Posted At: February 16, 2009 12:54 PM
by Miranda Harbin, Contributing Writer
Finding a job in this economy is euphoric. After the stress of researching job markets and companies is over, it’s normal to want to take a break and relax. However, the first few months are crucial in letting your superiors and peers know what your work style is.
Here are five tips for your first five days of work:
1. Know what a 401K is. Benefits are sometimes worth more than the hourly wage. It’s important to understand things like how much your company will match in a retirement or what part of your insurance you are responsible for. You need to be prepared to make decisions like this on the first day of starting a new job. However, most companies will give you 30 to 60 days to make a decision. Do a Google search or ask a friend or relative who is good with finances or health insurance, people are always willing to help.
2. Wear a suit the first few days. Whether we like it or not, the way we dress says a lot about us (and I have said a lot about it here and here). The fact of the matter is you’re going to work to, well, work and you may as well dress like it. Also, think long and hard about “dress down days.” While it may be tempting to wear your favorite pair of dark jeans on casual Friday, you shouldn’t really take the opportunity. Some people see casual Friday as the opportunity to dress down and possibly do less work. When you are in your best business clothes, you are less likely to take an early weekend.
3. Take a notebook and pen with you to every meeting you attend. Be prepared to take notes on everything that is said. Even if you don’t understand what you are writing down now, you may later. It shows that you are motivated and trying to learn about the everyday practices of the office. If you are assigned a trainer or mentor, go back over your notes with them if they attend the meeting and address any questions that you may have.
4. Volunteer every opportunity that you get. Nothing says I am willing to go above and beyond the call of duty like taking on a task that no one wants to do, such as filing papers or making copies. A lot of people feel like they didn’t go to college to perform these duties. However, your willingness to work on even the smallest tasks will let your superior and peers know that you are ready to work.
5. Ask questions. You’re new; it’s normal not to know a lot about a company’s structure or processes. There are no stupid questions. Better to ask now than to wait until later when you may be embarrassed to ask because you are already expected to know the answer.
Hopefully this list will help guide you through your first five days of work. However, be forewarned that each company runs a little differently. Most offices have established norms that usually aren’t spoken or written down anywhere. It may take months to figure out all the little quirks in a new job. The most important thing to remember is not to get frustrated or upset with yourself if you don’t know everything the first day. It takes a few months to get acclimated to a new environment with new people.