Starting at your first “real” job can feel like a huge and intimidating leap. If you’ve just graduated, you probably feel completely out of place. You may be used to simply rolling out of bed and going to class. Even if you were an excellent student, the standards for how you dressed and interacted with your peers were a lot different from the professional world.
Regardless, while attire is definitely part of appearing professional in your new job, looking good goes beyond what you wear. You also have to know how to conduct yourself, what your supervisors are paying attention to, and how to communicate with your coworkers. If you’re just now entering the professional world, the learning curve is sharp. With some practice, however, you’ll be a pro before you know it!
Upgrade Your Transportation
If you don’t live in a city where public transportation is the norm, you’ll have to get to and from work in your own car. You’re not expected to buy a brand new Mercedes when you’re fresh out of college, but you should drive something that’s dependable and respectable. If you have to give your boss a lift one day, your car should be clean, neat, and smell good, and you don’t want to worry about it stalling as you’re sitting in traffic.
If you don’t have a decent car right now and you can’t afford to buy one outright, consider leasing a car for the time being. This can be especially helpful on international business trips. If you find yourself in Singapore for work-related duties, for example, leasing a car may be the best method of getting around — especially considering local laws regarding car ownership.
Dress for Your Future, Not Your Present
Today, professionals are allowed to dress more casually than in the past. However, just because everyone in your department dresses a certain way doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Instead of thinking about how to dress for your current position, what would happen if you dressed for the position you want to have one day?
No matter how casual your job may be, there’s always space for dressing up a little more than required. If you want to get a promotion or be in a position where you make presentations or attend important meetings, your supervisors have to look at you and think that you’d be a good fit for those roles. You have to look the part before you can have the part. If you pay no mind to your appearance, you’ll never know if that’s what’s standing in your way of moving up at work.
Bring Along the Essentials
You don’t want to show up to work on your first day without the essentials. You should have a notepad and pen so that you can jot down anything you learn, from people’s names to the job duties you’re responsible for. New jobs typically start with a lot of training, and you’ll want to keep thorough notes so you don’t have to ask the same questions multiple times. You’ll also have meetings set up with your new boss and HR, where you’ll be given important information to write down.
Additionally, bring along a few copies of your resume, your phone charger (so you don’t have to borrow someone’s), and enough food to keep your energy high in case you don’t know where to head during your lunch break.
Show Up Early
Your start time isn’t the time you should walk through the door; it’s the time you should be ready to start working. That means getting there a few minutes early to find the office, introduce yourself, and place your items on your desk before you’re given a tour of the workplace. If you’re not sure how long it’ll take you to get to work, do a trial run the day before to map out the best route. You can also use an app like Waze, which will tell you what time to leave based on your arrival time and current traffic conditions. Another tip for making a good impression at your first job is to stay a little later than required, even if only by a few minutes.
Navigate Work Lunches Like a Pro
If you’re invited to a work lunch, it can go one of two ways. It may be a casual lunch with your coworkers where you talk about your lives, or it could be a working lunch where there’s an agenda to stick to. Either way, you want to contribute something instead of remaining quiet, and the best way to get involved in the conversation is to ask questions.
At a casual lunch, you can ask everyone what they did over the weekend or if they have upcoming plans. At a working lunch, you’ll probably know the agenda ahead of time. You can plan one or two related questions for when there’s a lull in the conversation. Whichever type of lunch you end up at, a golden rule at business luncheons is to never check your phone.
You’ve Got This!
You’ve had first days before — in school, part-time jobs, and sports, for example — and you got through them unscathed, despite the normal jitters that everyone experiences. When it comes to your first professional job, it’s important to make a good impression from the get-go. Since you’re not quite sure what to expect once you get to work, focus on the elements you can control, like your familiarity with the company, the clothes you wear, and the type of presence you’ll have. By establishing yourself as a professional on your first day at work, you’ll set yourself up for career success well into the future.
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