We don’t know where the time goes – one minute you’re a fresh-faced, wide-eyed 1st year exploring campus and trying to figure out how to get to the right lecture theatre, the next you’re flying the Aston nest and entering the big wide world of work *wipes away tears*. This can be a strange and scary time, so to help the transition from student to employee go smoothly, we’re sharing our top tips to help you settle into your graduate job in no time. Enjoy.
Before you start
Don’t make the mistake of pretending this whole job thing isn’t happening until the morning of your first day. Use the time you have between accepting the role and your start date wisely to make sure you’re fully prepared for your first day. Here are some suggestions of what you can do to get started:
- Get the key details. Sounds obvious, but make sure you know your start date and where you need to go on your first day. Is there a certain time you need to be in by? Who do you need to ask for when you arrive? Find these out and make a note of them all in your diary/phone. Trust us, you’ll thank yourself for it later when you’re having a last minute panic about whether your new manager is called Serena or Selena.
- Plan your journey in advance. We can’t stress this enough. Look it up on Google Maps. Familiarise yourself with public transport timetables and routes. Find alternative routes you may need to take if necessary. Think about what you will need to do if there are delays. It’s a really good idea to do a practice run if you can so you will know what to expect for the real thing.
- Research the local area. Moving to a new area for work? Do some research to help you settle in quickly. Some things you could look up:
- What’s the local area like?
- What are transport connections like?
- Where are the nearest cinemas/restaurants/bars/shops?
- Get your first day outfit ready. You will really want to impress on your first day, so take some time thinking about your outfit and lay it out the night before. It’s better to look too smart than not smart enough, so if you aren’t sure of the dress code, opt for staying on the smarter side – think black trousers, smart shoes and a blouse/shirt. When you start, you’ll be able to see what everyone else is wearing to get a feel for the expected dress code.
- Sleep well. Have an early night the day before you start. And please set an alarm. You really don’t want to wake up to missed calls from your manager because it’s 10.37am and you’re nowhere to be seen. Also, leave yourself time for breakfast beforehand. This way you won’t be at work yawning your head off with a growling stomach. Not a great first impression.
Your first day
This is it – the big day. You’ve taken our advice and prepped as much as possible beforehand. Now how do you have a successful first day? Well…
- Breathe. First day nerves are completely normal, but they’ll soon settle. Your first day will most likely be a day of introductions anyway (don’t worry, nobody expects you to remember all of those 50+ names you’re told right away) and getting a feel for what you will be working on, so don’t you fret – you won’t be expected to start holding important client meetings as soon as you walk through the door.
- Know what you’re doing for lunch. Now, this depends on how you feel. You might want to prepare something nice to look forward to so you don’t have the additional stress of finding somewhere to eat. Or, you might want to use this as an opportunity to get to know your colleagues – ask for recommendations of where to get lunch from or join the team for a trip to the work canteen. This can help you settle in much quicker and start to give you an idea of who you’ll be working with.
- Ask all of the questions.
Don’t be scared to ask your manager and colleagues things – your first days are about learning what you’re doing and getting used to the company. Nobody expects you to have all the answers right away. So fire away. Here are some important ones to get you started:
- Where’s my desk?
- What are you working on?
- Where are the toilets?
- Does anyone mind if I have the last chocolate chip cookie out of the biscuit tin?
- Plan something nice for the evening. Whatever floats your boat – whether that’s chilling out in front of your latest Netflix obsession with a soy chai latte in hand or going out for a meal with your bestie to dissect your first day – have something planned to look forward after the stress of the first day!
Your first day was a success – woohoo! So how do you make sure you continue to stand out for all the right reasons in your new role?
- Building relationships. Having strong relationships with your colleagues has so many benefits. It will make it easier and more enjoyable when you work on joint projects, you’ll feel comfortable approaching them for help and they will also know they can turn to you if they need support. But it’s not just about professional relationships – remember to chat to people about their days and their interests outside of work, even if it’s just while making a cuppa in the kitchen. These little interactions will help you go a long way.
- Be mindful of body language. Be aware of what your non-verbal communication is saying, as well as your verbal communication. For example, even a small gesture like standing with your arms crossed when talking to someone can give off a negative impression, so be conscious of how your actions could be perceived. Remember to make eye contact when talking to people and smile.
- Have a positive attitude. Nobody likes a Negative Nancy/Nigel who brings everyone else down. They just create an unpleasant work environment and cause tension. So to make sure you’re not one of these guys, avoid unnecessary complaining, being rude, taking your frustrations out on others, disrespecting colleagues, appearing arrogant and taking part in office gossip/politics.
- Act professionally. And not just in front of senior figures. It’s a good idea to stay professional in front of colleagues and other stakeholders (such as customers). This means using appropriate language and behaviour, and being a competent, reliable and respectful employee. So don’t be one of those people who arrives late and leaves early, misses deadlines, arrives late to meetings or doesn’t communicate clearly.
- Stay organised. You can’t expect to be spoon-fed in the workplace. So make sure you have everything you need to do your job (pens, notebook, favourite water bottle), listen carefully to instructions and make a note of meetings, key contacts and deadlines so you can keep on top of everything and manage your time effectively.
- Look for development opportunities. The learning doesn’t stop just because you’ve left university. Not only will self-improvement benefit you, it will also help your employer. So constantly be on the lookout for ways to develop both your technical skills (e.g. Photoshop skills) and soft skills (like decision making or leadership). This can be through books, in-house training, shadowing colleagues or professional bodies, just to name a few. Here’s another tip – ask for feedback from colleagues. Whether it’s positive or constructive, it will help you see what is or isn’t working.
- Get involved. Tackle all tasks with enthusiasm and embrace every opportunity that comes along, even if it’s outside your comfort zone. Volunteer to chair that meeting or get involved with that team’s project (if your own workload allows). Also, don’t just do as you’re told – got an amazing new idea for something? Share it! You never know, it might be just the sort of thing your manager was looking for.
And that’s it! Now you’re ready to go out there and smash it – we’re sure you’ll be utterly amazing in your new role. Don’t forget, you can still access our support for up to three years after you graduate, so give us a shout if you need us.
Written by Jodie Carpenter, Careers+Placements