Excited. Nervous. Can’t wait for the day to start, but also can’t wait for it to end…
Your first day of work elicits such a wide array of emotions, thoughts, and feelings, that are usually felt strongly and often feel in conflict with each other.
This mix of strong, intense emotions makes for a busy brain. And a busy brain is more overloaded than normal, which makes it hard to perform your best — which of course is your primary goal on your first day of work at a new job. So how can you stay on top of things to prepare for your first day of work?
To help you cut a path and get you into prep mode, we developed a first day of work success checklist. A single guide that includes everything you need to do and prepare for so you can focus on performing at your best and giving it your all at your new job from day one.
First day of work success checklist: before the big day
No matter how much or how little time you have from the moment you accept the job offer to the morning of your first day, there’s a lot you can do to prepare for a successful, seamless, and low stress transition before that first day arrives. And the first part of this checklist will get you started.
We suggest doing the items below in roughly the suggested order; specific time periods are not referenced, e.g. 2 weeks before, 3 days before, etc. since the time between accepting a job and starting it can vary greatly.
1. First day of work goals. Identifying your goals for your first day of work will reveal what’s important to you and what you need to prepare for. Since every position, company, and work environment is different, you will need to develop goals that reflect your unique position. However, you can use the typical goals below as a starting point. Each corresponds to more detailed items on the rest of the checklist.
- Demonstrate curiosity and interest
- Make a great first impression with your boss and those you meet
- Display confidence and style in the appropriate attire
- Be prepared for the day, mentally and physically
- Learn who some of the best resources are in the office
- Be open minded, flexible, and adaptable
Knowing your goals will give you focus for your first day, which will help you to feel less overwhelmed, because you will have a clear track to follow.
The first day of work can be really hard because there is often no clear track — you’re meeting people, going to trainings, setting up your desk, figuring out where the bathroom is… having such a wide array of activities can be really destabilizing. Giving yourself a plan and a priority will help you find the thread through your whole day.
2. Prepare for your interactions. Meeting a bunch of new people the first day can be overwhelming: trying to learn names, roles, responsibilities, and repeating your introduction many times over. Alleviate some of the stress in advance by doing your research and preparing a pitch in advance.
First, to make it easier to put names to faces, continue your online research of the company and staff, which you likely started when you prepared for your interview. Now that you have the position, you can dive into more detail and look closely at who is who.
Any information you can learn about the staff will help you become more familiar with them, their experience, and current role. That way, when you meet people face to face, you’ll already have an idea of who they are and their names will stick more easily. They’ll be impressed with how fast you learned!
Next, handle the many questions you’ll receive about what you did previously or what your background is in by preparing a pitch. It should be short, 30-60 seconds, and cover your last job, responsibilities in your new role, and a personal tidbit like if you have a dog or kids or love to do yoga on the weekends.
You’ll also feel more relaxed, at ease, and able to listen to what others say with more focus because you’re less self conscious and worried about what to say.
And if you’re one who needs extra thorough preparation, think of a few talking points or questions in advance to use when you’re chatting with your new coworkers; current events (that aren’t too sensitive) or a personal anecdote are fair game, as well as questions about a coworker’s commute or where they live, which can help identify common ground.
3. Confirm you’re onboarded and ready to go. Sometimes the onboarding process is extensive, with multiple steps. Most likely, someone will let you know if anything is missing before your first day, but to be proactive, reach out shortly after you believe you’ve met all of the requirements. This will avoid delays and misunderstandings about what you need to do.
If you’re starting a new job while finishing your current one, you may be wrapping up things there. Confirming you’ve completed any necessary paperwork or steps to break away from your old job is important too.
4. Practice getting to your new job. If you’re new to the particular area of town where your new job is located, look up various routes and practice taking the best one in advance of your first day. Will you be able to drive and park at work? Is public transportation easier, more direct? Is biking, walking, or carpooling an option?
Knowing and practicing how you’ll get from home to office on the first day will help you figure out how much time you should allot yourself the morning of. Of course, you should give yourself even more time than you think you’ll need those first few days, until you have a system down. Better to be early than late, or even just on time.
5. Make a list of the things you need to bring with you. You want to be prepared for your first day, which includes preparing and bringing items that are often overlooked or taken for granted when you typically head off to work.
Being in a new setting and not knowing exactly what will and will not be available shouldn’t create anxiety. So make a list of the things that you want to bring with you and have on hand that first day. Start the list early on, but pack everything on it no later than the night before:
- Pack a simple lunch, that doesn’t have to be cooled or heated, since you may not know in advance what the kitchen arrangements are like. Having a lunch at the ready ensures you don’t need to worry about whether you can find a place to eat out that’s nearby and fast if you’re short on time AND it doesn’t assume you’ll be taken out for a welcome lunch.
- Bring a full water bottle so you can stay hydrated before the day starts and throughout your first day.
- Prepare your purse or backpack with toiletries or other comforts that will tie you over until you get your desk and space set up.
- Have some cash just in case.
- Bring your favorite notebook, planner, and pens/pencils to keep you covered until you figure out what products and tools are available in the office.
6. Dress the part. The first day outfit is tricky. You want to fit in and look approachable, but may not have a clear guide to follow yet. And looking the part and dressing confidently for the role you’re taking on is important too. If you can ask about the dress code, this takes much of the guesswork out of your outfit selection. But if not or when in doubt, dress more conservatively.
It’s also a good idea to dress in layers until you know what the office environment feels like throughout the day; some may be warmer or colder than you’re used to. Lay out your outfit the night before so you’re ready to go in the morning, with no reservations of your well thought through decision.
7. Give yourself a pep talk. As you get closer to your start date, nerves increase. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, strengths, and what you’re going to bring to this new role. Reach out to a mentor or someone who knows what you’re going through to just chat and release some of your nervous tension. This will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed the day of.
8. Prepare the night before and get to bed. Being a little nervous the night before might make going to sleep early a challenge (you may just lie awake thinking), but whatever you do, don’t go to bed late. Get a good workout in to tire your body, eat a meal that won’t cause you any problems, and do something that relaxes you as the day before turns into the evening before. Prepare and finalize all that you’ll need for the next day, review your notes and/or company organization chart, double check the weather, then hop into bed!
Ideally, you’ll have your sleep/wake patterns down a few weeks in advance of starting your new position, especially if it has different hours than you’re used to. This way, the night before and morning of won’t seem so wonky.
First day of work success checklist – your first day
Your first day of work is here and you’ve prepared everything you’ll need. Now, it’s time to execute. These next steps on the checklist will get you through your first day as the day unfolds.
1. Get a head start on your day. Wake up early to give yourself plenty of time to eat a good breakfast (even if you usually avoid eating first thing); you need energy and stamina for your day ahead. Gather your prepared bags before heading off on your commute, with time to spare. Your planned route should be familiar at this point; you want to make sure to arrive early!
2. Introductions. After meeting with your boss or the person getting you settled for the day, remember the following as you’re introduced to the office:
- Utilize your prepared pitch when meeting people (if you’re bad at or nervous about winging it)
- Smile and approach people you haven’t yet met (who don’t look busy!)
- Don’t worry if you forget someone’s name, acknowledge it with a quick sorry and let them know you forgot. People understand the first day is overwhelming!
- Pay attention to your tone and body language; as the day goes on you may get tired and more lax. Just be aware and try to keep the energy up.
- If appropriate and time permits, ask about and take interest in those you meet and interact with. This helps build relationships early, as you don’t want to appear aloof or closed off.
- Listening is a great way to learn and figure out what’s acceptable, so take note! And no need to show off, be opinionated, or rock the boat too early.
- Start to learn where things are and who is who. Make a mental note of who you might click with or who potential resources are. Write down where important things are, so that you don’t have to keep asking over the next week (you might forget more than you think you will after the first day — it is a lot of new information to take in!)
3. Working through your first day. Being new on the job means there are a lot of firsts and unknowns, yet you bring with you a knowledgeable past. Listen and take notes the first day, asking questions when you don’t know something or are unclear on the direction you’re supposed to take. Both will help you acclimate to your new role and those around you. As the day goes on, if you have a chance to reconnect with your manager, express your excitement for the role and gratitude for the opportunity. You want to verbalize, but also show through action that you are a good hire!
The first day of work is a challenge, but a great one. This is the first day of a brand new opportunity to shine. We are cheering for you! Hope your first day goes amazingly well.