How to prepare for your first day of work

04 Mar 2020
By Ethan C., Contributor at Unite Students

Starting a new job can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When I first applied for a role at Unite Students, I had only worked retail jobs and wanted to settle in quickly with the team and the work.

Nerves are natural, but you can use that to your advantage to get you as prepared as possible before you start. Here are some things I wish I'd been aware of before starting my current and past jobs.

Get organised the night before

Give yourself peace of mind by knowing that everything is as prepared as it can be a few hours before you go to bed. Prepare your bag, your lunch or snacks and your outfit the night before. If you’ve got a specific piece of (work appropriate) clothing that makes you feel unstoppable, wear it! A physical confidence boost can carry into how you come across to others.

You’ll also need to figure out what route you need to take to get to work. You could even test the journey a couple days before to get a feel for the amount of time it takes. It’s important to leave with enough time so you aren’t rushing or panicking.

It’s also a good idea to contact your line manager beforehand in case you need to bring a passport, P45 or any other paperwork. Bringing a water bottle is good if you tend to clam up and need to take a second, while notepads and pens will help you remember any training you receive and show that you’re keen.

Use the morning to relax

Shower, eat, exercise, meditate or do whatever it is you do to feel relaxed and ready. Try getting there with plenty of time so you're not in a rush and, if you are going to be late, call ahead to your manager - don’t text.

Struggle with anxiety? I personally use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to calm down a racing mind. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven and breathe out of your mouth for eight. Try to visualise the counting if you can.

Once you’ve practised this, you can do it sneakily at a desk or even while walking and it's a great way to ground yourself if your mind is bubbling away. Think about your shoulders and jaw - are you clenching them?

Being nervous is completely normal when starting a new job, so try to cut yourself some slack while you find your footing.

Ask questions

Asking relevant questions is a good way to show that you're engaging with whatever training you're getting and to show that you're curious to learn about the new role. I now work in a job where new starters will ask me lots of questions about various topics and then apologise, but here's the thing: if you're asking me questions, I know that you're listening or that you're wanting to get better. Silence is boring; get your notepad and ask away.

Flex your social muscles

Taking note of basic things like body language and making eye contact is great when meeting people for the first time. I’m talking about smiles and firm handshakes!

Being warm and learning a little about the people you’ll be working with is a good way to be remembered and to become part of the team. I had a team of about 30 people in one job and played inner word association with myself to get to grips with people’s name; lip piercing - Cerys, Welsh guy - Jordan etc.

Set a goal

The first day may be draining, so setting a small personal goal or intention can help you feel like you've gotten something accomplished at the end. Maybe you want to remember your immediate team's names, introduce yourself to everyone or get your desk set up how you like. Whatever it is, mentally check it off when it's done and celebrate the little victories.

Check in with yourself

Remember to make some time after you finish to be alone with your thoughts and reflect. What went well? What could be improved on? Is there anything else you need to clarify or get more information on tomorrow? This isn't time to beat yourself up for dropping a mug or getting confused about something, it's about congratulating yourself for getting through the first day.

Key things to remember for your first day

  • Get your bag, lunch, water bottle and clothes ready the night before
  • Remember to pack something to take notes with
  • Bring your passport, driving licence and any other documents you may need
  • Use Google Maps to plan your route ahead of time
  • Prepare some questions to ask your colleagues or line manager.
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English literature and drama graduate working in Unite Student’s customer service team. Collage artist and wannabee Sailor Scout.