How to Cope with that Awkward First Day at Work

BreakingModern — Congratulations! After years of education and a nerve-racking application process you’ve landed your very first job. Now all you have to do to launch your brilliant career is show up and impress your new employers. It’s one of life’s major milestones, so it pays to put some thought into planning for that potentially awkward first day.

First day


No doubt you read up about your new employer before your interview. Refresh your memory with another browse through their website and search for any recent news stories. No need to amaze your new boss with your grasp of last year’s profits and loss, but some basic knowledge about products, services and customers gives you a good start.

Check and double-check the address where you are expected to report, the time, the name and title of the person you are meeting and whether you are expected to bring along any personal documentation or equipment.

If you’re using public transport find out bus or train times and services well before you leave. Doing a practice run at major commuting times is not a bad idea, so you can get an idea of traffic levels. Being late on the first day is never a good way to start working. Same if you’re driving. Sunday afternoon is very different than Monday morning on the roads. Check where to park, how much it costs and how to pay.

Be clear about the dress code. You’ll have seen how employees dress when you went for your interview, but don’t hesitate to ask HR for guidance if you’re unsure. Choose the outfit for your first day, including shoes (same goes for a first date). Check that the outfit’s all clean and in good shape and lay it out for the morning.

Set your alarm. Do it. Then set another one, five minutes later. Make sure to allow for extra time in case of domestic emergencies and delays.

If you don’t know what’s happening at lunchtime, take a snack with you. Absorbing new information makes you hungry, and you don’t want to wilt during your first afternoon.

First day

First Day

Be punctual or a little early. And remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. As an employer I was most impressed by new staff who asked lots of questions. It shows you want to do a good job. Nobody expects (or wants) you to know everything already.


Be open, polite and friendly to the other staff. Be interested in everyone and don’t try to be interesting. There is plenty of time to make your mark. Hogging attention will only put people’s defenses up.

Also, try not to be drawn into office politics. If staff members make comments about work, take note but don’t respond. Remember how you spent a whole term trying to shake off the idiots you met on the first day of school? The same applies in the workplace. Take the time to make your own judgments based on what people do, not what they say.

Managing Expectations

Induction processes vary hugely. Corporations may give you an extensive program before expecting you to start on the job. Smaller businesses may pitch you in at the deep end and use the ‘sitting next to Nellie’ approach to training.

Remember there’s no such thing as the perfect organization, manager or job. If some things are not quite all you expected, don’t be downhearted. First impressions are not always accurate, and there’s going to be plenty of time to settle down and make the most of your first job experience.

Good luck!

For BMod, I’m .

First/Featured Image: © Mike / Dollar Photo Club

Second Image: © Mi.Ti. / Dollar Photo Club

Judy Heminsley

Author: Judy Heminsley

Judy Heminsley is the founder of Work from Home Wisdom, a blog providing advice and inspiration for freelancers and home workers that is regularly featured in the UK national press. She is the author of Work from Home (How To Books), and writes on a variety of topics on her lifestyle blog All Things Bright & Good.

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