As you prepare for your first "proper" job you may feel that the transition from a student lifestyle to employment will be a bit of a culture shock. Still, while it’s true that you’ll need to adapt to a new environment, you may be pleasantly surprised at what lies in store for you.
A working professional needs a working wardrobe, and if anything else, this is a great excuse for some guilt-free shopping!
Think about what your recruiters or their colleagues were wearing when you went for your interview, and try to fit in. As a general rule, you should verge more on the formal side for the first day.
If shorts and flip-flops are the order of the day when you get there, then you can join in – but it doesn’t work the other way around!
Your first day
It’s not quite the same as your first day at school, but nerves can feature strongly at the start of a new job.
Here are a few tips to help make your first day easier.
- Plan your commute to give yourself plenty of time, so you don't arrive late and flustered.
- Tell yourself that your employer would not have offered you the job if they didn't have confidence that you can do it.
- Be friendly and approachable. First impressions do count for a great deal, but it’s not all about that. Being helpful, approachable, and taking time to get to know your colleagues will build the foundations for a good working environment.
And remember, no one will mind if you are a bit nervous at the start. After all, even your new company's CEO can probably still remember his own "first day on-the-job" experience!
Most employers will have an induction programme for new starters to help them settle in and to learn about the job and the company.
This is usually a series of meetings ranging from orientation sessions (who's who in the business) to practical training (showing you the skills you need to fulfil a particular task).
If you're part of a large intake of new starters (e.g. on a formal graduate scheme), it's likely that there will be social activities organised too.
Many organisations will allocate you a mentor who will oversee your progress at the company, both in a professional and personal way; they are the person to turn to if you have any worries or concerns.
Try to get a feel for the business culture within your organisation. For example, how formally do people speak to (or e-mail) each other? Take your lead from established colleagues, such as your immediate supervisor or line manager.
At the start, listening more than you speak is a good way to learn. But don't be afraid to ask if you're not clear about something. There is no shame in asking questions, and no employer is going to expect you to know everything from day one.
Many graduates report that working life is a bit of a shock after student life. Working nine-to-five with a daily routine can be quite a change – not to mention having to get up early every morning! It takes a while, but you will get used to it.
How to make an impression
Whether you're a mature student who had a job before going to college, or a younger graduate who's done part-time work and some internships while studying, you will probably have some experience of the workplace already.
Make the most of what you've learned, whether it's time management skills or understanding workplace etiquette.
Many employers say that the recruits who impress them most are those who show enthusiasm, commitment, and a desire to learn at every opportunity – even if that means manning the photocopier for a while.
They get stuck in and are willing to contribute in any way possible, and they don’t believe they are too clever or too good for a certain role just because they have a degree.
Keep on learning
You don't stop learning when you finish your formal education. In fact, in many ways, this is where the real "learning" for the rest of your life begins!
If you're on a formal graduate scheme, you'll be expected to follow a structured training programme that will prepare you for the next level in the organisation. In some sectors, such as accountancy, you may also be studying for professional qualifications on the side.
But even if that is not the case, any good employer is going to fit some form of training and development into working life.
It's in their interest to ensure their employees keep their skills up to date – and it's in your interest to take control of your career development!
You may come across the concept of continuing professional development (CPD). This describes any activity, whether a formal course or personal study, that helps you do your job better and get on faster in your career.
In some sectors this will mean professional qualifications, while in others it could be short training courses and postgraduate study.
Use whatever resources are available to develop your skills. This will give you confidence in your current job and prepare you for your next step on the career ladder.
Most graduates no longer expect a "job for life," and this is now more or less the new norm. Career-savvy graduates will always look out for opportunities to keep learning and adding on to what they can offer both their current and future employers.
Do your job!
Okay, it may be stating the obvious, but make sure you know what is expected of you. If you are worried or unsure about any particular aspects of your work, don't be afraid to talk things over with your supervisors or your boss.
The "But Robert in finance does nothing all day!" complaint won’t do you any favours. Robert works in a different department, and besides, he might have already been working there for years.
Plus, even if Robert may be under-perfoming, what's it to you? You are you, not Robert in finance!
If you are given deadlines, make sure that you meet them. Get to know the organisational structure, the relationship of your job to others, and preferred communication networks (e.g. phone, face-to-face, memos, e-mail, etc.).
Do your best to shorten the amount of time it takes for you to finally start working without direct supervision.
After all, when all is said and done, the best way to establish yourself in a new job is simply to do your job – and to do it well. Now go out there and get on with it!