06/20/2011 12:16 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2011

Being the New Kid on the Block: Do's & Don't's for Your First Day on the Job

If it's your first day on the job, being the new kid on the block is always tough, no matter how experienced you are. Newness brings back all sorts of memories of trying to join in and be accepted. It regresses us back to grade school, reliving the pain we felt then with none of the problem-solving techniques we have learned along the way. Most people say it takes a long time to feel acclimated. Here are some Do's and Don't's to help speed that process.

Don't put too much pressure on yourself on the first day. There's a steep learning curve when trying to figure out how a system works in addition to feeling the need to belong. Your main tasks are to get the lay of the land and introduce yourself to your team or department. Remember people's names and what they do. Rather than tell only about yourself, ask each person about his or her own experiences and make notes to remember. Don't hide in your office arranging your desk. You're not being expected to hit the ground running on day one. Typically, you're just getting an overview of the system.

Don't ruffle any feathers--just take some time to absorb the culture. You should not change anything until you learn what's going on. Unless you have brought your own staff with you, you should not fire any staff, change schedules, or cross-examine people at meetings. In fact, besides introducing yourself, it is better not even ask questions at meetings or draw attention to the fact that you don't know your way around yet. Ask your questions privately at first.

Don't inflate yourself or make yourself seem overly important. People will smell it and they will take you down. On the other hand, don't be critical. Don't ask immediately for the gossip about the guy who you replaced. Don't focus your attention on one group or individual until you've gotten to know everyone.

Don't present any material without checking with some experienced others first. Don't proceed without asking your boss what he or she wants, and without asking how you're doing. After awhile, ask if there is anything else to cover or that you should be doing differently. Don't make it seem like you don't know how to do something -- ask "how is it done here?" instead of "how do you do this?"

Do act positively toward everybody. Politeness is important because you're coming into an environment where people feel ownership. Schedule lunches to get to know your boss and your peers, and avoid joining cliques at first because you don't really know the politics.

Do forgive yourself, because you're not going to know how to do the job until you learn how to do the job. Most people who take a new job don't know how to do it and feel like imposters when, in fact, everybody only learns by doing.

Do apologize if you make a mistake, which is bound to happen. Find out why it was wrong, and say either "point taken," or "it won't happen again." You don't have to extend the conversation -- you can just thank them for the correction and end it with the acknowledgment.

Do ask how things have been done, especially if you're lucky enough to have someone training you. What results have they seen? Where did things not work out? Ask them about their experience and the prior experiences of people who had this job. Make complimentary comments. Ask what could be improved moving forward. Observe carefully how things are done -- the way reports are handed in, the demeanor and attire of fellow co-workers, the style of the boss (quick and critical, or kind and motivating?).

Remember, the feeling of being new doesn't last long and you will soon be hitting your stride.

To begin, you begin.