Calvin Yang offers practical answers to questions about navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.
Q: I am a fresh graduate and will be starting an office job next week. How do I survive my first day of work?
The first day at a new job can be scary.
You don’t need to worry if you lose sleep the night before and get butterflies in your stomach when you leave. It might be normal.
You might not want to show up unprepared. If you want to find out more about the work culture, dress code and colleagues you are likely to work with, try to find out as much as possible.
It’s obvious that you should be on time.
If you can arrive 15 to 30 minutes earlier, that’s better still. You have more time to set up your work environment.
Even if you aren’t a morning person and don’t feel like socializing, be friendly.
Introduce yourself to your co-workers. Your name, job title, and work experience are all included in the introduction.
Mr Adrian Tan from the Singapore Human Resources Institute told freshies to listen more and talk less.
“If I am assigned a buddy, I’d let him or her introduce me to the team and observe and use whatever information I have to navigate the social landscape,” said Tan Ern Ser, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore.
I would be pleasant and friendly, yet come across as authentic, and show that I’m willing to learn and pull my weight.
When you have settled in and are done with the introductions, you should do some basic work.
“This includes knowing what you are supposed to do and reading up on past correspondences, but it’s nothing serious as you are still new”, says NeXT Career consulting Group managing director Paul Heng.
If you’re asked to join your supervisor or colleagues for lunch, don’t decline. You won’t have much to do on your first day.
Use that time to get to know your co-workers and understand the dynamics of your team. When necessary, ask questions to show your desire to learn.
Let your colleagues know that you are available to help once you are clear on your duties after lunch.
A worker who shows initiative and is a team player is highly valued by his employers.
“New workers should be proactive, find out what is expected of them, and be humble and learn as much as they can, even during their training, even though it may seem like things you have already learnt previously”, says Ms. Kirsty Hulston, regional director of recruitment agency Hays
When it’s time to take a break, make sure to check in with your boss if you can help. He or she may give you the go-ahead to leave if he or she doesn’t have much work for you.
Do not appear to want to leave the office. Take your time to tidy the work desk and pack your bag.
Say hello to your colleagues and wish them a good night.
The type of drama-free first day that most people want is the above scenario.
Sometimes, life throws up surprises. Let’s discuss two possible issues.
On your first day at work, your boss could be working from home. How can you get to your destination?
Someone may have been assigned by your boss to help you get into the job. Check with him or her if there are any tasks that you can help with.
Asking if there is a colleague in the office who can guide you through the day is useful.
What if you make a mistake on your first day, like addressing your boss by the wrong name, or spilling coffee on a colleague’s desk?
Stay calm, first of all.
If you spilled coffee on a co-worker’s desk, you should apologize.
If you want the office cleaner to help you clean up the mess, offer. It would be nice if you could get your colleague another cup of coffee.
If you address your boss by a different name, be honest and admit your mistake. Apologize and move on.
If he has a hard time pronouncing his name, ask him how it should be done.
You should give yourself a pat on the back for surviving your first day of work, even if you feel like things didn’t go as planned.
From here, things will get more busy.
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