Starting anew is a right of passage for every professional. The first day at a new job can be a bitter-sweet punch to the gut that may or may not yield the lucrative rewards and elusive work-life balance promised. It can mean new opportunities and a fresh perspective but can carry the baggage of undue pressure and limited free time.
As your fearless leader, I’ll pour every single ounce of blood, sweat and manufactured tears into you successfully traversing the proverbial Aggro-Crag that is your first day on a new job. And if there is any bodily fluid left where that came from, you can rest assured I will put it all on the line to help you find your way. We can split this trek into three more bite-sized legs:
- F*cking Execution
But before you embark on this all-encompassing journey, know that the hurdles we will cover in this guide won’t be your stock career advice. Nothing about winning at a new job is sexy and I’m here to unbox those hard truths for you. So keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times and enjoy the ride …
BUT FIRST, A LITTLE COMMON SENSE
Since the dawn of the internet, respected medical professionals who haven’t tasted what it’s like to be eyeballs deep in TPS reports at 1 AM, have pontificated on the importance of showing up 10 minutes early, finding out the parking situation and smiling courteously, from behind their mahogany desks.
That’s all well and good. In fact here’s a list of common sense preparedness tips which feel a whole lot more like the cliffnotes of “Being a Human Being 101” vs. being actually helpful …
(For those who have conquered this common courtesy crash course, proceed directly to PREPAREDNESS.)
- Arrive early (but not too early). The sweet spot is somewhere between “brown-noser” and “slept through my alarm.” (Alyssa Seidman, Hired)
- Don’t use your cell phone. There will be plenty of opportunities to waste company time on your cell phone in the near future. (Brett & Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness)
- Be Social Media Savvy. Don’t do dumb sh*t on social media. I repeat, don’t do dumb sh*t on social media. (Rachel Rosenbloom, LaurenConrad.com)
- Contingency plan-plan-plan. Have a babysitter lined up, tell your girlfriend she’s on her own for dinner … basically don’t tell your new boss you need to run out right at 5:30 for a Tinder date. (Elena Bajic, Ivy Exec)
- Test drive your commute. Getting lost going to your new job is the easiest way to prove you are an idiot before you even get to work. (Lauren Hintz, HubSpot)
FIRST DAY PREPAREDNESS
Specifically, mental fortitude
Ok, so you’ve gotten Mapquest directions to the job, asked about parking, found out who you should report to and looked up what business casual means. Now it’s time to set your ass apart:
Set expectations … LOW.
Vince Vaughn said it best: “I find if you keep your expectations low, you’re never disappointed.”
Prepare to be underwhelmed by your new gig and definitely try not to think about the fact that between current social security funding levels and advances in modern science you’ll be working for AT least the next 45 years of your life or until your untimely death, whichever comes first. So do yourself a favor and know full well that chances are …
- You will not see sunlight for the next 8-10 presidential administrations and will develop a severe Vitamin D deficiency.
- You will be stripped of your individuality. Check that sh*t at the door.
- You will wish you chose a different path in life.
- Your sustenance will consist predominantly of soggy pre-packaged salads, Panera Bread and half priced apps.
- Your health will decline significantly.
and most importantly …
- You might have made the wrong choice (or at least it might seem that way).
Once you have prepared yourself mentally for battle, step into the on-deck circle …
FIRST DAY RECON
Going into battle without doing your due diligence isn’t just irresponsible … it’s dangerous. You’ve got to scout the terrain, investigate the characters and do your homework before stepping into the ring. Preparing, especially socially, can help make sure your first day is the best day you’ll have for a while:
Remember something. Remember ANYTHING. Assuming you didn’t have your memory erased by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, surely you have some fleeting memory of your interview stored somewhere near the lyrics to Third Eye Blind’s entire self-titled album. Reminding your new boss about a promise made or a project discussed is step one of assuring your employer you are not a complete f*ck-tard.
Prepare for the things you lied about.
Interviewer: “So tell me about your Excel skills”
You: “I mean, I’m not saying I’m the Michael Jordan of Excel, but I’m at least Kareem, if you catch my drift.”
Also you: *No idea what a VLookup is*
Since you’re probably more like Brian Scalabrine you’ll need to polish those hard skills you embellished. A consummate bullshit artist never reveals his secret … until he’s called out in front of 3 other new hires, middle management and a cheeky intern who won’t let you live it down. Be prepared to unleash that skill that makes up 90% of the job description.
LinkedIn stalk people. Know their names. LinkedIn isn’t just for love. It’s time to put names to faces and scout your new squad. You wouldn’t walk into a rush event, gang initiation or Craigslist swingers party without knowing the key players and the same could be said for your employer. “Dave” and “Dane” who both interviewed you and couldn’t be more generic looking dudes straight out of an Eddie Bauer catalog would appreciate you acknowledging their respective, albeit lacking, individuality.
Be prepared to sit around. Useless introductions, your onboarding materials, tax forms and awkwardly explaining that incident that showed up in your background check should take just about 25 minutes. For the rest of the day, you’ll be expected to speak only when spoken to and stay out of everyone’s way. This means a lot of “you” time on the company dime. Only so much time can be wasted pretending you have a meeting to go to, asking what you can do to help and making sure you’re in compliance with the sexual harassment guidelines. So come prepared: ask your boss beforehand what “materials” you can read (er, stare at for 3.5 hours), get your Edward Snowden on in the files you have access to or just ask someone if you can “ride shotgun.” Whatever you do, don’t get caught Snapchatting a well-captioned, but edgy video of your first day.
Know the lingo. No, I’m not talking about “boil the ocean.” Your industry will inevitably have more jargon and acronyms than the average Starbucks barista lexicon. Your colleagues, fluent in “shop talk” will casually work these into everyday conversations next to words you’re proficient at. It will leave you feeling more out of place than a non-native English speaker anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon. But you’ll have done your due diligence: you’ve scoured Mr. Excel, Investopedia and your industries Wiki, unearthing a second language that will make you sound more intelligent than your degree would indicate.
But before you walk out the door …
Pick up those Lunchables you bought to bring for your first day. Now throw them in the trash. Sentencing yourself to the equivalent of corporate American solitary confinement by eating lunch at your desk is the quickest way to get demoted to the kid’s table. Find a lunch crew to go out with if your boss doesn’t take you out. Don’t be a social pariah.
Ok, so you’re ready to bust through that door (or walk through the automatic doors if you’re working at a startup). Now what? I’m glad you asked …
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson explained Day 1 the best: “Know your role and shut your mouth”
Don’t make yourself at home. Leave the fish-tank, pet rock and 37 alma mater chachkies at home … for now. Your cube mate might have had a bad experience with a goldfish in college and your boss might have been rejected from your prestigious university … but more likely than not you’ll just look like an idiot if individuality is more frowned upon than crop-dusting the boardroom (seriously, don’t do that).
Judge mercilessly. You wouldn’t go into battle without sizing up your opponent, would you? Your colleagues are American Gladiators and you are the average Joe entering their arena, vying for their piece of the incentive pool. You owe it to yourself to give your competition more than a once-over. Feel them out, feel out how others feel about them and most importantly start to build a mental list of who you should and should not be associating with personally and professionally.
“If Beatrice from accounting jumped off a bridge, would you?” Just because a group of hens is cackling about Amy’s pant-suit or the bro-y analysts are sizing up the intern class using the binary scale doesn’t mean you need to join in … yet. Office politics and gossip are nuclear weapons in your cachet of corporate weaponry. But with great power comes great responsibility. Avoid office politics, gossip and general bullshitting until you’ve honed your scouting reports and sharpened your spidey senses. They will be keys to your success (or failure) but let’s wait until after orientation, shall we?
We’re not saving lives here. Be zealous, but not overzealous. Hit the ground running, but stay the f*ck out of the way. No matter what your colleagues say, you’re more a hindrance to productivity than anything at this point.
Act your age. Time to put your big boy or girl pants on and be a real life human being. After the age of 21, age matters about as much as your vertical leap. You’re a goddamn adult, start acting like one. You should be able to hold equally engaging personal and professional conversations with everyone from the 18-year old mailroom high school drop out to the Ivy League educated CEO who doesn’t know your division exists.
Be the utility (wo)man. Your job and career will assuredly take form as you grow professionally. But for today you’re green, raw and malleable. Be everything to everyone. Don’t for a second think you are above “administrative tasks” and don’t you dare let me hear “that’s not in my job description.” As long as it isn’t illegal, it’s in your job description.
We’re not in college anymore. As a rule of thumb, trying to mash genitals with the first “office 7” you come across is frowned upon by the folks in Human Resources. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t find your work spouse by lunch time. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
Likewise, engaging in a proverbial dick measuring contest about who consumed more opiates at Coachella is probably a conversation best reserved for your college buddies over light beers and fifty cent wings. Sharing your war stories and showing your battle scars about when you were a stud QB or the guy in a Taylor Swift song is for another place and time. No one likes an Uncle Rico.
There is such thing as a stupid question. Don’t be afraid to ask a question, be VERY afraid to ask a stupid question. Your Nana might not judge a book by its cover, but your colleagues sure will. And if that book (read: you) says really dumb sh*t, it’s going to stick with you for a long, long time.
Play the part. Cops shoot bad guys, mechanics fix cars and business people, well they conduct business. The tools of the trade are company branded notepads and decade old laptops, and your weapon of choice is a ball point pen. I don’t care if you draw big veiny dicks or lose to yourself in tic tac toe, pretending (or this might come as a shock, actually) taking notes during seemingly meaningless conversations goes a long way towards you not looking like a complete waste of a signing bonus.
So I leave you with these parting words of wisdom as a friendly reminder for your first, last and every first day in between. There is a fine line between being valuable and riding in on your high horse with a plan to f*ck sh*t up. You’ll burn bridges that haven’t even been fully built. So watch, listen and do your best to use your inside voice … on the first day at least. Remember …
- Be mentally prepared for the reality that this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
- Do your homework so you don’t get schooled
- Smile, nod and don’t over do it … today at least
Since you probably won’t be getting an actual bonus this year, here’s an extra tidbit for day 2 and beyond. Don’t say I never gave you anything …
Keep your ear to the street. A hustler’s spirit is the only way to grind all the way to the C-Suite. Learn how the system works and learn how to win:
- How do people get promotions?
- What kind of projects get the best exposure?
- Who are the key players to have on your side?