How to have a successful first day

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The interviews are done, the offer is signed – congrats! Now you’re awaiting the big day. Here are a few thoughts on how to have a successful first day.

The week before

It’s a good idea to start preparing during in the week leading up to your start date. You will most likely receive forms to complete or have documentation to confirm, so you may want to line up the following:

  • A void cheque for direct deposit
  • Your social insurance card
  • Your information regarding your accreditations (accountants, doctors, lawyers, engineers etc.)
  • Your most recent diploma
  • Information regarding your spouse’s or parter’s group benefits, if applicable
  • Line up a call or an appointment with your accountant, if applicable

It’s best to get all your paperwork done sooner rather than later to avoid having any issues with your pay or your benefits. By preparing yourself in advance, it facilitates the process.

You also want to ensure you have all the required information for your first day: what time you should arrive, what you should wear, what to expect, etc.

Finally, especially if you will be working in a new neighbourhood, run through your commute. Whether you walk, drive or take public transportation, it’s a good idea to do a test run to guesstimate how long it will take you to get there and where to park, if applicable. I know you already did the route during the interview process, but go through it again closer to the date, in case any detours or construction have arisen since the interviews. Minimizing surprises will help you to feel more in control, especially if you have the first day jitters.

The night before

Put anything you need to bring with you next to the door or in a conspicuous spot as a reminder to take it with you before you leave in the morning.

Make sure that you’ve gassed up your car or you have your public transit pass and that your phone is charged.

Plan your outfit and try it on. There is nothing worse than having an idea of what you want to wear and realizing that it needs ironing or that there’s a button missing. Again, you want to minimize any surprises that morning.

If you are a woman, plan for your normal makeup routine, the normal way you wear your hair and your normal perfume. It’s tempting to try something new, however you don’t know how it will wear throughout the day. You don’t want to be fussing with anything midday.

Finally, set two alarms. I know this sounds a little obsessive, but you never know what could happen. There could be a power outage and one of your alarms gets knocked out. You will be nervous enough on your first day and you don’t want to oversleep and add to the stress.

There are a few additional things to prepare the day before which I will detail in the next section.

The first day

Orientation and onboarding varies widely from one company to another. Ideally, you’ve been informed about what to anticipate for your first day.

I would recommend bringing a notebook and a pen. You don’t know when you’ll be getting valuable information and you want to have something on hand to jot things down. It’s better to use a notebook than the Notes app on your phone simply because these people don’t know you yet, and you don’t want it to seem as though you are texting when someone is talking.

I would also recommend bringing a bottle of water and a discreet snack that can provide sustenance, like trail mix for instance. For the most part, companies are sensitive to the new employee’s needs however you may be pulled in several directions on the first day. You don’t want to miss anything so by being prepared, you’ll know that your needs can be taken care of while remaining available for whatever arises.

Conversely, you may have a lot of downtime on your first day. If this is the case, do your best to stay busy. Set up your email signature and voicemail, read anything that’s been assigned to you and complete any necessary paperwork.

Always take the first step when it comes to introductions. While it’s my belief that the existing employees should welcome the new person, this doesn’t always happen. When you introduce yourself, you break the ice. Keep in mind that you don’t know anyone yet. You could be standing next to someone who you’ll come to work with and you’ll leave a positive impression when you introduce yourself first.

Finally, try to find out what your first week will look like. Some managers will have a detailed plan whereas some may work more on the fly.

Remember to keep an open mind and roll with it for your first week. There may be little snags like your computer is not ready or you have more downtime than you anticipated. It’s not necessarily a reflection on the company. Do your best to stay positive and don’t let yourself be fazed by the hiccups inherent in any new beginning.

Your first day will be full of surprises and by taking a few steps to expect the unexpected, you’ll set yourself up for success.