This time of year is always exciting, a new crop of young people are graduating college and embarking on the next chapter of life (drum roll please)... the working world! For those of you who were fortunate enough to land a job right out of college (kudos to you!), you are preparing for your first day.
Any first day is stressful. I always compare it to the feeling you got on the first day of school when you were younger. That day you were always unsure of who would be in your classes, if you would like your teacher, and who you would sit with at lunch. That awkward standing, staring out into the cafeteria holding your lunch tray with nowhere to go is oftentimes recreated on your first day of work in the professional world. With a first day comes a first impression. It will be the first day you meet who you will be working with, and you want to make sure you are coming off in the way you desire.
There are a lot of different things about you and your behavior that go into making a first impression. One of the biggest (unfortunate) stigmas among millennials is that we have a sense of entitlement. For some reason entitlement is something our generation struggles with, we feel that the world owes us something, and that having a job is our right after we went to college. Reality check- a lot of people get college degrees, and to be honest, it's not that easy to find a job even WITH a college degree. You do not want to come off this way in the workplace, especially because your age and maturity level will show if you do. There are a lot of reasons for entitlement, one of which is we were raised with the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality. All the more reason you should act extremely humble on your first day. The first day will be filled with information, and you need to try and take it all in the best you can.
Here are a few tips for a successful first day:
Look the Part- Hopefully when you accepted the job you asked your employer what the dress code is for work. Be sure to follow this, even if it seems other people are lax with it. When in doubt, dress professional, if you need to adjust after a few days you can do so.
Get to Work Early- Now, I'll say this with a caveat, don't arrive to work two hours early, and then struggle getting into the building. If they tell you to arrive at 9:00 a.m., arrive around 8:45 a.m. and keep in mind that traffic or public transportation will probably be an issue depending on your commute into work. I usually plan my route the day before to make sure I feel comfortable.
Be Confident- The company hired you for a reason, so try not to get intimidated by first day jitters. Trust your abilities and ask LOTS of questions if you are unsure of things. It is better to over communicate than under communicate and miss something.
Take Notes-Were you invited into a staff meeting right away? Be sure to take notes, it shows you are engaged and eager to learn the business. Always bring a pen and pad of paper into every meeting, no matter if it is with one other person or an entire conference room.
Smile- Make sure to look approachable when you arrive on your first day. You can do this by looking pleasant, and smiling at co-workers. With that said- don't over smile and look creepy...
Make Eye Contact- Look at who you are talking to! By avoiding eye contact, you are giving off non-verbal signals that you are disinterested or nervous.
Listen-Sometimes the best advice is to be a good listener. Don't feel like you need to dominate the conversation because you are new.
First days are so important to a career because it sets the precedent for the employee you are, who you want to be, and who you will someday become. Things might go wrong, but it is normal when you are adjusting to a new environment. Try and befriend a co-worker who can show you the ropes so your second day is less nerve racking!
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