Module 04: On the Job Success

Preparing for Your New Workplace

Your first few days in a new job can be exciting, nerve-wracking or everything in between. It can feel like the first day of grade school all over again! You’ll meet new people, learn new tasks, routines, and absorb lots of new information. Doing all  this while also trying to create a positive first impression can be daunting. Self-awareness and planning ahead can help you feel more confident.

A man stands in front of a bathroom mirror brushing his teeth.

Preparing for your First Day
Before you begin your first day, be sure to check your job offer for any relevant instructions or find out from your manager or HR contact about:

  • Your hours of work and whom you report to
  • Whether working remotely is an option (This is often handled during the negotiation process)
  • Paperwork that you need to complete prior to your first day
  • Training required prior to your first day
  • Where you can park and if there are staff passes
  • How you access the work site and any security protocols
  • The company dress code and/or safety equipment required

If there are any other questions you have which will help you feel more confident or knowledgeable on your first day, feel free to ask. Good communication and a proactive attitude will help you set a positive first impression.


You’re getting prepared for your first day and you want to do everything you can to feel confident and make a good first impression on your employer and co-workers.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for your first day at work:

  • Read everything you can about the company: If you understand the company’s priorities and goals, you’ll be better able to contribute towards them and support your team’s goals.
  • Review the job description: Read over the requirements and responsibilities of the position and refresh your knowledge in any areas that may be weaknesses for you.
  • Plan your outfit: You should be able to get a sense of the company dress code from their website or social media accounts. Plan an outfit that is appropriate and have everything laid out the night before. If you’re unsure about the dress code, it’s generally better to be more formal than casual. Avoid heavy perfumes or scents as many workplaces do not allow them due to allergies.
  • Plan your route: Plan out exactly how you will get to work. If possible, travel the exact route the day before to make sure that your time estimates are accurate. You don’t want to be late on your first day, try instead to be 5-10 minutes early.
  • Get a good night’s sleep: You are more likely to do a great job when you’re well rested. Make sure that you get to bed early the night before.

What to Expect on Your First Day

You’ve done everything you can to prepare for your first day, but what can you expect once you begin? Everyone’s first day on the job is different – whether working remotely or on-site- but here are some common experiences new employees face:

  • You will meet a lot of new people and hear many new names. There’s a good chance that your manager or a co-worker will take you on a tour where they will introduce you to everyone.  Don’t worry about remembering all the names- there’s so much new information coming at you. Smile, shake hands and convey as much warmth as you can muster. First impressions count!
  • Not everything will be ready for you. Don’t become frustrated if your work area is not yet fully set up or if there are no orientation materials available. Try to be patient and flexible. Find alternative ways to get your work done.
  • People may want to get to know you. You might be a little overwhelmed at the beginning as co-workers express their interest in getting to know you. People may be coming at you with a variety of agendas. The best approach is to be friendly and open to everyone, while remaining observant. It’s also possible that employees may be withdrawn and not as friendly initially. Don’t despair- in all likelihood they’ll warm up as they get to know you.
  • You might be thrown into it. It’s not uncommon for employees to start performing their job on their first day. Ideally, you would receive training, but many companies don’t have the resources to invest a lot of time into training for some roles. As a new employee, you’re allowed to make some mistakes. Do your best and take initiative by asking questions or problem solving independently.
  • You will likely meet with your manager. Within your first week, you’ll probably have a meeting with your manager to discuss the responsibilities and priorities of your job. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions and demonstrate your eagerness to working hard.

Orienting to your New Work Environment

During the first few days, you’ll be learning and absorbing many aspects about the organization—including its values, priorities, structure, services—and about your manager and co-workers.  In many workplaces, you’ll learn this, in addition to your role, priorities and expectations, from your supervisor, a co-worker assigned to you or at a staff orientation.  Many employers are well aware that comprehensive onboarding programs from the get-go can help make new employees feel welcome and as if they belong and tend to lead to greater long-term satisfaction, improved job performance and retention.

However…don’t be disheartened if there is no formal staff orientation or no guidance from your supervisor or colleagues.  In this case – while is by no means an ideal situation- it will be up to you to proactively figure out how to do your job. Consult your job description, watch and learn from co-workers in the same role and ask questions.  If a colleague is open to having you job shadow for a day or two, that may be something you could request from your supervisor.


During the first week, sorting through the details regarding the following will help you settle in and feel more at “home” at work:

  • Pay schedule and process for submitting timesheets and attendance
  • Benefits and safety requirements
  • How to treat overtime or lieu time
  • Notifying someone if you are late or sick
  • Being allowed to take vacation or other forms of time off
  • Times and length of lunches, breaks and whether you’re allowed to leave the worksite
  • Location of the lunchroom, washrooms and any responsibilities in shared spaces
  • Location of mailboxes and supplies
  • Location of safety areas such as first aid stations, sanitizer stations, emergency exits, and the meeting area in case you need to evacuate your work area
  • Whether you can personalize your work area and what personal items are acceptable
  • Where to store personal items, such as your coat and bag
  • How to use the telephone, database or other systems
  • Information about relevant codes, passwords for gates, computers and/or printers, copiers

During your first few weeks

  • Introduce yourself to more people to get a better sense of how the office operates
  • Further familiarize yourself with company lingo and workplace customs
  • Clarify your responsibilities
  • Increase your company knowledge (mission, values, priorities, competitors, etc.)
  • If your workplace is unionized, feel free to reach out to a union steward, a staff member who represents the union members for your work area

Benefits of an Organizational Chart

There’s no magic map to help you orient to a new workplace, but an organizational chart may be the next best thing! Your employer may give you an organizational chart that shows who does what, where each person fits into the organization, and who reports to whom.

You can use the chart to:

  • Help you remember co-worker’s names and titles
  • Discover employee roles and how they fit into the organization
  • Learn about the type of work others do, and how it relates to what you do

Some organizational charts show everyone in the organization. Others only show people in upper management positions. If you are not sure where you fit in the organization, ask your supervisor to explain.

When you understand who does what, you get a better understanding of who you should go to for answers to your questions and approvals. This person is usually your direct supervisor.

Maximize your first year on the job

After several months, your manager and peers will expect you to be more confident in your role.  You may find it helpful to chart specific milestones over the course of your first year in order to stay on track.  Your plan can be broken down into 3, 6, 9 and 12-month blocks. For each block you should set up specific and measurable goals related to understanding and excelling in your role, meeting goals, developing industry knowledge and specific skills.   You’ll likely need to modify your plan as you progress as some factors may shift over time.

Meeting (and exceeding) the demands of your role is an essential aspect of workplace success.  However, don’t overlook the importance of relationship building with your team and other co-workers to build a positive reputation in your field. Technical or job-specific skills are only piece of your career success. Developing skills in collaboration and teamwork are also highly valued and essential to getting things done.


Ask three people you know to reflect and describe their first day at a new job. You could ask your friends when you’re hanging out, talk to your neighbor, someone in your household, or even ask an instructor. If you have had a full-time, part-time or summer job in the past, reflect upon your own experiences as well.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  1. What was your first day like?
  2. What are some things you did to prepare for your first day?
  3. What was unexpected?
  4. What tips do you have for me when I start my new job?

Summarize their answers and reflect on what their experiences and advice mean to you. Based on this reflection, answer the following questions.

  1. What can I expect on my first day?
  2. How can I prepare?

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