23 Tips for Surviving Your First Day at a New Job

September 11, 2019 | Episode #50
New job? This list will help you remember critical stuff, have killer conversations, make good first impressions, and survive your first day at a new job!

As I write this, I am preparing for my first day at a new job! I just left the school where I’ve worked for nearly six years, and am venturing to a firm that builds mobile apps.

Naturally, I’ve been researching how to get the most bang for my buck on my first day. And as I scoured Google, it hit me: This is a perfect topic for Easier!

So, all four segments for this week’s episode touch on starting a new job. Let’s dive in!

Tips for Surviving Your First Day at a New Job

Make Work Easier

Here are a couple of lists of things to consider as you’re prepping for your first day at a new job:

Things To Do Prior to Starting

1. Questions to Ask in Advance

Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask your supervisor or HR rep before your first day:

  1. What time should I plan to arrive?
  2. What documents will I need?
  3. What’s the dress code?

Number 3 is especially important and often forgotten! Choosing your outfit for your first day can be pretty stressful. It won’t be so bad, though, if you remember to ask in advance!

2. Plan for Breakfast and Lunch

Your day is going to be stressful enough without adding hunger into the mix. Plus, if you’ve got to combine trying to find something to eat in a potentially unfamiliar area, you’re asking for trouble.

Do some recon work in advance and pick a nearby place to get some food for lunch.

And, if you eat breakfast, make sure you’ve got a plan for that too!

3. Plan Your Outfit

Once you know what attire is expected (per the questions above), be sure you’ve got that outfit 100% ready the night before.

Don’t scramble trying to make sure everything is square in the morning. Minimize morning prep and have this ready ahead of time.

4. Plan Your Commute

This one’s pretty obvious, but definitely don’t forget it!

I recommend you figure out what your commute normally looks like in advance with Google Maps. Maps allows you use past traffic data, and it’ll help you figure out how busy your commute usually is. When you’ve got that number, add 15 minutes to it.

I would much rather arrive 15 minutes early and hang out in my car in the parking lot than show up panicked, rushed, and/or late.

By the way, if you take public transit (i.e., you have no car in which to wait), find a business or park nearby where you can wait!

5. Adjust Your Morning Routine

I definitely had to do this one in advance!

My morning routine was pretty well timed at my previous job. Now, my commute is a bit longer, and my start time is different. I want to keep all of the things I do each morning intact, to I had to adjust accordingly.

Well, almost all of them anyway. I bumped showering to the evening now so I can keep everything else.

Things To Do On Your First Day

6. Leave Home Early. Arrive to Work On Time.

As I mentioned, plan to get to the location early. I recommend 15 minutes ahead of your start time.

But, don’t stroll in that early! In addition to setting a bad precedent, your early arrival might disrupt your colleagues’ prep time.

If you arrive ahead of schedule, hang out in your car in the parking lot. Or, if you take public transit, find a business or park where you can wait.

7. Put Your Phone on Vibrate / Silent

Don’t be that person whose phone blows up in a quiet office, especially not on your first day.

Silence your phone before you head out in the morning!

8. Double Check that You’ve Got Everything Before Leaving

Including…

  • Documents for HR
  • Water
  • Lunch
  • Notebook and pen
  • Computer
  • Phone
  • Wallet

9. Track Any Tasks that Come Your Way

When you’re on the job, you’re making impressions left and right. A good way to make some good impressions: Write down the stuff that you’re asked to do.

On your first day, it’ll likely just be onboarding / HR stuff. But, maybe some real work will come your way too!

If you’ve already got a way to keep track of those things, it’ll send the message that you’re organized and serious.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

This is true in a number of areas, including in orientation, with HR, in training, etc.

Everybody at your worksite knows you’re new. Questions are expected. Plus, you could end up looking foolish for not asking the question in your head, so you might as well ask and get the right information!

If you’re nervous that your question might be too simple or stupid (it’s very likely not), you can preface it with, “This might be a silly question, but…”

11. Mind Your Business

This one comes from TopResume.

I picked this one to share because I had a few coworkers that joined our team at the school who decided, from day one, that they were going to be in everybody’s business.

Let me tell you: That is one surefire way to get an entire group of people to dislike you really quickly.

Take the beginning of your time at your new job to observe and to ask questions. Find out what the status quo is and learn about who does what well before you start making recommendations for changing things. Your colleagues will thank you. And, ultimately, you’ll thank you.

Have Killer Conversations on Your First Day at a New Job

Make Life Easier

Let’s face it, whether your an introvert, ambivert (me!), or extrovert, you’re going to meet a bunch of new people on your first day at a new job. Usually, meeting folks means having to… you know… talk to them.

As someone who desperately hates small talk…

…I think it’s useful to have a few strategies, as well as some conversation sparkers (thanks Vanessa Van Edwards!), in my back pocket.

Here are some of my favorites:

12. Look for Stories, Not Answers

This one comes from Bustle.

Basically, learn to ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking, “How was your day?”, ask, “What did you do today?” or, “Did you work on anything exciting today?”

13. Add Juicy Tidbits

This one comes from both Bustle and Forbes.

Once you’ve got someone talking, pepper your conversation with interesting, related things from your own life.

For example, instead of responding to a how-are-you type question with simply, “Fine!” or “Good!”, try something like, “Good, thanks! I recently got back from a vacation…” or, “I’m great! I’m definitely looking forward to working on…”.

?. Use These Open-ended Conversation Sparkers

Nope, that ? isn’t a typo! The numbers continue below ?

  1. Tell me about yourself
    • This one comes from a New York Times article called How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross.
    • “The beauty in opening with ‘tell me about yourself’ is that it allows you to start a conversation without the fear that you’re going to inadvertently make someone uncomfortable or self-conscious. Posing a broad question lets people lead you to who they are.”
  2. Tell me what it’s like working here
  3. What’s the best thing about working here?
  4. Have you learned any insider tips about working here?
  5. If you weren’t working here, what would you be doing?
  6. Where do you like to go when you travel?
  7. Working on anything exciting lately?
  8. I’m a bit nervous about _______. Have you ever done it before?
  9. What’s your favorite lunch place around here? (Not open-ended, but useful!)

23. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

My Favorite Things

Much of the conversation advice from this week’s episode can be found in Vanessa Van Edwards’ phenomenal book called Captivate! Read this before your first day at a new job and watch how easy it’ll be to make good first impressions with everyone you meet.

captivate vanessa van edwards

And yes, a book can count as one of the tips! ?

Head over to my favorite things to learn more.

See all Favorites from this Episode

Getting from Small Talk to Deep Conversation

Riding the Struggle Bus

Going deeper with small talk has always been my sore spot! I don’t usually mind introducing myself to others (depending on the context), nor do I mind asking them an initial conversation sparker.

My problem comes when the conversation goes beyond that initial inquiry. Especially if the other person is giving shorter responses, and even with folks who don’t, I often feel like I’m grilling them. Like I’m bombarding them with too many questions.

Does anyone else struggle with this? Does anyone know how to overcome it?

Please call in and help!

Dial 313-242-7473

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