You have successfully been through the tedious process of getting your CV ready, sending out job applications and going for interviews, and now you have signed the employment contract. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to take a breath after all that effort. It is very stressful to put yourself out there. There is one last stressful hurdle to get over before you can settle into your new job - that first day at work.
Walking into a new unknown work environment and being unsure of what is expected of you can be a very stressful experience. This article will guide you through the first day of work.
Prep for work
Lunch - Bring money along to get lunch with your colleagues if they take you out. This will allow you to bond a bit and get to know your environment. Then, for in case you do not go out for lunch, bring a snack lunch that does not need to be refrigerated and can be eaten without a knife and fork. Please do not eat strong smelling foods like tuna, eggs or curry in the office.
Pen and notebook - You will most likely be provided with stationary, but to have your own ready gives you control to start making notes from the beginning. It also helps to have something of your’s on the desk to make it more familiar.
Appropriate clothing - Unless you are working in a creative environment, wear professional clothing. Even if you are going to work for a laid back small to medium sized enterprise (SME), rather dress conservative and professional on the first day and see what your colleagues are wearing. Then, take an extra jacket (especially if you stay in Cape Town), you never know what the aircon might be like - if there is one.
Research - go through the company website in detail and learn as much as you can of the company. This will help you get a better understanding of what the company stands for and what work they do.
Getting to work
Remember that the morning traffic can look very different from what it looked like when you went for the interview. Ask around to see what type of traffic you can expect in the mornings. Also, make sure that your phone is fully charged and has data on it to direct you on the best route.
Be 15 minutes early and do not park on the visitors parking. Rather phone the day before and ask the receptionist what she/he suggests. When you have arrived, you can ask the HR manager or the person showing you around where you can park.
Someone to show you around
There will be someone to show you around the office and explain where what is. Ask this person as many questions as you can. Take notes as you go along. Your first day will be overwhelming, and you might not remember everything you hear. Jot down the names of the people you meet and what the processes are that you need to follow.
Some questions you can ask this person:
- Where are the bathrooms?
- How does the printer set-up work?
- How do coffee and tea work? Do I need to bring my own cup and how does washing up work?
- Where you can go for lunch?
Some questions not to ask:
- Do we get bonuses?
- When can I get business cards?
- What perks do we get?
Put away your cell phone and be 100% present on your first day.
Watch your language, use a professional tone when speaking to someone.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. They understand that this is a new, unsure environment for you.
Be conservative about your opinions and inputs at first and instead learn and ask questions to understand what they are expecting from you and also respect that the company has a certain way of doing things. The time will come for you to add value by challenging how things operate. Remember you are there to add value but do so respectfully. Instead say “in my opinion…” but be willing to learn.
All of us had a first day and can relate to what you are going through. You have been chosen to be there and trust that your recruiter knows what he/she is doing. You are the one they have selected out of a pool of candidates. This means that they want you there and believe that you are the right person for the job. Even if this job is not yet your dream job, open yourself up to the experience and learn what you can. Very often, you lean soft skills you will need in your dream job.
Remember to breathe and take it all in. You have worked hard to get here, and you can be proud of yourself for achieving this.