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Conquer those first day jitters

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You aced the interview and landed the job. Now, as your first day on the job approaches, the jitters are settling in. We’ve all had them, but taking the time to prepare is key to feeling like an all-star rather than a rookie.

“It’s natural to feel some trepidation as you wade into uncharted territory,” says Kristen O’Connor of the Danforth Assessment Centre, operated by the Toronto District School Board. “You’re expected to multi-task, to go in with skills and to perform them immediately. The pressure is on today.”

Start fresh

If possible, take a few days off before you begin your new job. “You want to be fresh and clear, whether you’re finishing school or going from one job to another,” says Cheri Tredree of Manpower in Toronto. “Be prepared to be tired and overloaded on your first week. Take care of things like picking up your dry cleaning in advance so you can relax after work.”

Build on the information you learned for your interview. “You want to go in with knowledge about the company, its product line, what’s happening in the industry as a whole and how the company fits into that,” Tredree says. “Much of that information is available on a company’s website.”

Take the time to plan your wardrobe. And remember, this is not a good time to break in a new pair of shoes.

You’ll likely be taken on a tour of the company, so wear something comfortable. “For your first two weeks, you want to dress in your most conservative outfits until you figure out what’s appropriate,” Tredree says. “Your first impression lasts a while. Once you’re in place, you can show a bit of your personality.”

Arrive about 15 minutes early on your first day. “Someone’s probably assigned to show you around. You don’t want to keep them waiting by arriving late and don’t want to make them feel rushed by arriving too early,” Tredree says.

Be willing to learn. “Listen well. Even if you’ve worked in this field before, everyone runs things differently,” O’Connor says. “Be open to learning what they can teach you. Some people learn quickly. Some need to write it down. Know your learning style and be prepared, so you don’t have to come back continuously to find out how you’re supposed to do something. You may even want to write down people’s names and their positions.”

Be open to getting to know co-workers outside the office. “A lot of companies have sports leagues and opportunities to socialize,” Tredree says. “It’s a good way to bond with people, to get to know people in other departments and to show them you’re a team player.”

Be diplomatic, even if you’re less than happy with your job and the people you work with. “Never burn your bridges,” O’Connor says. “Many industries are very small. Most of us find jobs through networking. Continue to maintain the relationships you build through your jobs.”

Follow that same advice if asked about previous employers. “You don’t want to trash talk a previous employer,” Tredree says. “Try to stay out of office gossip and politics for as long as you can. That road goes nowhere.”

Eager to build your resume? Once you’ve got your assigned tasks under your belt, let your supervisor know you’re interested in new challenges in addition to your current responsibilities, O’Connor advises. “Develop the skills you’ve been hired to do as well as you can and build on those. The life skills and problem-solving skills often needed to get to the next level come with time, experience and exposure.”

Finally, look at each job as a stepping-stone. “They’re all learning experiences,” O’Connor says. “You’re learning important soft skills like time management, flexibility, adaptability and communication. Many employers look for soft skills when hiring because they figure they can teach hard skills like using a computer. But how you adapt and how you get along with others can’t be taught. Attitude is everything.”

First-day jitters

Worried about feeling like a rookie your first day on the job? Follow these tips:

Take a few days off to prepare before starting your new job.
Learn all you can about the company you’ll be working for.
Dress conservatively your first few weeks.

Be willing to learn. Ask questions and write down information.
Socialize with co-workers but don’t share too much personal information.

Master assigned tasks before asking for new challenges.

Have a positive attitude.

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