In this series, manpower correspondent Calvin Yang offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.
Q: I am a fresh graduate and will be starting an office job next week. How do I survive my first day of work?
A: The first day at a new job can be scary.
Don't worry if you lose sleep the night before and get butterflies in your stomach when you step out of your home. It's probably normal!
That said, you may not want to show up at the office totally unprepared. Try to find out as much as possible about the work culture, dress code and the colleagues you are likely to work with.
It's a no-brainer that you should be punctual.
Better still if you can arrive 15 to 30 minutes earlier. This gives you more time to ease into your new work environment and set up your workstation.
Relax, smile and be friendly, even if you are not a morning person and don't feel like socialising.
Introduce yourself to your co-workers, including the office cleaner. A simple introduction will include your name, job title and work experience.
Mr Adrian Tan from the Singapore Human Resources Institute advises freshies to talk less and listen more.
As National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser suggests: "If I am assigned a buddy, I'd let him or her introduce me to the team, and observe and use whatever information I have to navigate the social landscape.
"I'd be pleasant and friendly, yet come across as authentic, and show that I am a team player and willing to learn and pull my weight."
When you have settled in and are done with the introductions, get some basic work done.
This includes knowing what you are supposed to do and reading up on past correspondences, says NeXT Career Consulting Group managing director Paul Heng, but "nothing serious as you are still new".
Also, if you are asked to join your supervisor or colleagues for lunch, don't turn them down. You probably won't have much to do on your first day anyway.
Use that opportunity to grasp your team's dynamics and get to know your fellow co-workers. Be prepared to ask questions, when necessary, to show your desire to learn.
After lunch - when you have gotten to know your colleagues better and once you are clear on your duties - let them know that you are available to help.
Studies have found that a worker who shows initiative and is a team player is highly valued by employers.
Ms Kirsty Hulston, regional director of recruitment agency Hays Singapore, says new workers should be proactive, find out what is expected of them, and be humble and learn as much as they can, "even during your training, even though it may seem like things you have already learnt previously".
When it is time to knock off work, check in again with your boss if there is anything you can assist with. Most likely, he or she will not have much work for you and may give you the go-ahead to leave.
That said, do not appear too eager to leave the office. Take your time to tidy the work desk, save your work and pack your work bag.
On your way out, acknowledge your colleagues and wish them a good evening.
The above scenario is probably the kind of drama-free first day that most people will want.
But life throws up surprises sometimes. Let's talk about two possible hiccups that you may encounter.
With remote work becoming common, your boss could be working from home on your first day. How can you find your way around?
Your boss might have assigned someone to help you ease into the job. If not, be proactive and check with him or her whether there are tasks that you can help with.
It would also be useful to ask if there is a colleague in the office who can guide you through the day.
What if you make a boo-boo on your first day, like spilling coffee on your colleague's desk or addressing your boss by the wrong name?
First, stay calm.
If you spilt coffee on your co-worker's desk, apologise for the snafu.
Then offer to clean up the mess or approach the office cleaner for help. It would be a nice gesture to get your colleague another cup of coffee to make up for it.
If you address your boss by the wrong name, simply be honest and admit your mistake. Apologise for it and move on.
If he has a difficult name to pronounce, ask him how it should be pronounced or if there is another name that he goes by.
Even if you feel things didn't go that smoothly, give yourself a pat on the back for surviving your first day of work.
Things will only get busier from here.
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