How to Survive Your First Day on the Job
By Kerry Knapp
Monster Contributing Writer
Your first day at a new job is a little like your first day of school: full of promise, anticipation and excitement.
But sometimes things can go terribly, terribly wrong.
Take the unnamed apprentice plumber featured in a 2007 Mail Online report. While soldering in a $10 million home as part of an extensive renovation project, the rookie accidentally set some polystyrene insulation on fire with his blowtorch. It wasn’t long before the home was engulfed in flames. Said a neighbour: “I heard it was started by a teenager on his first day. You have to feel sorry for the poor lad.”
We all want to start off a new job on the right foot, but human beings are, well, only human. So the odds of running into at least a few minor hiccups on your first day are pretty good.
There may be no one on hand to show you the ropes. Or, after smiling non-stop during your interviews, your boss might suddenly seem to be developing a permafrown. Or perhaps those amazing benefits you were promised—but didn’t get the details of—have turned out to be as competitive as a go-kart at the Grand Prix.
Take heart; it could be worse. Pity poor Joe Gallup, a 24-year-old miner. According to the New York Daily News, he recently left New York for a new life and a new job out west. “I packed up everything I owned in my car and drove out here,” Gallup said from Montana. “Took me three days. Then I drove two hours to work, two hours home, with a 10-hour shift between.” As luck would have it, Joe’s first shift was also his last. His new employer had decided to lay off 500 workers the same day.
Assuming that, unlike Joe, you get to keep your job, what are your best strategies for dealing with a bad start?
First Day on the Job Survival Strategies
First, and most importantly, don’t panic! You can get through this. Plus, facing adversity on your first day gives you a great opportunity to show them what you’re made of!
Adjust your attitude. It pays to be flexible when confronted with surprises, especially at a new job. Your new workplace won’t be exactly like your old one, so learn to catch the curve balls that will inevitably come your way.
Clarify grey zones. If your boss’s expectations differ from your own, or if you simply don’t know what you’re supposed to do, now’s the time to talk it over. Avoiding the issue will lead to guaranteed frustration.
Be resourceful. If you need more training or assistance, whether with company procedures, software or anything else, find out who the go-to people are. Ask them for a crash course or a little extra coaching. They’ll likely be flattered and happy to help.
Take the initiative. If you don’t have enough to keep you busy at first, take advantage of the situation. Get yourself up to speed by reviewing your team’s projects and catching up on the latest developments. Then, score some brownie points by requesting an assignment or volunteering to help out colleagues.
Remember why you’re here. You took this job for a reason, so think about what motivated you to apply. Focusing on the positive aspects will help get you through the negative ones.
C’est la Vie!
It’s a good idea to remember that your new job may not work out. Remain in touch with recruiters and continue networking. If things don’t improve in time, it might be time to make a few calls.
But do give things a chance to turn around before you make any drastic decisions. First days on the job have a way of going awry. Chances are you’ll be laughing about your problems a year from now!