First days at work can sometimes decide the rest of your tenure in a company. I still look at my first day at Google fondly, fresh out of college and first time in a corporate environment.
However, there are some things I wish I did or didn’t do, that would’ve helped the rest of my journey at Google.
I’ve changed several jobs since then and here’s what I have learnt about making the most out of your first day or even the first week at work.
1. Dress well, but not over the the top
I know you’ve been told this multiple times, but here’s the catch. In a bid to make a first great impression, people tend to go over the top. So there’s no need to dig out that 4 piece tuxedo set or be buckled under a ton of jewelery. Just keep it subtle but classy, neat but not finicky, and a basic set of formals does the job just fine. Definitely avoid blingy or blindingly colourful stuff. Conversely, avoid wearing dirty or worn-out clothes at any rate.
2. Do a sniff test
This can’t be said enough. While you don’t have to shower in deodorant or strong perfume, you can’t afford to turn up looking like something the cat brought in. Nothing gets gossip going and people avoid you like cancer if you stink or have bad body odour. Goes without saying, have a shower before leaving to the office, but just an additional check, make sure to pay a quick visit to the loo on reaching the office and doing a last minute sniff test.
3. Get there early
Turning up late on your first day at work may reflect badly on your discipline and make a bad first impression. If you’re not sure of the location, use google maps, estimate distance and traffic well in advance and plan accordingly. If possible, do even a test round before the date, to the office to get a fair idea of the location and time taken to get there. Budget another 15 minutes to figure out the exact location in the building, especially in case of large tech parks.
4. Practise a round of introduction
Prepare to get a lot of “So where are you from? “ or what your story like”. Do not fumble or stutter. Practice a few basic questions beforehand so you end up coming across as confident, smart and well put together.
5. Have a sense of humour about you:
You’re likely to meet a lot of people today. Fellow joinees, trainers, mentors and future colleagues. Other than being completely ready to introduce yourself, a hint of humour would go a long way. So for example, if someone asks you “Why this company”, instead of the usual run of the mill “growth and ambition” spiel, you could try a swig at some humour, even self-deprecatory if you like and go “Well, this is the only company that’ll have me!” Don’t forget to put forth a “just joking ” disclaimer.
6. Be prepared to display your talent:
In a lot of companies, first day means round of introductions and sometimes even a round of “non known facts” about you which you will be asked to show in front of 50 other people. Do not try to be modest and definitely don’t go “Oh I don’t have any talents as such” because it’s likely you have one talent for sure and this is an opportunity to show good sportsmanship. So if you sing well, keep a song ready just in case. And if you’re a funny bones, nothing like bit of a quick standup act to get everyone in the splits and love you.
7. Avoid being a sour puss
Let’s face it, no matter how much we like gossiping, nobody likes a sour puss. Try not to have a strong opinion or piss off some people by counteracting their views. Have a good listening ear, and an appreciative tone about you.
8. Don’t bitch
It’s possible you’ve joined a workplace after others, or had very different expectations of what it’d be like. But try not to degrade your new workplace with constant whining or criticism. Remember that people are excited to be here and have been looking forward to it for sometime. Don’t ruin it for them. People like hanging with positive, cheerful people.
9. Take initiative
As your first day at work, you may have a lot of expectations and feel a sense of entitlement. You won’t always have elaborate team lunches or activities planned for you. Don’t let that special day fizzle out without a trace. Take charge and get things started. Initiate a lunch or a coffee session and gather people up. You may feel shy to do it, but everyone loves a person who can galvanise a group. Be that person.
10. Avoid making a loud statement
While you may have a vibrant personality and love making loud statements, it’s best to keep it low on the first day to avoid polarizing future friends. Remember most people like to be with a person who comes across as easy-going, and well-adjusted. making statements like “Why do people have Non veg food?” or “I hate this celebrity” may cost you some goodwill with the people with opposing views.
11. Keep your phone away
Yes, you need to update 15 relatives about your new workplace, post selfies and live tweet the event. But all of this can wait. Today is one of the most important days of your career. Impressions and connections made today will go a long way. So it’s important to pay heed to what the HR has to say about employee benefits, or connecting with that fellow joinee from your city, rather than updating strangers about your day and alienating people around you.
12. Ask questions
You’re likely to have a lot of orientation sessions by various people from the company. Let me assure you these sessions are far and few in between once you’re well into the company. Take this opportunity to ask questions pertaining to employee benefits, dos and donts and if higher level executives are taking any session, this is a good opportunity to interact and ask questions on the company strategy etc.
13. But don’t be that guy
Everyone knows that one guy who has questions in droves, and answers to most questions raised in a session. Sure, you’d love to show off how well-read or perceptive you are. However most people around you may just take you to be a show-off or a bore. Try keeping your questions and answers in moderation, giving others a chance too.
14. Maintain professionalism
While networking and getting to know people on your first day is nice and recommended, getting too up close, asking personal questions or getting too pally can wait until you know people better. So no asking someone “Who is in their family?” or “If they’re single or married” is a bad idea.
15. Don’t add them immediately on social media
It’s understandable you would like to keep in touch with the people who’ve joined with you or people you’ve met today but it’s also slightly creepy to add everyone you’ve met on social media! Try and interact them on a professional medium, a group or just wait until you’ve eased into the company.
16. Finding romance can wait!
Yes this may sound weird, but I’ve known of people who have looked to find a date or hook themselves up right on the first day of work. Yes office relationships happen all the time and there’s nothing wrong with seeking a date at work. But that can definitely wait. You’ve just spotted a pretty girl, but it doesn’t have to mean staring her out the entire time your future boss is holding forth about work.
17. Take a photo
This is a special day, and one of the many ‘firsts” in your life. Once you’ve spent some time in the company, you may have fuzzy memories of the day but a photo will help keep it alive. Also it’s the only thing you can never go back in time and do. So, get a colleague or a friend to take a nice photo of yourself, (and we don’t mean a 100 selfies) at an office landmark to preserve this memory for posterity.
18. Learn people’s names
You’ll be introduced to a lot of people today and remembering their names may be a bit overwhelming but try. Mentally repeat their names, use associations, etc. after meeting someone. Helps to build a rapport with someone when the next time you meet them, you can address them by their name, rather than fumble or use a generic hey!
19. Take a tour of the office
If you’re lucky, your HR team might have planned a tour or a game of treasure hunt. If not, just try to take a walk around in your free time and familiarise yourself with the infrastructure. Next few days, when you’re scheduled for meetings, and sessions, you’d waste less time in fumbling with your way around, and take charge of showing the people around. Plus, just walking around the office, observing gives valuable insights into the culture of the company.
20. Be yourself
Cliched as it sounds, what this basically means is being comfortable with yourself. You will likely come across a lot of new faces, personalities, some of them very impressive, and some aspirational. However hold your ground. Don’t buckle under pressure to be or look a certain way or try too hard. Remember you got placed in the company just like those others. So be confident, subtle, and keep a friendly demeanor. The most important part of your life has just started.
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