There are times when I dismiss possible column ideas
because I think they are too commonsensical. I figure that everyone
has learned how to do the basics in their companies. Almost immediately after
such a thought, I am proven wrong, sometimes in dramatic fashion. You would
think that a company that hires thousands of people over its lifetime would
know what is involved in the process. Unfortunately, whether the company is
large or small, this doesn’t seem to be, Hence, this week’s column
addresses an issue important to many of you — how to have a great first
day at a new job. Feel free to pass this column on to friends in management.
Perhaps it will then become as commonsense as I once thought it was.
Ducks in a row
While you can only bring so much pressure to bear on your new management,
it will serve you well to do everything in your power to get your ducks in
a row well before your first day in the office. Once you officially accept
your new position, start the ball rolling immediately. You may need to gently
push and prod your new employers to this end, but the advantages, to you and
your employer, can be dramatic.
First, can you fill out any paperwork now, instead of spending most of your
first day engaged in the process? We all know that W-9, proof of citizenship
or green card and health care information need to be completed, why not do
it from the comfort of your home. You can then bring the paperwork in, completed,
on your first day.
Next, try to insure that you have an office/cubicle/workstation/card table
in which to sit the moment you arrive on Day 1. Nothing is more disheartening
to a new employee than having no place to put their bags. Having this space
pre-assigned and waiting shows that the company is well organized and wants
their workers to be productive from the beginning. Forcing someone to carry
their “stuff” around all day, moving from office to office is
simply rude, and ensures that the first day will be filled with frustration,
confusion and very little productivity.
After establishing a space for yourself, email, voice mail and a telephone
all your own are the next concerns. There is no reason at all why these accounts
cannot be setup, tested and functioning long before you ever set foot in the
office. It is certain that there will be people who will want to contact you
from the moment you walk through the door. Perhaps they want to forward you
some information about a big project you will be joining. Maybe you need to
have access to a group calendar so you can join the regular weekly meetings.
Perhaps your wife or husband needs to call to make sure you are having a great
first day…or to ask you to pick up the kids on your way home from work.
Finally, in order to take advantage of your email account and others, you
need to have a computer system, fully functional, with all the standard company
software, connected to the network and the Internet waiting for you when you
In my mind, having anything less than these crucial items makes any first
day a farce. You already have enough on your mind — greeting new co-workers,
finding your way around the office, settling into your space — you don’t
need the added stress of shuffling from person to person trying to figure
out how to actually get down to work.
Back up plan
There is no perfect work world, of course, so it is best to be prepared for
the eventuality of missing items from the list above. If you have a notebook
computer, you would be wise to bring it on your first day. You may not need
to use it, but if you want to check email or look something up on the web,
it could be the difference between getting something or nothing done on your
first day. If your email address isn’t set up, have your new co-workers
send the mail to your personal account for the time being.
Do you have a cell phone? Bring it along, too. This way you can take or make
calls without hunting down an empty office. You shouldn’t have to use
your personal equipment for more than a day or two, but it can really help
to ease the passage, especially if your new company is on the unprepared end
of the spectrum.
Do whatever it takes to be productive on your first day. Not only will it
impress your new employers, it will also make you feel good about your new
job. If you feel good on your first day, chances are that feeling will last
for a while. Push your new employers to step outside the usual disorganization
of an employee’s first day. As you can see, there are lots of ways to
make the day easier, and more productive, without taking a lot of extra effort
Book of the week: Soloing
by Harriet Rubin
here for Acrobat (PDF) Version of this column
about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys,
California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining
the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org