What to expect on your first day at a new job

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How you want to feel on day one at your new job: confident. How you might really feel: confused. Ease your new-hire nerves by knowing what to expect and setting some goals for what you want to achieve that day.

Five goals for your first day at a new job

When you accept your job offer, your new employer will tell you when and where to go on your first day. Now would be a good time to ask some logistical questions such as:

  • What are my work hours?
  • Is there employee parking?
  • Will I need to check in at a security desk?
  • Is there a dress code?

Review the route for your commute before your first day so there are no surprises. Aim to arrive early in case of traffic, transit or parking challenges.

Much of your first day may be spent in orientation or “onboarding” sessions with the human resources (HR) department or your manager. They’ll review company policies and explain how to fill out forms related to payroll and benefits. If your salary will be paid through direct deposit into your bank account, bring a void cheque to set that up (ask your bank to give you one). Find out the answers to the following questions:

  • What are my work hours?
  • When are lunch and coffee breaks and are they paid or unpaid?
  • When do I get paid?
  • Are overtime hours expected and how am I paid for overtime?
  • Is there a benefits package?
  • Is there a pension or retirement savings plan?
  • If I need to wear a uniform, does the employer pay for it?
  • If I need to buy work-related supplies, how does the employer pay me back?
Know Your Way Around

Your orientation may include a tour of the site where you’ll be working. Seek out the location of items important for your comfort, safety and ability to do your job, including:

  • Bathroom
  • Coffee or water station and lunchroom (if there is none, ask where employees go for breaks)
  • Supplies (including the printer/copy room if you’re in an office)
  • First aid station and fire escape route
  • Secure place to store your belongings
  • Supervisor’s office
  • Technical support
Begin Building Relationships

Start building positive relationships with your new supervisor and coworkers by greeting them with a smile and a handshake. Tell them you’re happy to meet them and to be joining their team.

Your coworkers will be a valuable source of information on how things work. If you need a conversation starter, ask how long they’ve worked there and if they have any tips to help you settle in.  See if your colleagues eat lunch together. If nobody asks you, take the initiative to invite someone to join you.

Ask if your workplace has an organizational chart to help you remember everyone. In some businesses, it’s easy to remember names because employees wear nametags (common in restaurants and retail) or have nameplates at their workspace.

In addition to your manager and coworkers, find out the names of your HR rep and union rep (if applicable) and how to contact them.

Know Your Responsibilities

You probably have a sense of the work from the original job posting but you’ll receive more details from your supervisor on the first day. If you don’t understand something, ask them to repeat or clarify the information.

Consider asking these questions if they apply to your workplace:

  • Is there a written job description or a checklist of my responsibilities?
  • Is there a manual I should follow for certain tasks?
  • Will I receive any training for this position?
  • Are there regular meetings I need to participate in?
  • How will the company evaluate my performance?
  • What are the company’s safety policies and do I need certain safety equipment?

Be aware that it is your right under Alberta law to say “No” to unsafe work. Your employer also has a responsibility to treat workers fairly as outlined in Alberta’s Employment Standards.

At the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society, our Pre and Post Canadian Workplace Training program provides newcomers with insights into workplace culture that could help you on your first day and throughout your career.

The Vancouver-based Skilled Immigrant InfoCentre also offers Canadian workplace culture tips on its website.

CIES Guides are a volunteer-led project made possible through contributions from the community.

Thanks to Jessica Whiteside for help with this guide. If you want to suggest a correction to this guide, or want to submit one of your own, please contact us.

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