Updated 06 January 2012

First day on the job

Starting a new job is one of the most stressful things you can do. Here are some tips on surviving the all-important first day.


Starting a new job is highly stressful - whether you're an entry-level employee or the new boss. Here's a list of tips that will help get you through the first day.

Be on time. Rather be half an hour early than five minutes late. Excuses about traffic or parking issues won't cut it.

Report to the boss. On arrival, go to the person who interviewed you. They will tell you where to go and who to report to.

Ask for help. Ask people how things are done. They'll expect it, because you are new. Don't be scared to look stupid – it's better than fluffing something three months down the line because you were shy to ask when you got there.

Dress: formal and inconspicuous. Don't wear anything that will attract attention. Dress in dark colours and rather too formal than too informal. No Garfield ties, no bare midriffs, no teetering heels, no garish jewellery.

Get your bearings. You need to find out where the toilets are, whether everyone brings their own cups, whether the coffee is free, and whether there are canteen facilities. Check out the canteen food carefully before you make a habit of this, as it's often stodgy and/or oily, although usually inexpensive.

Don't make waves. Keep a low profile and do not speak unless you are spoken to. You are the new kid on the block, and even if you are in a managerial position, you still have to earn your wings. Accept that you will initially be at the low end of the pecking order.

In my last job we did things like this. Nobody cares about your last job and how things were done there. Offering that sort of advice is the fastest way to make yourself unpopular.

Steer clear of the office gossip. This person is usually easily identifiable on the first day. This is the person who warns you against other staff members. Be wary of anyone who will trust a complete stranger with information about colleagues to whom he/she is supposed to feel a certain loyalty. What will she/he be saying about you to the next person who starts working there?

Remember names. You may not be able to remember everyone's name, but make a special effort with the people with whom you will be working.

Visit the Workplace Focus Centre.

(Susan Erasmus Health24, updated January 2013)


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