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I recently changed jobs, and on the eve of my first day of work I suddenly felt inadequate and unprepared. It was a fresh start, and I wanted to start on the right foot. But after so many years, I felt like I had forgotten what it was like to start a new job.

I frantically looked up articles on “what to do on your first day at work.” As expected there were plenty. But frankly I didn’t find any of them very helpful. They mostly told you to test out your route to the office, show up 10-15 minutes early, smile and greet everyone with a firm handshake, bring a pen and notebook etc. Very standard stuff. But it did somewhat calm my nerves.

As I settle into my new work place little things that I wish I knew on my first day of work starts coming to mind, and I thought I’ll write them down while they are still fresh. 

  1. Do not wear white: You will probably get your employee ID made on your first day, and chances are the background is white. So unless you want to be haunted for the rest of your time at the company by your own floating head – don’t wear white!
  2. Bring your IDs: There will probably be a lot of paper work to do on your first day. If you bring all your IDs with you, so you can get that out of the way faster. And if you want to be very prepared, bring a cup too. You don’t want to trouble your colleagues into finding you one nor do you want to dehydrate yourself.
  3. Say YES: Say yes to any invitation to lunch, coffee or any sort of conversation from your new colleagues. Don’t make any concrete lunch plans with friends yet. Be ready. They are extending an olive branch. The least you can do is meet them halfway. Do also make note of your conversation afterwards so you can follow up the next time you bump into them in the hallway.
  4. Take your assistant out to lunch: Don’t just sit around, reach out too! You should be especially nice to your assistant (if you have one) because a) they will be helping you out going forward but you are probably not her only “boss”  b) they can give you amazing intel into your team, the company and benefits i.e. which insurance plan is the best.
  5. Bring a pen & notepad: Ok, this is a rather standard one. But you seriously never know when you are being called to just say hi, or be given work. Bring a pen and notepad with you whenever, just so you are not caught off guard.
  6. Read up: you are not expected to hit the road running, and chances are you will not have much to do on your first couple of days (or weeks!). Spend this “honeymoon” wisely. Finish all the compliance, human resources and set up work. More importantly, dig into the shared drives and read up! Learn as much about the firm and the product as you can. Figure out how things are organised and how things work. Study emails and see what style of the team is. That way when you do have work, you will know your way around. 
  7. Don’t OT for the sake of OTing: I know it is tempting to stay late and put in “face time” your first couple of weeks to demonstrate to your new boss your eagerness and willingness to work hard work (as instructed by the Monkey Business). But if you don’t have that much work to do to begin with, it will a) just look silly since your colleagues know you have nothing to do or worse b) look like you have time management problems. Leave that to the interns, you are too old to pretend to work! 
  8. Assume that everyone is sensitive: I think this is more applicable to larger firms. But before you figure out the lay of the land, assume  that everyone is sensitive and act accordingly. Coming from a small to a big firm, I didn’t realise how easily potentially offended people can be about what I think are small things. If unsure, ask before you act. 
  9. Just act normal: At the end of the day, they probably didn’t hire you because you were the smartest or sharpest fish in the pool (just don’t be the dumbest). They hired you because they liked you, and think that you are someone normal who they can stand spending long hours with. Just be polite, be willing to learn and be clean. Don’t interrupt other people speaking (especially not the boss), don’t be obnoxious and loud, and most importantly don’t fart aloud! It sounds fairly common sense, but you would be surprised by how hard it is to find someone “normal.”
  10. Relax: Just remember, out of all the candidates out there, they chose you! And they chose you because they believe you can do the job. They want you to do well. And they absolutely do not want to go through the hiring process again (it takes months and it is not fun!). So unless you do something really wrong, they are unlikely to fire you. So just relax and focus on doing a good job!