Out of college – into the workplace: don’ts of the first day at work

For many college graduates, the first day at their first job can be a shock. Outside of the university and family environment, the expectations are very different. What does it mean to be a professional? What kind of behavior is appropriate and what kind is likely to get you sacked?

Each working environment is different, from Goldman Sachs’ famously rigid work environment to Google’s playhouse for creative thinkers and everything in between. But, no matter where you work, until you learn the rules well enough to break them, it’s best to play it safe and go conservative, especially on your first day.

Here are some first day on the job mistakes to AVOID:

Dress inappropriately

Dress professionally on your first day. You’re not Mark Zuckerburg (yet) and can’t get away with showing up in a hoodie and flip flops. Dress in a way that shows you respect the work environment and the business opportunity you’ve been given.

For girls: Use professional makeup and not night club makeup. Choose muted tones. Wear tasteful jewelry, nothing too flashy or trendy. Shirts and dresses should have sleeves and shouldn’t be too tight or have inappropriate slogans written on them. Dresses and skirts shouldn’t be shorter than two inches above the knee. Heels are okay, but not too high. Again, you’re going to work, not to a night club.

For boys: No t-shirts, jeans, shorts or flip flops. Slacks and dress or polo shirts and closed toed professional shoes. Find out whether the dress code is corporate or business casual. If it’s corporate, get your suit and wing tips out. Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed.

Pack a lunch

This is probably one of the worst things you can do on your first day. While everyone else is off socializing at a time when it’s most crucial for you to establish yourself and bond with your colleagues, you’re sitting at your desk eating your packed lunch and scrolling through your Facebook news-feed. If you did pack a lunch and someone invited you to eat out with them, make your lunch your dinner and say yes to the invitation.

cdu445 / Pixabay

Show up late

If you show up late, you might as well write IRRESPONSIBLE across your forehead with a marker. If you’re not sure how to get there, map out the route ahead of time. Or better yet, make the trip there on a business day at the same time you’re to start work so you know how long it takes to get there, if there’s traffic or if the subway is full. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that you get there on time on your first day.

Leave early

Leaving early is another mistake. It shows that you don’t have the work ethic to stay until the end of the work day. It also demonstrates lack of interest in the job and the opportunity you’ve been given. Even if others are taking off early and you think no one would notice if you left too, stay until the end of the work day. Chances are someone will notice and it’s never a good idea to cut corners, especially on the first day.

Talk on your cell phone or check messages

Especially on your first day, put your cell phone on mute. Take or make calls and check messages during official breaks or lunch time. Nobody wants to hire an employee who thinks taking a personal call or responding to a WhatsApp message is more important than learning their new job responsibilities. Give them your undivided attention on the first day to make a good impression.

Fail to pay attention

Whether it’s your boss, supervisor or fellow colleague, someone will be responsible for taking you through the rounds on your first day. You’ll be shown your workplace, how your computer or other equipment works, what the rules and regulations are, expectations, etiquette and more. Some places give a complete training program while others are more fly by the seat of your pants. Whichever of these situations you land in, pay close attention to instructions and take notes if you need to.

Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, speak up and make sure you get it before moving on. By actively engaging in your training day, you’ll show initiative and demonstrate your eagerness to do a good job.

Act like you know it all

Maybe you do know a lot about this subject, and that’s great, that’s probably why you got the job. In your job interview, you got to display your expertise on the subject and it paid off. But now you’re entering the doors for the first time as an employee and the best thing to do on the first day is to listen, ask questions, be respectful and show humility. Arrogance and a know-it-all attitude are rarely appreciated in a work environment. Give them a chance to show you how they do things. If, over time, you find ways to improve on something, you’ll have the opportunity to voice it. But not on the first day. You need to earn your stripes first.

Display insecure body language

Body language says a lot about you and whether your stomach is twisted in knots and your palms are sweating, try not to demonstrate insecurity, shyness and nervousness. Remember that you’ve earned your place there and even the boss once had a first day at his first job. Don’t cross your arms or hunch or play with your hair or other nervous habits. Stand up tall, speak firmly when spoken to, make eye contact and carry yourself as though you belong there. Because you do.

Fail to take initiative

Chances are you’ll be given some sort of task to do on your first day. Make sure you get it done. If you’re not sure how to do it or you need more information or instructions, don’t be afraid to ask. Take the initiative to find out what you need in order to get the job done. One of the worst things you can do on the first day is fail to deliver a task you were hired to perform.

Article contributed by Coby Stephens

Coby is a content writer at Same Day Essays His areas of expertise are academic writing help as well as college graduate career consulting. Coby is also planning to start his own career blog.

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