Feeling nervous about that first day of work? Here’s how to get started on the right foot.
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The first day of work at your first real job has a lot in common with the first day of school: the fear, the preparation and the best part—the excitement!
But pretty much everything else is not in line with what you’ve experienced before, and it’s important to realize that before you make the ultimate rookie mistakes.
So get off on the best foot on the first day with these tips:
1. The word “work” is now a verb, not a noun
In college, how you approached your education was mostly up to you, and it came in the form of homework. You had a single, physical deliverable, and when it was done, you were done.
Most professors had attendance policies to the effect of “If you can come to class once but ace all the tests and turn everything in, you’re good,” but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a job that suits that schedule. The average workplace will expect you to not only show up, but to put time and energy into your work, often for long periods of time.
Prepare to keep up your stamina without necessarily knowing when the work will be finished.
2. Even if you have a chill workplace, stick with appropriate work attire
Unless you were especially motivated, your college wardrobe probably included jeans and a nice t-shirt (or stretch pants and a not-so-nice t-shirt). So imagine how confusing it can be to get hired at a workplace that offers a “casual attire” policy, only to find out “casual” doesn’t mean what it used to.
Avoid the awkward and swift learning curve when it comes to workplace attire by following these guidelines:
Ladies, focus on appropriateness and style:
- Wear clothes that cover your shoulders and your thighs. Rare is the workplace where a tank top (even a really pretty one) is appropriate. Stay on the safe side until you have a few promotions under your belt, and leave the tank tops to the post-work happy hour. (This also has the benefit of keeping you safe from overly-excitable AC systems.)
- Wear clothes that fit now, not a year ago. Flattering without flattening (no outside Spanx, thanks) will make sure you’re dressed appropriately from every angle.
- Wear clothes with fabrics and patterns that aren’t flashy and attention-grabbing. Let your jewelry and, even better, your face be your trademark. Express your personal style, but not at the expense of the attention and taste of everyone else in the office.
Gentleman, focus on cleanliness and fit:
- Discard any t-shirts or khakis you’ve had since high school. Even if you think they’re “totally sweet,” chances are they’re too worn and old-looking to make you look professional.
- Update your khakis and dress pants to make sure you aren’t sporting cuts and styles that were hot in 2002. And, much like the ladies, make sure you’re flattering the body you have now, not the one that played college rugby. Line up your shoulders with the lines on your dress shirts and make sure any gut is politely covered, not pressing against the buttons and pulling out of your tuck.
3. Ageism isn’t just for the elderly
As a recent college graduate, employers will expect you to have basic knowledge of the Microsoft Office Suite and hope you can offer experience in advanced Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel (bonus points if you can get known as the office expert on any of these programs).
If you want to be especially valuable, download the free versions and practice, practice, practice with other technologies like Prezi, Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop and anything else you can get your hands on. Sometimes just mentioning these technologies will be enough to get you in the door for the interview (but of course, make sure you have the skills to back it up).
4. Not every conversation will be life-changing, but you have to talk anyway
Along with assuming you’re skilled with technology, older coworkers might also assume you’d rather text than talk.
Prove them wrong by being pleasantly social. Learn how to talk to people both superficially and deeply. Think up a few phrases that briefly express welcome and interest, and always be armed with one or two inoffensive topics you can speak on if you’re caught for more than five minutes in the breakroom.
Simple social skills will pay out in the long run and, even more importantly, you might find out you actually like your colleagues.
Anyone else have tips to add for a new grad’s first day?
Sarah Greesonbach is a Content Management Specialist with a lot on the back burner (if you count LOLcats and Words with Friends). She curates and write the lifestyle and personal finance blog Life [Comma] Etc and is studying to be an Accredited Personal Financial Counselor.