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How to Make a Good Impression on Your First Day at Work

by Shelly Horton
Posted: February 24, 2017

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So you’ve landed your dream job. Brilliant. Now – the second half of the equation is to start off on the right foot while you learn the ropes and get acquainted with your new company.

Here are ten tips, from TV Personality and Careers and Lifestyle commentator, Shelly Horton, on how to nail your first day.

1.    Be prepared

I follow the 5P Theory – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Find out as much as you can about the company and the people who work there before you walk through the front door. 

The joy of Google is you can spend an hour online and see how the company is portrayed in the media, and who are the major players. Then, devour the company website for client lists, core values and vision.  

2.    Have a positive attitude

You are excited about this new gig - show it. It’s better to have half the experience and double the enthusiasm. People will want to work with you.  

Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the organisation show through to everyone you interact with. Leave your personal hang-ups at home and radiate your excitement for this new opportunity.

3.    Arrive early, leave late and don’t call in sick

Man will make a good impression by arriving to work early on bike

I don’t care if you have ‘manflu’. Go to that job. Let the employer send you home. You’ll score points for soldiering on.

Plan to arrive at least half an hour early. That way if the train is late or your car runs out of petrol you’ll still get there on time. If you do get there half an hour early take the time to sit and have a coffee to calm your nerves and get ready for the day ahead. In that first week or so you should always come in early and stay a little later. 

You can’t be a go-getter and clock-watcher at the same time so plan to be at work a little longer than your shift. There’s nothing that can affect your reputation faster than routinely coming into work late or leaving work early. 

Especially in these first days or weeks on the job, observe the flow of your work environment and be sure you are coming in earlier and leaving later than the majority of your coworkers. 

4.    Dress professionally

Decide what you are going to wear the day before so you’re not rifling through your cupboard as the clock ticks down to nine o’clock.  

It’s not a nightclub, it’s a workplace so err on the side of conservative until you get a feel for what everyone else is wearing. You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally. 

Experts say that people make a judgment about you between seven and 17 seconds of meeting you, and the way you dress can impact this impression significantly.

Related: How to dress to impress at your job interview

5.    Learn names

Lady at her first day at work with colleagues in business meeting

It can be very lonely if you’re standing in a full office and don’t know anyone by name. No one expects you to have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first week, but if you are bad with names, write them down on a seating plan.  

Make it a priority to learn the names of every member of your team. And if you are in a situation in which you forget a person’s name, the best solution is simply to apologise and ask again.  

They’ll appreciate the effort and you’ll look more professional than be calling everyone “mate” or “hon”.

6.    Ask for help

This is not a time to fake it until you make it. This is the perfect time to ask for help. No one expects you to know everything when you first start a new job so feel free to ask questions. 

It’s better to ask for clarification than spend a day completing a task the wrong way. Take notes so you don’t have to ask the same questions over and over.

7.    Listen more than you talk

How to make a good impression by listening and looking at post it notes

Listening more than you talk can be one of the hardest skills to learn, especially for extroverts. You are the newbie so it’s impossible for you to be a know-it-all.  

Listen and absorb as much as possible during those first days on the job.  

8.    Stay out of gossip

Avoid office gossip for as long as you can. Try to avoid other people who want to gossip. Although it’s tempting to take part in office gossip as a way to get to know people quickly it often backfires.  

You don’t know who has an axe to grind or what alliances run deep. Give everyone the benefit of a clean slate and make up your own mind. Get to know your coworkers, but keep the conversations based on work and small talk, especially when you’re new. 

9.    Speak well of your former job

Young business lady and man laughing

Badmouthing your old employer won’t earn you a good first impression at your new job. 

As tempting as it might be to tell horror stories about the time your old boss threw a chair out a window or the accountant was stealing from the company just zip your lips. It’s unprofessional, unkind, and could hamper future opportunities.

10.    Use lunch to meet people

Don’t just shove a sandwich in your gob at your desk or spend your whole lunch break running errands. Especially when you’re new, it makes sense to spend lunch breaks getting to know your coworkers. 

In the first week try to grab a bite with different colleagues, or if most people bring their lunch, make a sandwich so you can head to the park with them.  

Of course, pay attention to company culture. If everyone is working as a team towards a crazy deadline, eating at their desks looking stressed, don’t be the oblivious newbie wandering from cubicle to cubicle seeking out lunch dates. 

Pay attention to what your coworkers are doing and follow suit. Offer to roll up your sleeves and help. Or even offer to do a lunch pick up for your team so they can keep working. No that’s not beneath you and will probably show you’re humble and a team player.  

That’s exactly the impression you want to make in a new job.

Looking for more career inspiration? Be inspired with more tips, tricks and advice that will help you be successful in your career on the Open Colleges Careers blog.


Shelly Horton

Known for fronting up to uncomfortable conversations and never sitting on the fence, Shelly is a well-known voice in the area of pop culture, women's issues and health. She’s interviewed everyone from Tom Cruise and Kim Kardashian to the Dalai Lama.

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