First day nerves?

Feature

First day nerves?

A new job can provide exciting new challenges, but getting through the first day can be tough. Don't spend your lunch hour hiding in the toilet - go out and socialise, advises Roisin Woolnough

It doesn't matter how old you are, there is nothing like starting a new job for making you feel like a child again. All those feelings of trepidation, shyness and uncertainty can come flooding back, taking the most confident of us by surprise. Even if it is your dream job with a team of people who are really friendly, it is normal to get a touch of the jitters on your first day.

However, being nervous is no reason why you shouldn't enjoy getting stuck into your new job. "This is a new beginning and you don't know what lies ahead, so there's no harm in being excited," says Maxine Sutton, chief people officer at Internet professional services company Oyster Partners.

The job-for-life concept is virtually non-existent these days and ITers are in such high demand that job-hopping has become the norm. While some people do not get too worked up about walking into an office and being the new person, others find it difficult to adapt.

There are a few simple guidelines for easing yourself into a new role.

Whatever the position, all newcomers need to make an effort to fit into their new surroundings and get to know their colleagues. But, if you want to emerge unscathed from the day, the groundwork starts before your turn up at the office.

The first step is to prepare for what lies ahead. Presumably, you will have done your homework on the company at the interview stage, but there is no harm in doing a bit more. Have a look at the company Web site or brochure. It may well be that you have an induction course when you get in, but the human resources department should let you know if this is the case.

Take some time to think about what will be expected of you, both on day one and in the longer term, so that you are mentally prepared for the job. Make sure you are up to date with events in the industry, so that you feel comfortable with your area of expertise.

Some people like to do a trial run of their journey to work before D-day itself, so that they know how long it will take and how much leeway they have for delays. That is up to the individual, but punctuality is important, so work out how long the journey will take and leave something like 15 minutes earlier than necessary in case there are any problems en route. Trains, cars, buses - they all have a habit of failing when you most need them, so leave a bit of time to manoeuvre.

Dress is another important consideration. No one wants to feel like the odd one out, so think carefully about what to wear. When you went in for interview, was everyone in suits or was it more like combats and trainers?

Gone are the days when IT professionals beavered away in a back room, far from the public eye, so it is best to go for the safe option and dress up. "It is better to err on the side of caution and be smart rather than casual," says Imogen Daniels, advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

It may seem trivial, but getting details like the dress code right allows you to concentrate on getting to grips with the job. Confidence is key - if you feel relaxed and like you fit in, you will get more out of the day. Other people will also find it easier to approach someone who smiles and appears at ease with themself. "The more open, friendly and pleasant you appear, the more people are likely to approach you," says Daniels.

Your line manager should take you around the office, introducing you to everyone and pointing out where everything is. If this doesn't happen, ask for a tour.

When meeting people, make an effort to remember their job title and their name because you will feel a lot more confident about approaching someone if you can remember what they are called.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If in doubt, ask yourself if you could easily find out the information yourself - if not, you may have to ask the same question in a few days time and then you really will feel like an idiot.

"Ask questions, even if they appear stupid," says Daniels. "It is often the only way to find out information and people forget what you need to know when they have been somewhere for a while."

In a perfect world, newcomers to an office are shown how everything works, where everything is and who their colleagues are. In reality, people are invariably stressed and pushed for time, so introductions become a rushed job. Lunchtimes, however, are good for meeting fellow workers and the perfect occasion for establishing relationships in a relaxed environment. For this reason, Daniels thinks people should make an effort to go out for lunch. "Don't take sandwiches. Lunch is always a good start for meeting people."

However, she advises people not to become too friendly too soon with their colleagues. Listening in on office banter and gossip can be a very useful way of finding out how an office operates and what the politics are, but don't participate yourself.

"Don't gossip in the early days - just listen," warns Daniels. You don't want to fall out with people on the first day, so hold back.

If someone is being unfriendly or unhelpful, don't immediately assume that you won't get on or fit in. Often, when someone appears to be unfriendly, it turns out that they are shy or reserved. Or it could be those damned office politics getting in the way. "There may be political sensitivities that you know nothing about, such as internal candidates who went for the job," says Daniels.

Reserve your judgement and try to remain neutral about the situation. Don't get too worried if you haven't connected with someone - it is only day one. And certainly don't hold it against them and let it set the tone for your working relationship together.

"Don't burn your bridges before you've even built them," says Daniels.

Tips on how to survive your first day

Do

  • Prepare yourself in advance. Get to bed early the night before - you will regret it if you start a new job yawning and suffering from a massive hangover

  • Smile and be friendly

  • Ask questions

  • Find out information such as where the canteen is and where the coffee-making facilities are located

    Don't

  • Participate in office gossip

  • Spend your lunchtime hidden in the toilets

  • Make personal phone calls, unless they are really necessary

  • Arrange to meet anyone straight after work - a quick drink with your new colleagues is always a good ice-breaker. Getting legless, however, is not advisable.

    I'll get my coat

    Have you ever spilt coffee down yourself on the first day at a new office? Perhaps you slept in and arrived hours late, or pranged the boss's new car in the car park? Send your first-day nightmares to cwxtra@rbi.co.uk


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    This was first published in February 2001

     

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