Everybody (even the most confident people you know!) gets first-day jitters before starting a new job. A whole new environment, new people, new dynamics. Dwelling on the unknowns can give you major pre-work anxiety, but preparation can do a lot to quell those nerves.
From getting ready in the morning to nailing your first impressions, here’s your guide to beating the stress and successfully navigating your first day at a new job.
You can always ask what to expect on your first day
It’s not a bad idea to send an email to your contact at the company to ask them what you should bring with you on your first day and even what you should expect. Your boss or recruiting contact might even send you an itinerary.
A quick note about your first day
Your first day on the job can be intimidating, anxiety-inducing, nerve-wracking, and hopefully, a little exciting too. The good news is, your first day (and possibly even first week) is about your learning. Your boss isn’t likely to expect you to produce a lot or make major decisions. You can go into it a little more relaxed knowing that one of the best things you can do is just learn.
Get ready for your first day
Go to bed early. Getting ready for your first day starts the day before.
Your nerves might have you up a few minutes before your alarm—but if not, make sure you set one for a little earlier than usual; you don’t want to feel rushed.
You should also map your commute in advance. Use the Google Maps feature that lets you choose your arrival time and then recommends a departure time.
What to wear on your first day of work
Professor Karen J. Pine, author of Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, writes in her book that, “[W]hen we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it."
Choose your clothes in advance, perhaps even wear them around the house for a while to make sure you feel comfortable and confident. If you wear a uniform for work, make sure its clean and fresh.
And no matter what you wear—make sure you've broken in your shoes.
What to bring on your first day of work
Your new employer will need some official documents to set you up with direct deposit, tax filing preferences, parking, and more.
Most of the time, you’ll get a list of what to bring, but if not, here’s what you should plan to pack, just in case:
Official identification: Any form of federal ID, like a driver’s license or passport, will do. Some employers may ask for you to bring along bills or other documents as proof of your address or citizenship status, as well.
Social security card
Tax preferences: On your first day at a new job, you’ll be asked to fill out tax forms covering any allowances you claim and how much you’d like withheld from your paycheck. You should do a little research into what works best for you depending on your financial situation and whether or not you have a spouse or dependants.
Vehicle info: Just in case you’ll need to be issued a parking pass, make sure you know your car’s license plate number, make, and model.
Bank info: Checks are a little outdated, but many employers still require them for setting up your direct deposit information. You should also know your routing number and account number, both of which can be found on the check.
Lunch: You’ve probably scoped out where your new workplace is and know what sort of restaurants are around, but your first day could be busier than anticipated, so you may not have time to pop out for food. Bring a packed lunch just in case!
A notepad and pen: There’s a lot of information to soak up on your first day, and writing things down tends to help your recall and comprehension. Don’t be afraid to take notes throughout the day!
What you should expect to do on your first day
Here’s a look at what you can expect to do on your first day.
Every workplace is different, but it’s very likely...
You’ll get a tour of the office, workplace, or worksite.
You’ll meet your coworkers. (A tip on how to remember everyone’s names below.)
You’ll meet with someone from HR or recruiting to get tax paperwork, discuss benefits, and go over company policies.
You’ll sit down with your boss to go over things like general job expectations, getting set up with a computer or any tools or equipment you’ll use, who does what in the office, office kitchen policies, etc.
You’ll start training for any tools or processes you might use and any job duties you’ll be expected to carry out (that you don’t already know).
How to make a good impression
Over the course of your first day, you’ll likely do the customary tour around the workplace, and you could be in for a lot of introductions.
While most will just be a handshake and exchanging of names, you should prepare a quick elevator speech about yourself and what you’ll be doing at the company.
No pressure, but most first impressions are established within the first seven seconds of meeting. In that short amount of time, here’s what you’ll need to do to make the best impression possible:
Smile: Women get told to smile a lot...but in this case it’s truly not a bad idea. Not only can it help you feel more confident, but according to Psychology Today, it’ll also convey to others that you’re courteous and competent.
Handshake: It sounds simple, but the perfect handshake can help you nail a first impression—and there are tons of guides that help you decide everything from the right number of pumps to the ideal grasp strength.
Confidence: Once someone tells you their name, repeat it back to them by saying something like, Great to meet you, Alicia. (Also a great way to help yourself remember their names.) Speak clearly and make eye contact as you listen to what they have to say.
First-day pro tip
You’re going to have a lot of information coming at you on your first day, so you’ll also have a lot of questions and might not be presented with the right time to ask them. Use that pen and paper you brought to keep track of any questions you have, then when you get a few moments with your boss, get those questions answered.
Enjoying the new experience
It’s easy to get consumed in the anxiety and intimidation that the first day brings, but don’t let it get in the way of genuinely enjoying this new opportunity. After all, you took the position for a reason—and it’s perfectly normal to be a little overwhelmed by the craziness of the first day!
Get to know people in the office, take some time to set up your workspace so it’s as cozy as possible, and rest easy knowing that the applying is done, the interviewing is over, and you’re finally taking the next step in your career.