• Priya Sharma Shaikh

First day at work? Hit the ground running and let your career take off


You are in your early 20’s and you’ve completed your graduation. Or maybe you went further and finished your post-graduation. You passed with flying colours as did your friends. You kind of know what you want to do in life but you aren’t sure so you’ve applied to a few companies for jobs that maybe people recommended to you or you came upon after a little research or got a campus placement. A few of them responded, you got called to their offices and got interviewed by them. Finally someone from one of these companies called you, or maybe they sent an email giving you the news that you’d been waiting for so eagerly. The high of being told that you’ve been selected for a job, when you are just out of college, is quite something.

All the hard work in the years you spent in schools and colleges studying to get better, to get ahead culminate in this first big junction in your career. Whether it is the job that you dreamt of or not, first jobs end up teaching you a lot. It’s like taking a leap into the unknown, a new world, a world that you’ve heard a lot about and maybe seen second-hand. But some things can never be appreciated without experiencing them.

Now that you are selected for the job how do you prepare for it? How do you handle those pangs of nerves that keep your insides twisted the night before?

Relax! We’ve got you covered.

Culling through years of our experience recruiting for companies and talking to HR heads, here’s a primer on how you should face the first few days in office.

KNOW YOUR JOB: This is the most important thing of all. Chances are that you know what role or profile you’ve been hired for. You may not know what exactly you are supposed to do in client servicing or content management but you can always check up on that. A simple search on the internet will return enough pages that throw light on what your job profile entails. If you are still confused, ask someone. The best time and place to do this is actually during the interview. Good employers like people who ask questions, especially those relating to their jobs. Even if you didn’t ask them during the interview, you can always call them up or mail them before you start work. Or find someone around you – maybe a friend or a senior – who works in a similar role. A great advantage of being a young newcomer is that most people understand that you don’t know a lot of things and are willing to indulge you. Get a clear idea of what kind of responsibilities you will have and what would be expected of you. Ideally you would’ve already researched the company, its business, clients, customers and competition. Most of this information is easily available on the company’s website which should be your first port of call.

DRESS APPROPRIATELY & ARRIVE ON TIME: As obvious as this sounds, it’s amazing how many people don’t get this. First impressions define you and you don’t want to be looked upon as a lousy employee. Don’t over dress. If you don’t know the expected attire, ask. Don’t feel shy to check with the HR a day or two before starting work. I can’t emphasize the value of arriving on time. Make that arriving before time. Since it’s your first day at work, chances are you don’t know exactly how much time it will take to reach work. Arrive early so you can get a chance to settle in before everyone else does. Believe me, sitting at the reception or at your desk as others start walking in is much better than arriving late and having everyone turn to look at you as you walk past them.

CARRY EVERYTHING YOU NEED: If you’ve researched your job well you will have a fair idea of what you may need at work. Irrespective of that, the following things should be carefully tucked into your bag the night before. A notepad, a couple of pens, a pencil or two, an eraser – these things never go out of fashion and will come in handy on most jobs. Unless the company is going to provide you with a laptop, make sure you carry your laptop and the charger along. I understand that you would be inseparable from your mobile, but do carry your earphones and phone charger too.

GET YOURSELF SORTED: More often than not, the first day will be spent sorting the paper work with HR and getting introduced to your boss and team. If there are documents you need to carry on the first day to facilitate this paper work, make sure you carry them. You don’t want the HR processes to linger on and take up time on following days, so get them out of the way on day one itself.

You will likely be assigned a desk to sit and systems to work on as well. Get yourself acquainted with these and your neighbours. It’s nice to be courteous and introduce yourself if an introduction has not been facilitated by the HR or your reporting head. Don’t be too casual while doing so and yet be yourself.

For example, don’t use slang or act too familiar with people till you get to know them well. Making personal remarks is a strict no-no as is sharing too many unnecessary personal details with others. Companies in different sectors have different conventions for addressing people. By and large most firms in new-age industries like media, tech and online businesses encourage informality, the older, more established industries still prefer traditional attitudes. You may address even senior management using first names in the first category while in the latter you may have to use ‘sir’. Listen to how your colleagues talk among themselves and take cues.

MEET THE BOSS & GET STARTED: This might not be entirely up to you but once all the formalities are done and the introductions have been made you should ideally have a small briefing with your boss and get some work assigned. Often bosses are busy but a good boss will make sure that he/she sits with you and gets you going.

Don’t be disheartened if that doesn’t happen. Keep yourself occupied by reading and researching on the company, its clients and competition in the meanwhile. And make sure that you drop into the boss’s office to remind him/her that you’ve arrived and are waiting for work. Don’t be shy or afraid of asking for work but don’t hassle your boss too much as well. One reminder is good enough.

If you still haven’t had a chat with your boss at the end of the day then hang around till he/she is done with the day’s work and then make your approach again. You should have work on your desk the next day for sure.

LISTEN AND TAKE NOTES: Employers these days tend to throw employees into the deep end as soon as they start. That could mean attending meetings, internal or client facing, or preparing some document or presentation or doing some research. It’s unlikely that you will get an important job on the first day itself. Having said that whatever you do is important for you to learn the ins and outs of your job.

And to do a good job, you need to know what is needed. Whether attending meetings or getting instructions for work, make sure you listen carefully and take notes. Don’t speak out of turn unless there’s something you know you can contribute. Whenever you get stuck, ask. Be polite, but don’t nod along when you haven’t understood something. If there’s a job you need to do, it’s your right to ask questions. Don’t worry about looking stupid or naive. Remember, no one expects you to know a lot at the start.

POLISH YOUR BASICS: Just because you are a beginner, it doesn’t mean that people don’t expect anything from you. If you’ve been recruited for a technical job you will need to have certain technical skills and know the application of relevant software. Most jobs will need you to know MS Office (or equivalent software) well. It’s amazing how much people underestimate the value of making a good presentation or writing a decent note/letter on MS Word. If there’s a software everyone should absolutely master before they start on any kind of a job, it’s MS Office. A good knowledge of Word, PowerPoint and Excel and basic skills to use Paint and Photoshop are critical for most people starting their careers in any field.

Whatever skills, technical or otherwise you’ve been hired for, make sure you practice and polish them before joining work. Turning in shoddy work on the first day of work isn’t how you want to start your career. If however, you deliver good quality work, you mark yourself out in the eyes of your boss and your colleagues as someone who’s capable, leading to more and higher responsibilities.

These along with confidence tinged with humility, a willingness to stretch and an eagerness to learn should sort your first few days out.

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