A new job means new possibilities. It also means getting used to a whole new universe: new colleagues, new surroundings, and new expectations. You’ll want to get off to a positive start—which comes down to having the best first day at work.
First-day expectations vary depending on the context. Gig jobs are different from full-time work, and remote work is another thing altogether. Whether you’re reporting to the warehouse, the office, or the digital workplace, getting off to a good start is essential.
Of course, crushing the first day can sometimes be harder than it sounds. You’re probably wondering how not to be nervous on your first day. Well, it’s not always easy—but it is doable.
Maybe you can’t sleep the night before your first day of work, or maybe you’re envisioning everything that could go wrong: dead car battery, broken machinery, or forgotten first names. When your imagination is in charge, all sorts of disasters seem to be right around the corner.
But here’s the thing: It’s totally normal to have nerves or anxiety for your first day of work. After all, you’re only human! The good news is: you don’t have to let that nervousness throw you off your game.
You can start your new job with confidence and hit the ground running. It just takes a bit of strategizing.
Here’s our ultimate guide to having a great first day at work.
Table of Contents:
- What’s expected of you on your first day of work
- How not to be nervous for your first day of work
- First day of work tips
- 18 affirmations for your first day of work
What’s expected of you on your first day
Before the first day of work arrives, it can feel like a giant mystery. What will it be like? What will you do? Most importantly, what will be expected of you?
No matter where you work, there are three main expectations you can count on:
- That you come prepared
- That you have a positive attitude
- That you’re 100% willing to learn
But how do those expectations manifest themselves in the workplace? That’ll depend on the type of job you’ve taken.
Full-time worker first-day expectations
For full-time workers, the first day is all about laying the groundwork for long-term success. Do you need to produce your best work right away? Should you have solved a major problem by the time the day is through? No and no. You should have met the people and learned the information that will help you produce and solve problems in the future.
Some companies have orientations. Others just throw you into the deep end. Either way, you’ll be expected to work your own way into the company’s workflows. You can do this by asking questions—and listening carefully to the answers.
Remote worker first-day expectations
Like all full-time workers, remote workers should spend the first day meeting teammates and learning workflows—but there’s an extra emphasis on communication. How do people interact? What platforms do you need to be checking daily? You’ll be expected to have these answers sooner rather than later.
The first day is also the time to overcome any technological glitches. “Sorry, my camera is acting up,” draws a chuckle on Day 1. On Day 10, it’s more likely to draw a groan.
Gig worker first-day expectations
As a gig worker, you’ll probably be expected to do meaningful work on your very first day. After all, you’re only with the company on a short-term basis, and they’ll want to get plenty of bang for their buck.
That doesn’t mean they won’t give you some on-the-fly training. If you’re working directly with a manager, you can expect them to show you around and explain your responsibilities. If you’re working independently through an app, you should be able to contact worker support.
It can be stressful to know you have to jump right into things—which is why it’s so important to come prepared. You won’t be expected to know everything about the new workplace, but you will be expected to bring everything you need. Is there a uniform? Then make sure you’re wearing it. Are certain pieces of equipment required? Check twice to make sure you have them.
With all the necessary supplies and a willingness to learn, you’ll have no trouble meeting first-day expectations.
How not to be nervous for your first day of work
The short answer? Be prepared. You can’t be ready for every possibility—but you can be ready for as many as possible.
Preparation isn’t just about maximizing your performance. It’s also a great way to overcome those first day of work nerves. When you know you’ve been diligent about covering all the bases, your worries will fall away.
But what exactly does preparation look like? The details will depend on your particular workplace, but some things will help no matter where you work.
Take care of what you can ahead of time, and you’ll set yourself up for first-day success.
Get enough sleep
Competence produces confidence—and you’ll be more competent on your first day if you get plenty of sleep the night before. Studies have proven that quality sleep leads to improved brain function. That means a late night could leave you feeling groggy, which is hardly ideal for a first day of work.
So the obvious advice is to avoid staying up late the night before your first day. But what if you want to go to bed early and just can’t fall asleep?
Insomnia is normal when you’re stressed or nervous, but you don’t have to accept a sleepless night. You can promote sleep by:
- Avoiding caffeine – especially later in the day
- Avoiding exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime
- Creating a bedroom environment that’s cool, dark, and comfortable
- Avoiding large meals at night
- Setting aside some time to relax before bed
Fuel your brain and your body
When you’re caught up in the nerves and excitement of your first day at work, it’s easy to forget about fueling your body. This is a big mistake. You need nourishment to keep you going. That’s why you should plan to eat healthy meals and drink water throughout the day.
Eating healthy isn’t just a long-term strategy. It can also give you an immediate energy boost. Evidence shows that eating nutritious foods can improve your cognitive performance. That’s right—just packing a healthy lunch can make the difference between solving a difficult problem and falling hopelessly short.
Start your day with a healthy breakfast, even if you’re not normally a big morning eater. Then, bring along a lunch that will fill you up without making you groggy. That big, greasy hamburger? It sounds delicious, but leave it for the weekend. For your first day of work, consider something with lean, healthy protein, like grilled chicken with salad or rice.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of a healthy snack. Easy options include:
- Dried fruit
- Apples with peanut butter
- Greek yogurt
- Carrots with hummus
- Avocado toast
- Hard-boiled eggs
Then there’s hydration. Experts recommend drinking over 2 ½ liters of water per day. Bring along a bottle and sip from it when you can. It’ll help you stay focused, which is just what you’ll need during your first day.
Plan & practice what you’re going to say
It’s a big question, and one that’s not always easy to answer: What should you say on the first day of work?
Should you be open and chatty or serious and reserved? Should you make a point of being as social as you can? Or is it better to keep your head down and stay busy?
Honestly, the answer to these questions is simple: Just be yourself. Don’t force a chattiness that doesn’t come naturally to you, but try to make connections in a way that seems appropriate.
So being yourself is good, but it’s also worth thinking strategically. The best workers and leaders know how to be authentic while making conscious choices about self-presentation. It sounds like a tricky balance, but you can pull it off if you think about it ahead of time.
The first order of business is to consider how to introduce yourself. You’ll be meeting a lot of new people on the first day, probably people who you’ll be working closely with. Making a great first impression can set you up for long-term success.
The style of your introduction will depend on your workplace. Is the place more formal? If so, keep your introductions basic, focusing on your name and role in the company. Getting more laid-back vibes? Feel free to be a little personal by mentioning a hobby or a fun fact.
It’s also important to make sure you’re meeting the right people. If you go through an orientation, somebody should put you in contact with the colleagues you’ll be working most closely with. If this doesn’t happen, take the initiative and ask around for your new teammates. Not only is it vital that you build a positive relationship with these people, but your eagerness to make connections will show everyone that you mean business.
Once you’ve completed your self-introduction on your first day of work, send follow-up emails to further develop key relationships. Your messages don’t have to be complicated. A simple “nice to meet you, and I’m excited to work together” will do. This is especially important if you’ll be doing full-time work in an office setting.
Asking questions is essential if you’re going to have a great first day at work. No, you don’t get extra points for pretending to know what you’re doing. Of course you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s your first day!
First-day questions can help you:
- Learn more about the work environment
- Fully understand essential procedures
- Avoid unnecessary mistakes
- Build confidence in your new role
- Show your colleagues that you’re eager to learn
But what exactly should you ask? That, of course, depends on the workplace, but there are some basic questions that can work almost anywhere.
To really make the most of your first day, you’ll have to ask questions beforehand. Then, follow up with meaningful questions to colleagues and managers once you’re at your new workplace.
Questions to ask before your first day of work:
- What is the company’s mission?
- What is the company’s vision?
- What else should I know about the workplace culture?
- Who should I report to?
- What are my essential daily tasks?
- What are the expectations for my working hours?
- What are the policies around lunchtime/breaks?
- What is the management structure of the company?
- Is there a dress code or uniform?
Questions to ask on your first day of work:
- What tools are available to me?
- What’s the preferred method of communication?
- Who will my teammates be?
- Who can I expect to work closely with?
- What advice can you give me so I work more efficiently?
- How can I be most helpful around the workplace?
- What can I read to learn more about the skills I’ll need here?
- What are some of the best things about working here?
- Are there professional development opportunities?
Questions to ask your manager on your first day of work:
- What are your expectations for my first 90 days on the job? (for full-time work)
- Are there evaluations? And what do they look like?
- What’s the best way to share my ideas?
- How do you measure success?
- How often should I provide updates?
- Who should I report to if the manager isn’t around?
- What are the biggest challenges I’ll face in my position?
- What training or professional development opportunities does the company provide?
- How often will we have meetings?
Whew. That’s a lot of questions! But don’t worry. You don’t have to ask all of them on your very first day. Just make sure you stay inquisitive!
The road to success is paved with intelligent questions.
Bring the right stuff with you
We’ve all had that nightmare: the one where you show up to some important event, only to realize you’re not wearing pants. You probably don’t have to worry about that particular faux pas on your first day of work, but the dream is so common for a reason. Forgetting things is a common mistake. Luckily, it’s also one you can avoid with preparation.
The key is to plan ahead. Make a mental list of everything you’ll need, or better yet, make a physical list. Writing things down can boost performance, and on your first day of work you’ll want all the help you can get.
Your list will depend on the details of your job, but there are certain staples practically any worker should bring. You can start with the basics, then add items that are unique to your job or your personality.
Pen and paper/notepad
Coworker’s names. Login credentials. Upcoming meetings. You’ll receive a lot of new information on your first day, and you’ll want an easy way to jot everything down. Taking notes also shows people that you’re serious about learning on the job.
Unless you’re 100% positive that there are quick-and-easy dining options around your new workplace, you should plan to pack a lunch from home. First days are tiring, and you’ll need to refuel. Taking a healthy lunch ensures that your mind and body get their midday pick-me-up. If you’re working remotely, don’t bet that you’ll be able to spend time cooking. Make sure you’ve got something healthy ready to grab from the fridge.
The last thing you want on your first day is to start feeling “hangry.” You’ll probably be super busy, and you might not get a lunch break as early as you or your stomach would like. That’s why it’s best to have some healthy snacks within reach.
Dehydration is one of those things that makes other problems even worse. Tired? Stressed? Anxious? All those evils are worsened by dehydration. Luckily, this is an easy problem to prevent. Just bring a water bottle along, or several if you think a refill could be hard to come by. A sports drink could also be useful – especially if you’ll be doing physical labor.
Workday snacking is essential, but it can leave your breath a little interesting. Any sort of mint, whether it’s hard candies, chewables, or that fun little spray—will allow you to discreetly keep your breath at its freshest.
No need to go into details here. It’s your first day, you’re nervous, and so a physical effect is almost inevitable. No big deal. Just come prepared, and you’ll have no problem dipping into the bathroom to freshen up.
You might need to bring certain documents with you to complete the hiring process. Common requirements include a proof of address, a social security card, and tax documents like a W-4. Check your correspondence to see exactly what you’ll need.
Your new employers might want to set you up with payroll on the first day. Even if you’re not sure, it can’t hurt to bring some basic information from your bank, including a voided check.
Setting you up with payroll could require an official form of identification. It might not be necessary, but take along a passport, driver’s license, or “Real ID” just in case.
A cell phone will be handy for setting your agenda, looking up information, and adding your new colleagues’ contact information. Just remember to turn the phone to silent. It’s never fun to be “that person” whose phone goes off in a meeting, but it’s even worse on your first day.
Sweater or jacket
Even in warm weather, your workplace could be cool depending on the climate control settings. There’s no sense shivering through your first day, especially when feeling comfortable could make you more confident. Just make sure the outer layer is professional and goes with your uniform or first-day outfit.
When you’re alone, a sneeze is totally innocuous. But when you’re surrounded by new people on your first day of work? It can be a disaster. That’s why you’ve got to have tissues within reach.
A genuine smile
This is the most important item of all! Well, it’s technically not an “item,” but you get the idea. If you come with a positive attitude—and the smile to show it—you’ll lay the foundations for a strong relationship with your new colleagues.
Dress the part
Clothes matter. They tell other people what you’re all about. More importantly, they tell you what you’re all about. When you dress for success, you send subtle cues to yourself and the people around you, cues that say, “I’m competent, I’m confident, and I mean business!”
It’s always important to consider your work outfits carefully, but it’s especially important on the first day. This is when you’ll be making those first impressions, and first impressions really do stick!
So, wondering what to wear on the first day of work? It depends, of course, on the nature of your new workplace. You wouldn’t show up to the office in work boots or to the warehouse floor in a blazer.
That said, you should always err on the side of more formal on your first day. If your workplace has a dress code, look at it carefully, and then choose a first-day outfit on the nicer side of the spectrum. If you don’t see a stated dress code anywhere in your correspondence or materials, just ask someone at the company.
When looking at the dress code, you might see terms like “formal business” or “business casual.” Those seemingly vague phrases actually come with pretty strict expectations, and you’ll need to have these expectations in mind when considering first day of work outfit ideas.
First day of work outfits for formal business attire could include:
- Solid-colored button-down shirts
- Dress slacks
- Dress shoes
First day of work outfit business casual could include:
- Polo shirts
- Dress shoes
- Dress slacks
- Jeans (usually in a darker color. Ask first!)
Ah, and that leaves one more all-important question: What’s the best color to wear on the first day of work?
There’s no single answer, of course, but navy blue is probably your best bet. It’s said to convey professionalism, which should be the top priority on your first day.
Confirm the details beforehand
It’s always a good idea to check in with your new employer before your first day of work. After all, you want to make sure you’ve got all the details straight. Also, it’s always nice to remind them that you’re coming.
You can accomplish this check-in with just a single email.
Remember, your goals are to:
- Show that you’re excited for this new opportunity
- Confirm your start date
- Ask other questions (about the dress code, parking, paperwork, etc.)
- Sign off in a friendly (yet professional) manner
Sample email confirming first day of work:
I am excited to start working with you in the coming weeks. I am writing to confirm that my start date is May 17. I have read through the documents you sent me, and I am prepared to get right to work in my new position. Please let me know if there are other steps I should take before my first day.
I also wanted to ask a few questions. First, is there a dress code in the workplace? Also, is there parking available by the office?
I hope you are having a great week, and thank you again for this incredible opportunity.
You can adjust this template according to previous communications with your new employer. Have you already developed a more casual tone? Then considered swapping that “Dear ___,” for a simple “Hi ___!”
First day of work tips
So you prepare diligently, you manage to get some sleep, and then the moment arrives. Your first day of work is finally here!
First of all, take it easy. The stakes probably aren’t as high as you think they are. After all, you’re not the president of the United States! A new job is a big deal, sure, but this one day won’t define the rest of your life. Go easy on yourself.
Lean into the joy of interacting with the new people around you.
Make connections. Smile. Laugh.
Remember—they’re human, just like you.
But what else is there to do on your first day of work?
Well, that’ll depend on your work environment. Here are some tips for different types of workers.
For office workers
- Be punctual. You should always arrive on time for your first day.
- Dress professionally and appropriately for the company culture.
- Bring any necessary documents or paperwork with you.
- Take the time to introduce yourself and get to know your colleagues.
- Ask questions and actively listen to learn more about the company and your role.
- Be open-minded and willing to learn and take on new tasks.
- Be appreciative and enthusiastic about starting your new job.
- Get to know the company culture, mission, and vision.
- Familiarize yourself with the office layout and the location of necessary facilities.
- Review the company’s policies and procedures.
- Learn about the company’s organizational structure and who your key contacts are.
- Understand the company’s products, services, and target market.
- Get to know the company’s communication channels and protocols.
- Take note of important dates and deadlines, such as meetings and project milestones.
- Learn how to access and use any necessary tools and technology, such as company email, software, and databases.
- Make sure you understand what is expected of you and your role in the company.
- Get to know your team, their roles, and how to work together.
- Be accepting of norms and expectations that are different from your previous workplaces.
- Take the time to understand the company’s workflow and processes.
- Find out what resources are available to you, such as training and support.
- Make sure you understand the company’s performance metrics and how you will be evaluated.
- Be proactive in seeking feedback and learning opportunities.
- Be respectful of your colleagues and maintain a positive attitude.
- Be open to constructive criticism and use it to improve.
- Be flexible and adaptable, as the first day is just the beginning of your journey with the company.
For remote workers
- Get your home workspace in order for a productive first day.
- Set aside a permanent workspace that will help you get in the zone.
- Make sure all your essential technology is up and running as it should be.
- Make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need, such as pens, paper, a cell phone, and your laptop charger.
- Let the manager know you’re online and ready to begin.
- Check in with your new colleagues so they know you’re available to collaborate.
- Introduce yourself by describing your role in the company.
- Ask around to see what the preferred methods of communication are.
- Take notes as you learn who prefers what method of communication.
- Schedule remote meetings with your most important teammates.
- Reach out to your boss so you can clarify daily expectations.
- Ask how you can expect to receive feedback on future projects.
- Start strong by adhering to your personal work-from-home routine.
- Get yourself into the work-zone with some morning rituals – like a brief moment of meditation or even just a hot cup of coffee.
- Dress for a successful work day – even if nobody will see anything but your head.
- Review any onboarding material you have at your disposal.
- Take plenty of breaks away from the screen so you stay fresh and focused throughout the day.
- Take advantage of the flexibility that remote work affords.
- Err on the side of over-communication, reaching out whenever you have a question or concern.
- Be prepared to change your communication strategies to match the preferences of your new colleagues.
- Ask how often you’ll be expected to check in.
- Be observant, always noticing the ticks and habits that define the company culture.
- Ask your colleagues to give you tips for navigating your new virtual workplace.
- Show appreciation to your new colleagues by thanking them for the first-day support they give you.
- Don’t beat yourself up for first-day mistakes.
For gig workers
- Make sure you’re following the dress code for your particular gig.
- Charge your phone, especially if you’ll need access to an app.
- Make sure your car has plenty of gas if you’ll be driving for your gig.
- Plan your travel route ahead of time so you don’t get lost.
- Leave early so you’re sure to arrive on time.
- Try to arrive early – giving you plenty of time to get yourself 100% ready before the actual start of your shift.
- Look for check-in instructions that you may have received ahead of time.
- Make a point of introducing yourself to the manager as soon as you can.
- Ask your manager exactly what the expectations are for your daily tasks.
- Confirm that you understand the methodology for recording your work hours.
- Pay close attention to any instructions you receive.
- Ask questions whenever there’s a doubt or concern.
- Make connections with other gig workers who can help show you the ropes.
- Make sure you understand the procedure for checking out at the end of the workday.
- Try to keep your energy levels up until you’ve left the workplace.
- Keep a positive attitude and smile at colleagues and clients.
- Ask for feedback to show your eagerness to learn.
- Ask about future job opportunities, especially if you’re interested in turning a part-time gig into a full-time career.
- Make sure you find time for short, restful breaks.
- Look for opportunities to improve your skills and ask if there are training opportunities available.
- Feel free to double-check whenever you’re not sure you’re doing something correctly.
- Be appreciative and thank colleagues who take the time to answer your questions.
- Pay close attention to how much you’re actually earning so you can compare the gig to other jobs.
- Keep your own records of your working hours.
- Reflect carefully on your first shift so you can decide whether the gig is something you’d like to continue pursuing
18 affirmations for your first day of work
Positive affirmations can help your subconscious mind get the confidence it needs. This isn’t just some silly exercise. Experts say it really works!
Here are 18 affirmations that can help you gear up for your big first day:
- I am good enough.
- I am always learning.
- I try my best.
- Every moment is an opportunity for me to succeed.
- I am my power.
- I was hired because I can do this job well.
- I believe in myself.
- My challenges are my opportunities.
- I once dreamed of today.
- New faces can be new friends.
- I’m my own biggest supporter.
- Today is the first of many days that I can prove myself.
- I receive what I put into the world.
- I’m doing, I’m learning, I’m growing.
- I reach for better.
- I support myself.
- Asking for help makes me courageous, strong, and efficient.
- Tomorrow is a new day.
Starting a new job is nerve-racking for sure, but it’s also oh-so-exciting! With every opportunity comes new possibilities, and there’s no telling where this next chapter could take you.
Don’t overthink your first day of work. Just prepare properly, and then let it roll.
Remember, you got this job for a reason. You’re competent. You’re capable.
This new job is just sitting there, waiting for you to crush it.
Happy first day of work!
About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.