Nervous about the first day at your first job? First day jitters are normal. Here’s how to prepare in advance to nail the first day and be well positioned for success.

Sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach, that nervous mix of excitement and anxiety… No, you’re not about to go on a first date, although it may feel like it. You’re getting ready for your first day at your first big job. You’ve graduated from internships and part-time summer jobs to the real deal. You want to appear organized, engaging and professional– even if your stomach is doing somersaults.

First day jitters are normal. Here’s how to prepare in advance to nail the first day and be well positioned for success.

1. Master the basics.
Know your commute route in advance, plan your outfit, and gather all necessary documents (photo ID, Social Security card, etc.). You want to be sure you show up on time, so aim to arrive 10 minutes early. If you’re heading to a new part of the city or have just moved and are unfamiliar with the area, test your route in advance during rush hour. Whether you ride the subway, drive your car, walk or bike, practice getting there before the big day so you can anticipate exactly how long it will actually take you. Google Maps is great, but don’t assume the time estimate is accurate!

2. Prepare to fill out a lot of documents.
The first day of work means you’ll be filling out a lot of paperwork. Not sure how to fill out a W-9 or confused about claiming dependents? Research tax information in advance so you know exactly what you’re doing. Again, be sure you have every form of identification with you. If possible, contact human resources in advance to know exactly what you need to bring. Better to be over-prepared than appear disorganized.

3. Make a positive first impression with your new coworkers.
Again, this all starts with research. If your company has an “about” page on their website, read the bios thoroughly and familiarize yourself with the names/faces. Get a feel for the org chart and company hierarchy before your first day.

4. Don’t get tongue-tied.
First day conversations can feel awkward since you’re meeting so many new people all at once. Plan a few talking points in advance, just like you would for an interview. This could be where you went to college, what you’ll be doing at the company, and a personal detail about yourself, like the fact you’re training for an upcoming marathon. Keep it brief, positive and memorable.

5. Ask questions and take notes.
Some companies expect the first day to be about paperwork and new faces. In other companies, new employees are expected to jump right. Regardless of your situation, try to get a feel for the office dynamic, preferred workflow processes, and how you can be successful. Curb those “chatty Cathy” tendencies and actually listen when your co-workers answer questions.

If you have a direct sit-down with your boss, bring a notebook and ask these questions:
a. Do you have an open door policy or should I email first?
b. How often should I check in with you?
c. What are your expectations for my work in the first week and first month?
d. What are your biggest project needs?

You may already have some of this information from the interview process, but it’s good to clarify workflow processes and performance metrics.

6. Pack a snack, not a lunch.
Lunch is prime time for getting to know your coworkers. At some companies, the boss may take you out to lunch with the team. At others, you may be left to fend for yourself. Don’t stay in the cubicle– get out and mingle! Ask coworkers to recommend their favorite lunch spots and they’ll likely invite you to come along. If you head out by yourself and run into coworkers, ask if you can join– they’re unlikely to turn you down. If you’re invited for post-work happy hour, keep the drinking to a minimum or stick with non-alcoholic drinks. You don’t want your final first day impression to be marred by a few too many cocktails.

7. Make a “things find out” list.
While it’s good to ask questions, interrupting your coworkers every five minutes can be downright annoying. If a question isn’t pressing, add it to your “things to find out” list. This could be everything from office lingo you don’t understand to who you should contact if your computer isn’t working.

Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed after your first day. Remember, you’re not just learning job duties, but you’re also mastering faces, names and office dynamics. It will get easier over time!


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