Use the checklists in this article to get off to a good start.
- starting your first job?
- moving to a new position with the same company?
- starting work with a different organization?
- working in Canada for the first time?
Whatever your situation, your first few days in a new job are bound to be exciting. You’ll be meeting new people, learning different routines and absorbing dozens of details. But you may also be feeling nervous and that makes it hard to create a good first impression. A bit of awareness and planning can help you relax and feel more confident, friendly and focused, right from your very first day.
Know what to wear, what to say and how to act
Most workplaces have standards of dress, speech and behaviour. Whether these standards are written or unwritten, your employer and co-workers will expect you to learn and follow them.
Use this checklist to help you make appropriate choices:
- I ask my supervisor or take my cues from a respected co-worker if I’m unsure about the unwritten rules for dress and behaviour.
- I wear clothes that fit in with what my supervisor or co-workers are wearing. If I’m in doubt about the preferred style of dress, I ask.
- I keep my shoes clean and in good repair and my clothes clean, neat and ironed.
- I follow my workplace’s casual dress policy. I know that "casual dress" for work doesn’t mean low-cut tops, T-shirts with inappropriate slogans, low-rise jeans or casual sandals like flip-flops.
- I shower, use deodorant and come to work clean and well-groomed each day.
- I keep my use of perfume, aftershave, jewellery and makeup to a minimum. If my workplace has a fragrance-free policy, I follow it.
- I realize that in some workplaces, I may need to cover my tattoos and remove jewellery from some piercings.
- I wear the special clothing or equipment (for example, a hard hat) that my workplace requires. Even if my co-workers don’t wear protective equipment or clothing, I do.
- I'm on time the first day and every day—5 to 10 minutes early is even better. I know the route to work. I’ve practised it and timed myself.
- I show my positive attitude in my facial expressions and in how I sit, stand and move.
- I’m careful about how I express myself at work. I avoid slang, swearing and inappropriate humour or remarks.
- I follow my workplace’s cell phone, social networking, email and Internet use guidelines.
Greet people and get along
In the workplace, you meet and work with people who have diverse backgrounds and social values. Most employers place a high value on your ability to get along well with others. Basic good manners or etiquette—common sense rules of behaviour—will help you treat co-workers and customers with courtesy and respect.
Use this checklist to ensure you interact well with co-workers and customers:
- I treat my co-workers as I’d like to be treated.
- I treat everyone with respect, regardless of gender, status or position in the company.
- I shake hands with a firm, not crushing, grip, for about 3 seconds while smiling and making eye contact.
- I don’t invade personal space. In Canada, that means standing about 60 to 100 cm away from another person.
- I don’t talk about my personal life during work time. I know how to be friendly without giving too much detail about my personal life. I don’t ask my co-workers questions that are too personal.
- I take my time making friends at work. I’m cautious around co-workers who come on too strong or who like to complain about work.
- I don’t take part in office gossip.
- I respect the working styles and abilities of others.
- I’m a good team player. I’m happy to help when needed.
- I act in a professional way. I accept constructive criticism, think before I speak and act and take responsibility for my mistakes. I respect the authority of supervisors in work-related situations.
- I recognize that Canadian employers rarely give an order. They assign work by request. When they say, "If you have time, would you please…" they mean, "Please complete this task."
- I realize that Canadian employers rarely say no directly. When they say, "This would not be a good time" or "This may not be a good idea" they mean, "Not right now" or "No."
- I keep an open mind and a sense of humour.
- I remember to do little things that matter a lot, like making a fresh pot of coffee and cleaning up my mess in the lunchroom.
- I realize that saying "please" and "thank you" is always appropriate.
Watch, ask and learn
In the first day or so, you’ll learn a lot about the organization—its values, structure, products and services—and the people you’ll be working with. In most workplaces, you’ll learn this either from your supervisor or at a staff orientation. Your supervisor (or someone he or she assigns) will tell you about your job and how it fits into the organization.
If no formal staff orientation is provided and your supervisor doesn’t instruct you, then it’s up to you to learn about your job. Review your job description if you have one. Find out what you need to do so you can be productive. Watch your co-workers and ask questions. You may be able to job shadow a respected co-worker for a day or two to see how things are done.
Use the following checklist to help you through the first few days:
- I play the role of a student. I listen more than I talk. I try not to interrupt. I tell people I’ve just started working here.
- If I don’t understand, I ask. I ask a first time, even a second. I write down details to help me remember.
- I realize that things may be done a certain way for a reason. Because I’m new, I don’t try to make changes.
- I work closely with the person assigned to help me. If my employer doesn’t assign someone to help me, I take direction from a respected co-worker. I graciously ask for and accept their assistance.
- If a supervisor tells me to do something one way and a co-worker tells me another, I do it the supervisor’s way.
Find out the details
An orientation program or your supervisor will provide many of the details you need to know, such as pay schedules, benefits and safety requirements. But you’ll also want to find out about day-to-day details, like where to find the lunchroom and office supplies, so you can settle in and make your work environment comfortable.
Use this checklist to help you keep track:
- I know whether it’s appropriate to personalize my work area and what personal items, such as family pictures, coffee mugs, etc., are acceptable. I keep my work area tidy.
- I know where to store my personal items, such as my coat and briefcase or handbag. I’m careful not to store my things in someone else’s space.
- I know the hours of work and the times and lengths of lunches and breaks. I respect these rules even when others don’t.
- I know where to find parking, the lunchroom, the washroom, first aid kit, emergency exits, the photocopier and other frequently needed equipment and supplies.
- I know about shared spaces and the responsibilities that go with them—the staff refrigerator, the coffee fund, lunchroom cleanup, and so on.
Become familiar with workplace requirements and expectations to make a good first impression
Your first few days on the job set the basis for your relationship with your employer and co-workers. When you take steps to create a good first impression, you help to ensure that you’ll have a positive work experience.