As college students, we often go into our school’s career centers to seek help with internship searches and career exploration. It’s only when post-grad starts to become a reality that we begin the daunting task of applying for our first real job. We spend so much time applying and practicing for our interviews, but the advice stops there. Once you’ve gotten a job, there’s nothing more to do, right?
Well, except for the job. And to do that, you need to make your first day count. We chatted with advisor Felicia Parks at American University’s Career Center and recruiter Jared Heino of Morning Consult to help you crush your first day of real life work. Here’s what they said:
Prep as much as possible
Drive your route so that you don’t get lost and overwhelmed the morning of, and lay out your clothes the night before so that you don’t have to think about it when you’re groggy.
Felicia Parks recommends reaching out to HR if you have a contact to ask what the company’s definition of business casual is. Her rule of thumb: always up it. “You can always step it up because it’s better than coming into your first day realizing you look too lax,” said Parks.
Most importantly, get a good night’s sleep. To do that, you have to quiet any worries and relax. You’re going to be great! Feeling like you have it together will help you feel more confident walking in.
Ask a lot of questions
“Your job on the first day is to be a sponge,” Parks said. You’re spending your first day getting acquainted with the company and there’s no better way to do that than to ask questions about the work you’ll be doing and who you’ll be doing it with. You’re learning about the culture and unwritten rules of the workplace, so sit back and observe. Parks went on to say you’ll get extra points if you jot down those observations on a notepad, since bosses are sick of seeing people constantly on their phones.
As a recent graduate, you might be wary of how to address your superiors. “Defaulting to a first name basis is typically okay in most cases, but it never hurts to double-check with those around you,” Jared Heino advised. Parks agreed, saying, “In this day and age, it would be wrong to assume pronouns.”
Build relationships—yes, even on the first day
The first day is usually a lot of paperwork, so lunchtime is key for interacting with your new coworkers. “In most workplaces, you’ll have a team lunch on your first day. This is a great chance to get to know your new team a bit better and build rapport,” Heino said. It’s also a peek inside the goings on at the company and what to look forward to.
Parks explained that relationship building is a two way street. She suggested prepping an elevator pitch incase people ask about your current role and previous experience. “This is the time when your coworkers could be asking personal questions and this helps gel that relationship of them welcoming you into their work family,” said Parks.
“Your body language is going to speak volumes,” said Parks. Putting your shoulders back and maintaining eye contact are sure ways to let people know that you’re eager to engage with them. And of course, try to be yourself. It can be nerve wracking on the first day, but it’s the best way to connect with coworkers.
Luckily, people are often eager to connect the newbie with a mentor or provide other networking opportunities. Take advantage of this and begin building a trusted set of coworkers now, because they could be valuable in helping you grow your career. “Companies often designate new hire buddies which are great resources to lean on for logistical questions,” explained Heino.
Don’t get too wonky
As AU students, we’re known to hit the ground running. But the first day might not be the best time to try and implement your policy changes. “Your first job as a recent graduate might be a tough spot to enact change from right away,” explained Heino. “As you gain more experience and gather context [about your operating capacity], you will soon find that change comes easier.”
Sometimes people want fresh ideas, and they’ll turn to the new hire. If so, speak up. But it’s important to frame your answer correctly. Don’t sound too critical and only suggest one or two ideas. Explain your reasoning to show that you’re sincere in your suggestion.
Have good vibes
However you spend your first day on the job, the most important things to remember are being enthusiastic, keeping your phone facedown, bringing a water bottle to stay hydrated and, above all, being ready for anything.
“Come ready to learn, grow, and own your new responsibilities,” Heino said. Remember, you already gave off a great first impression that brought you to the job. The people who hired you believe that you’re prepared to take on the challenges of your first role; these tips are just here to help you overcome them that much easier.