Getting Started Office and Admin

5 Major Don’ts for Your First Day of Work

Written by Miranda Pennington

We talk a lot around here about how to land that dream job, but maybe we need to spend more time on what to do (or, more specifically, what not to do) when you get there! Here are 5 major don’ts for your first day of work.

1. Don’t Hunker Down At Your Desk

You’ll probably get a cursory tour after the HR presentation or corporate orientation. If you’re lucky, it’ll be from a colleague you can ask honest questions of; if not, it’ll be a busy receptionist trying to get back to her desk and hoping you’ll find your way back to yours on your own. Whether you get the scenic version with lots of introductions or have to take a deep breath and introduce yourself to the row of cube denizens across from you, make sure to actually make a first impression—ideally one that comes with a firm handshake and a clear statement of your role.

2. Don’t Begin with an Attitude

At my last office job, a couple of our new hires were bright and chatty in their interviews, but as soon as the daily grind set in, they developed sulky attitudes that were almost adolescent in nature. Even if elements of the office or the colleagues irritate you, make sure that is not apparent to everyone from day one! Focus on gratitude, opportunities for the future, your eventual paycheck, and networking opportunities—not the real estate, the latest gossip, or whatever you’re finding unappealing.

3. Don’t Immediately Request Time Off

Depending on your office, you may have to accrue leave before you can take any. If you had already planned a family trip six months before you even interviewed, it’s often okay to request a starting day that accommodates your plans when you accept the job. But once you start, you need to stick around! Modify your personal schedule whenever you can, don’t make those “I finally have insurance!” doctor’s appointments until after your first 90 days.

4. Don’t Violate Workplace Protocols

This can refer to both the official social media guidelines and break policies or the unofficial status quo of the office. Unless you were hired to shake things up, take a little time to learn how they handle projects and assignments before you propose a different way of doing it (even if you think it’s faster or more efficient).

And then there’s the no brainers like wearing a strong scent, bringing an odiferous lunch, spending the day on your phone, or engaging in any kind of inappropriate banter with colleagues you’ve just met.

5. Don’t Ignore Your Boss or Superiors

This is one problem I’ve never had—my first few days, I err on the side of needy, if anything (this is also not good really; figure out who your immediate supervisor is and check in with them instead of your actual “boss” for small questions). Make sure you greet everyone you’re introduced to with a friendly smile, ask polite versions of “What do you do here?” like “Will we be working together?” or “I’m sure we’ll cross paths” if you’re not sure.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.