Remember the night before the first day of school when you were growing up? You had your outfit all picked out, your backpack packed and put by the door, the locations of your classrooms and names of your teachers meticulously written inside a planner.
Or was that just me?
In any case, it doesn’t hurt to approach the first day of a new job similarly; with as much preparation the night before as possible. The morning of your new gig is sure to be a stressful one, so help yourself out by doing as much as you can ahead of time. Then, you can wake up rested in the morning and confidently strut out the door on time.
Read on for the dos and don’t of getting ready for day one.
Do: Pick Out Your Favorite Outfit
I know many peoples’ gut reaction is to go out and get a snazzy new outfit for the first day at work. And while you certainly do want to look sharp when you show up at you new gig, buying a brand new suit or chic pair of pumps is usually the wrong approach.
Hear me out: You’re going to be dealing with enough newness on your first day, so—unless you literally have nothing that fits the bill—go with an old standard when it comes to your clothes. The last thing you want is to be limping around because of blisters or be distracted by a sweater that turned out to be itchy. Think of something simple and professional that you feel confident in, and set it out the night before so you don’t have to think about it when you’re rushing the next morning.
Bonus points if you pre-pack your work bag and have it sitting by the door.
Don’t: Pack a Lunch
I completely understand the draw of packing your own lunch—I’ve done it my whole life. But even if you plan on bringing your own food most days, on your first day, you want to come prepared to use your lunch hour for professional socializing.
There’s a good chance your manager will take you out to lunch to celebrate your first day, but if he or she doesn’t, going out to grab a bite with your co-workers is the perfect way to start to get to know them. And if everyone in your office does pack a lunch? Make friends with your cubicle-mate by seeing if he or she wants to go out to eat with you anyway: “Hey! I totally forgot my lunch at home this morning. Want to save yours for tomorrow and grab a bite with me close by? My treat!”
All that being said, you should pack some small snacks: an apple, some almonds, or a granola bar. Maybe even slip in some of your favorite candy to help get you through the hours of reading on-boarding documents that are likely ahead of you. There’s nothing worse than having midday hunger get in the way of your first day!
Do: Come Prepped With Your Best Small Talk
At the risk of being Captain Obvious, you’re going to be meeting a lot of new people on your first day. And there’s nothing that feels worse than meeting your new team and having no idea what to say after, “So nice to meet you!”
So, prepare for it! Hopefully the conversation will flow easily in the few minutes you have in the break room with your new co-workers, but in case it doesn’t, have a few ideas in the back of your mind. Think up a couple of your favorite conversation starters. Catch up on the latest news or celebrity gossip so you can pitch in if your colleagues are gabbing about that. Maybe even watch the latest episode of your favorite TV show in case your co-workers are also fans. (This is starting to sound kind of fun, right?)
Don’t: Plan to Get There on Time
That’s right, you heard me. You should never plan on getting to the office on time on your first day. You should plan to get there extra, extra early. As in, half an hour early.
This is smart for a few reasons. First of all, you’ll have plenty of buffer time if the subway is running behind, if you sorely underestimated how much traffic there would be on your commute, or if you forget something important at home.
Second, strutting into the office five or 10 minutes before the start of the day gives a stellar first impression, hinting to your boss that you’re likely to go above and beyond expectations.
And most importantly, getting to your office super early not only lets you walk in on time, but it gives you a chance to be totally cool, calm, and collected when you do. When you arrive early, you can spend a few minutes in your car or at the coffee shop across the street checking your hair and makeup, making sure you’re not sweating from schlepping it on public transportation (we’ve all been there), and mentally preparing yourself for the day. Maybe even spend a few minutes writing down what you hope to accomplish your first day or week on the job. By the time it’s actually time to head to work, you’ll be set to go.
Do: Remember Why You Took the Job in the First Place
Before you go to bed the night before your first day, take a few minutes to remember why you accepted this new job. Maybe it’s your dream job, and you couldn’t be more excited to get going. Maybe it’s your first job, and you’re doing it for the experience. Whatever the motivation, write it down somewhere you’ll remember.
Then, when things get overwhelming, everything isn’t what you expected it to be, or you feel like you’ll never make it up the steep learning curve ahead of you, you can return to that reason and remind yourself why you’re doing this.
Now, get some sleep and go for it!