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Advice for starting a new job: Getting ready for your first day at work

School’s finally finished, those gruelling job interviews are done and dusted and summer is coming to an end. Now things are about to get real as your first day at work approaches

Starting your first job is one of the most exciting times in your life but it can also be really scary. We know – we’ve been there.

So we’ve put together some advice to help make that leap into the working world as stress-free as possible.

And just remember – before you know it you’ll be a veteran, watching with a knowing smile as the newest recruit turns up looking as nervous and shaky as you did on your first day at work.

If you have a few minutes to spare, take a look at this video, which whizzes through some of the basics for your first at at work:

Do your research

Knowledge is power. The more you know about your new workplace, the more prepared you’ll be for your first day, which will help you to feel more confident. And it’s so easy these days to do some research.

Have a search on the internet and follow the company on its social networking sites. You can also set up Google alerts so you get emails if they appear in the media. You don’t need to be an encyclopaedia on your new company but it would really help to have a bit of knowledge and know of any hot topics.

Email the HR team to ask them if there’s anything you should know before you start or if there’s any info they can send you. If you have any ideas that you think might impress your new boss, jot them down and have them ready for when the right moment comes up.

Decide what to wear

Chances are you got to have a quick look around when you went for your interview so you’ll have a good idea of what the dress code is. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask.

If in doubt, always play it safe: smart and conservative generally fits into most situations and if you turn up on Monday to find everyone else sporting string vests and ripped jeans, you can tone it down on Tuesday.

Make sure your outfit is washed and ironed (or dry cleaned) ahead of time so there’s no last-minute panic when you find it at the bottom of a drawer with dog hairs or last month’s fry up all over it.

And, while those fabulous new high heels might make you feel like a million dollars, chances are they’ll seem more like instruments of torture by the end of the day so you might want to go for something a little more comfy.

Pack your bag

Remember to pack a notepad and a couple of pens (or an iPad if that’s more your thing) – there’s nothing worse than heading for an induction with the boss, only to stand there like a lemon because you’ve got nothing to write on.

If you were asked to read and sign any forms in advance and bring them with you on your first day, don’t forget to pack them too. You might also have been asked to bring ID with you to check you’re eligible to work in the UK and, if so, add that to the checklist.  

Other things that might come in handy are water, mints and snacks in case you get some hunger pangs in the middle of a meeting. Rumble anyone?

Plan your route

There really is nothing more stressful than getting lost on your first day and turning up late and sweaty.

Work out the best route and how long it’ll take – then add on some extra time on to it for any delays. It’s also a good idea to have an alternative route planned in case there’s heavy traffic or major delays on public transport, saving you the worry of sorting out a new route on the spot.

You might even want to do a test run before your first day so you know exactly how long it’ll take (and where you can pick up a cup of coffee enroute with all that time you have to spare because you’ve been so organised).

Eat breakfast – avoid a smelly lunch!

When you’re nervous and worrying about getting to work on time, toast and marmite might be the last thing on your mind. But breakfast really is important here – it’ll set you up for the day ahead and stop you having a faint, lightheaded moment later in the morning. Also, you don’t know when you’ll get a chance to have lunch but if you’d had a decent brekkie, you’ll manage better.

And, speaking of lunch, if you're taking a sandwich along with you make sure it’s not too stinky. Firstly, if you end up eating at your desk you don’t want to gross out your new colleagues. And secondly, if you get invited out for lunch, a day-old tuna sandwich festering in your bag is no one’s friend.

Deep breath and smile

First impressions count. And sometimes when we’re nervous, we clam up. So, take a second to remember to breathe and put a smile on your face. Show that you’re happy and excited to be there.

Be friendly and polite to everyone, and if you get any invitations (lunch, a drink after work) try to accept them if you can. The quicker you get to know your colleagues, the quicker you’ll settle in and become one of the team. It’ll also show that you’re enthusiastic and want to get to know people.

You’ll also probably learn far more about your new company at these social events than any induction can teach you.

Find out more about what your body language says about you at work.

Avoid the drama

It’s tempting to get involved in the office gossip – and where there’s an office, there’s usually gossip.

But the best thing to do is to steer well clear. Be a good listener but don’t contribute to the discussion. It’s always better not to take sides.

And finally, remember to enjoy yourself. This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter in your life and, as nerve-wracking as it is, it’s also a memory that you may cherish forever (or laugh about if it goes a bit wrong). Good luck!

This infographic from Chair Office is a brilliant summary of the key points for your first day at work:

First day infographic

Make sure you know what to wear on your first day at work. And be prepared for the big day by checking out our tips on working life.

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