How to impress on the first day in a new job
We answer frequently asked questions about starting your first job as a fresh graduate, including a checklist of things to do before starting a new job and what to expect on your first day at work.
Remember that you were hired because the employer believes you have potential.
You can normally expect your new employer to have an onboarding process in place to make you feel welcome on the first day, introduce you to your colleagues and answer any questions you have. On a graduate scheme with a large employer there may be induction events and training sessions organised for the entire graduate cohort, while smaller employers may introduce you to the workplace in a less structured and formal way. In either case, though, there are steps you can take yourself to get the most out of your first day and beyond.
Following these tips on how to prepare for a new job will help you feel more relaxed and confident when the day arrives.
- Refresh your memory of what the job involves and what the company does. If you made notes before the interview or saved a copy of the job description, it’s a good idea to reread them at this point.
- If your employer has set up a social networking group for new graduates to meet each other, take advantage of this.
- Familiarise yourself with the route to the office or site where you’ll be reporting to, including public transport timetables or driving considerations if applicable. Remember to allow longer if you’ll be commuting at peak times.
- If you are starting a new job remotely, test that your technology is working beforehand, such as your computer, webcam and internet connection. Ask the employer to clarify what hardware and software is required and whether they will be sending you equipment.
- Check you know when to arrive, which entrance to use and who to report to when you arrive. If you are logging on remotely, what time will you need to do this and what should you do first – is there an induction meeting for you to join?
- Research what food options are available close to the workplace. Is there a canteen and is it subsidised by the company? Are there shops close by? Will you bring a packed lunch?
- Pack your bag, decide on your outfit and lay out your clothes (cleaned and ironed) the night before so you’ll save time and have one less thing to think about in the morning.
- Get an early night so that you’ll be well rested and alert.
Before the first day of your graduate job arrives, make sure you resolve any questions by asking your employer. Depending on the organisation, you might be given the contact details of HR, your new line manager or the manager of your graduate programme. They may drop you a line to see how you are doing and offer to answer any questions you have, but if not you can get in touch with them.
You can ask what people normally wear for work. However, if in doubt, it’s always better to dress more formally and keep accessories to a minimum. You can start to personalise your work wardrobe a bit more once you’ve settled in and gauged what’s appropriate. Wear comfortable shoes as you’re likely to have a tour of the workplace on your first day.
It’s a good idea to check this with the employer if they haven’t already advised you on what to bring. As a general guide, though, you’re likely to need your national insurance number, passport or work permit, bank account details and a P45 from a previous job if you’ve had one. We’d always recommend bringing a notebook and pen to take notes; yes, you'll probably be given them by your employer, but it is always best to be prepared.
Being late on your first day without a good reason will not make a strong first impression, so be sure to set an alarm and leave enough time to get ready and travel to work, including allowing for any unexpected issues. Save a contact number for the employer in your phone so that you can call to let them know if you are delayed by factors beyond your control.
Avoid arriving too early, though: the employer may need to finish setting up your desk and onboarding process, so getting there half an hour before you need to can be more of a hindrance than a help. Aim to come through the door with five to ten minutes to spare. Also, make sure you are clear on the start time for your first day as this might be later than you would normally be expected to turn up (if your normal working hours are 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, for example, you might be asked to arrive at 10.00 am on the first day).
Preparation – such as getting your clothes and bag ready the night before, planning your journey and clarifying what to expect – will take some of the uncertainty out of the experience and make you less stressed in the morning.
It’s also worth remembering that you were hired because the employer likes you and truly believes you are capable of doing the job. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have chosen you. You won’t be expected to know everything from the outset and you are there to learn.
While larger companies hiring a whole cohort of graduates are likely to have a more lengthy, structured onboarding process, at any size of company you can typically expect the following on your first day:
- An introduction to the equipment you’ll be using on a daily basis, such as phones and printers – or help getting set up with the technology needed to work from home, such as a VPN (virtual private network) connection to access the company’s computer network or a softphone for making telephone calls over the internet using your computer
- An introduction to the communication technologies used, such as email and MS Teams
- Guidance about use of the kitchen and/or social spaces
- Meeting your ‘buddy’ if you have one – this is typically a previous graduate recruit who started a year or two before you and is there to help you settle in and answer any questions that you don’t want to ask your manager, whether that’s about work or more informal subjects such as where you can find out what’s being sold in the canteen that day
- A tour of the office or site and introductions to your new colleagues, particularly your team or department
- A meeting with your manager after you arrive and possibly a quick catch-up at the end of the day to see how you are finding it
- A meeting with someone from HR to talk through company policies you should be aware of, validate your right to work in the UK and enrol you on the payroll system.
As a general rule, don’t assume anything; if in doubt it’s always best to check. You might not be able to find out all of the following on your first day, but during the course of your first week you should get a sense of:
- How many breaks you can take and how long for, and how much flexibility there is around when you can take a break
- Who you should contact if you are unable to come into work, for example if you are ill
- When attending a meeting, whether your input is expected or you are there mainly to observe
- When your manager or other colleagues are happy for you to come to them with questions and when they’d prefer to be uninterrupted
- Colleagues’ preferred communication methods: for example, email, MS Teams or a face-to-face meeting (or video if remote working).
Getting to know the people you’ll be spending all working week with is a huge part of starting a new job and you’ll want to make good first impression on them. The following tips are worth bearing in mind:
- Don’t worry about impressing everyone with your knowledge; accept that you are there to learn and focus more on listening to people.
- Be professional, enthusiastic and approachable – smile when you meet people (whether in person or on a video call), show an interest in what they do and make an effort to remember their names.
- Use a more formal style for written communications such as emails, at least at first. You can later gauge how casual the company chooses to be generally, as well as how different colleagues communicate, and adapt your approach according to who you’re speaking to.
- When briefed on a task, make notes and ask questions such as whether there is a deadline, what format your work should be in and how long you can expect to spend on it.
- If you can, get involved with social activities your new colleagues invite you to.