Rule #1: Better early than late!
If the adage ‘first impressions’ holds true then you should make it a point to put your best foot forward by arriving at the office a little early. Management gurus observe that by arriving early you prove that you are conscientious. “Not only would you show your boss that you are taking genuine interest, but by arriving early you will have adequate time to prepare yourself to the work culture of the organization,” says David Doyle, professional coach based in Melbourne. In fact, there is a lot to do when you arrive at the office early on your first day. Doyle points out: “You can count how many liters of fuel you burnt while driving to your new job, you can explore the empty office to see if it has a poker room, a coffee vending machine, a decent canteen, try and guess where you would be given your work station and how far from your boss’ would that be.” Take in the overall atmosphere of the place, talk to the early-bird co-workers and try to draw up a mental picture of what the place would look and feel like once you become established. You can do all of this before your colleagues and more importantly your boss arrives. Leave no room for surprises.
Rule # 2: Don’t discuss money
Avoid discussing salary packages or benefits on the first day. You may notice several discontented employees around you, but keep your level of interaction with them strictly professional. Miranda Dealey, who works in the hospitality sector in Sydney, says that talking about salaries happens only after a certain point when the employee has blended into the atmosphere and starts mingling with co-workers on a more casual level. “The first few weeks up to a month or two, you are an outsider. If another employee comes up to you cribbing about his or her salary, then there is definitely something wrong with the system. Conversely, if you try to act smart and start talking about how well paid or less paid you are, first up, it may send very wrong signals to your colleagues. And that is not good news at all!”
Rule # 3: Dress appropriately
On your first day, it may be hard to determine if your office follows dress codes. Your interview session with your boss may not have revealed what the company’s adherence or non-adherence to dress codes are, but you can always play it safe by airing on the conservative side. Avoid looking over the top on Day 1 as you will end up inevitably ‘marked.’ Men should choose classic cuts in suits or formal button down shirts with a tie and slacks. Women can wear pencil skirt suits or formal trousers with linen shirts. Avoid accessorizing too much and let your persona do the talking. If it is really about making the first big impression, do so with your clean, tidy and professional approach towards your dressing. It helps getting everything ready in advance to avoid running late. Choose your outfit the day before and make sure it is properly washed and ironed.
Rule # 4: Don’t make judgments based on the first day
“Your first day at the office may turn out to be like a dream or a nightmare. You may find out that you have become your boss’ pet or his sworn enemy. Your first day might make you feel like never returning to the office again. It may also give you a much needed goal to look forward to. But never stay under the impression that your first day will spell how the rest of the days would look like,” warns Linda Pratt, a Melbourne-based trainee at a law firm says that her first day at the office was bad enough to prompt her to not return the next day. “I was terribly bored on my first day of work when I was told by my boss to ‘observe’ how the others did their work. So all I ended up doing was sitting beside the senior guys, listening to them as they made phone calls, chit chatted and carried out data research. I got a back ache from all that sitting. But I mustered up my will power, returned the next day and deep-dived into work. I guess it made me more resolute and helped me find what I hated doing most!” Take important cues from the first day. Turn it around in your mind; find out what was pleasing and what wasn’t pleasing to you. Often your answers will stay hidden in the things you hated the most on your first day!
Rule # 5: What’s in a name? Everything!
Make it a point to learn the names of your colleagues on the first day. Don’t assume that someone will hold your hand, take you around and introduce you to each and every staff member. Take the initiative to reach out to people. It would be tough remembering fifty first names after the first day. Try and associate the names with the faces. And if you ever fail to recall someone’s name while addressing them, walk up to him or her and politely tell the person what you wanted to say instead of yelling across the cubicles saying, “Hey, what was your name again?” In fact, a polite and courteous attitude will help you break the initial layer of ice.
Studying the employee handbook is always a helpful way of learning the rules and regulations of the company, but it also helps asking the girl across your desk for help. It will certainly ease the tension in the cubicle regarding the ‘new guy.’ It will help you strike up a conversation and even make you feel at ease on your first day.
A good rule to remember is only do what you are required to do. On the first day it is not necessary to voice that your territory cannot make revenues and why the sales team failed to pitch an idea to a customer. Just remember that nobody expects you to overhaul the company in your first two weeks, so don’t yield to the pressure. It will be understood that you'll have a lot to learn before you make any real contributions. On the other hand, don't let this mentality extend for too long or you might find yourself as the ‘new guy’ somewhere else real quick.