. Other minimal adjustments can have a big impact: adjusting the lighting (the more natural the better), bringing in live plants, and adjusting your seat height can significantly improve your mood and well-being.

If you really want to get your boss’s attention, you can suggest alternative workstation furniture, some of which is scientifically proven to improve productivity. A 2016 study from Texas A&M University found that standing desk users are 45 percent more productive on a daily basis compared to their seated counterparts. If that seems like too much of an investment, you can make an equal-sized impression by bringing in a yoga ball as a desk chair alternative.

Personal Touches

For your first day on the job, you’ll want to pack light. Aside from the lunch you’ll bring from home and the new bag you bought for the occasion, arrive at the office like you’re ready to hit the ground running. Over time, however, you’ll want to decorate your workspace with carefully-selected personal items that make you feel more at home while also reflecting your personal taste. Bring a stack of books (ones that you’ve actually read and can discuss), some framed photographs of family and friends (and your cat), and just enough tchotchkes to signal that you have a personality. These personal touches also serve as conversation starters as you get to know your new colleagues. Over time, your desk will fill up with all of the strange detritus of 21st century office life, but try to keep a handle on it from the beginning.

A Prioritizing System

Peter Muller / OFFSET

Starting your first job comes with an array of new time commitments. You’ll need to mark down when important events at work will take place, plan out your vacation schedule, and figure out when you’ll find time to go to the gym. A personal calendar will keep you organized and ensure that you make time for the double-life you are now leading. As the months go on, your personal calendar will become an important record of the annual cycle of your job, which will keep you ahead of the game when it comes to projects and deadlines. (Pro-tip: using a digital calendar that can be merged with your office’s shared calendar will make “work-life balance” more than pipe dream.)

Lunch From Home

For your first few days on the job, you may be tempted to flee the office as soon as lunchtime rolls around. And there’s nothing wrong with going outside for some fresh air, taking a walk around the block to explore the neighborhood, and calling your mom to commiserate about the life of a business woman. But bringing a lunch from home will allow you to spend more time exploring your office and meeting your new coworkers. (And if a colleague invites you out to lunch, you can always sash your food in the company fridge for later). Informal conversations with coworkers will teach you more about how to succeed in your office than any presentation from HR. If you hang around the office during your lunch hour for the first few weeks, you’ll learn the ropes in record time, and make new friends to share your future lunch breaks with.


ZeroCreatives / OFFSET

The one absolutely essential tool you will need when starting your first job is something you cannot purchase: confidence. Projecting confidence throughout the day by asserting yourself, giving your informed opinion, and managing your anxiety will make a lasting impression on everyone around you. Building confidence extends beyond the workday: exercising in the morning, eating a balanced diet, and making time for mindful meditation will contribute to making your first professional job a stepping stone to a brilliant career.