10 Things Not To Do On Your First Day of Work

By JC Cook

So you diligently crafted your resume, applied for that perfect job, killed it in the interview, and just found out that you’re hired! Is it time to celebrate? Yes! Is it time to start planning the future in which all of your dreams come true? Of course. But wait, there’s still that pesky first day to get through…

It should go without saying that you want to make a good impression on your first day, but did you know that many companies employ a ninety-day evaluation period. Yep, that’s right; even after all the hard work you’ve done to get hired, at ninety days it could have all been for naught! But that’s not going to happen, right? There are plenty of things you should do on your first day. Here's 10 things you should avoid. 


  1. Stay up late the night before. According the American Psychological Association, a lack of sleep can result in irritability and moodiness, not to mention impaired memory, and an impaired ability to multitask. In your first day you are going to be inundated with introductions, policies, and procedures— not the liveliest of things in their own right. Be sure that you gave yourself the advantage of a full night of uninterrupted rest.
  2. Skip breakfast. As much as you need rest the night before the big day, you also need energy for the day itself. Not only does eating breakfast make you more healthy— recent studies have shown that those who don’t eat breakfast crave higher calorie foods later in the day— it also fully fuels both body and mind. Those who don’t eat breakfast tend to experience more physical and mental sluggishness than those who do. Plus who wants to be embarrassed by a growling stomach in front of his or her new boss?
  3. Show up late. Obvious? Of course, but also more common than you may think. You never know how the morning commute will be, or if a freak snow storm will descend while you’re getting a full night’s sleep. Try to minimize the chance of being late by getting as much ready as you can the night before; iron and lay out your clothes, shine your shoes, make a lunch, check the weather, get that stubborn mustard stain off your pants! Lastly, if it takes you a certain amount of time to get to work, plan on twice that amount. At worst, you’ll be early, and early is never a bad thing.
  4. Dress to the minimum standards.  We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the one you want,” and while it may not be completely true, there’s some wisdom in the advice. We all wish that we lived in a world where books weren’t judged by their covers. Unfortunately, we live on Earth, and here, a first impression has as much to do with the visual as any of the other senses. As Neil Kokemuller of Demand Media states, “No standard or casual dress standards may make employees comfortable, but the point of professionalism and etiquette is to make others comfortable.” If your new work place asks you to dress “business casual”, show up in a suit, blazer, or nice dress. Don’t go crazy— a full tuxedo when all they require is a collared shirt, may be a bit of over kill— but dressing beyond the minimum shows that you’re professional and taking your new responsibilities seriously. You’ll have plenty of time to alter your dress after your first day, and choosing to dress down later is always better than having to do the opposite. Lastly (and obviously) your personal hygiene should be impeccable: shower, shave (if necessary), wash your hair, clip your nails. Be yourself, but give yourself the opportunity to show the best you.
  5. Show up acting like you know everything. We all want to impress people with our knowledge, but don’t overdo it. The fact is that every company is different, and even if you’ve worked in the same industry, that doesn’t mean that you know everything about your new company. Keep in mind that every company has a different business plan, different values, and different challenges. This is not to say that you won’t see things that don’t make sense to you, or that you can’t think of better ways to do things, but being overly vocal or smug about your opinions on these subjects may both alienate your co-workers and prove to be incorrect when given further information. Remember, when you belittle an aspect of your new employer, you’re belittling the people who have been working there since well before you showed up; keep an open mind.
  6. Talk too much about your old job. Just like your new boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t want to continuously hear about your ex, your new employer doesn’t want to hear an over amount about your old job. This is especially true when the comparison isn’t flattering to your new relationship. Try to only talk about your old job in the context of procedural clarity, i.e., “in my old job we did it this way, how do you do it?” Too much praise for your old place of employment will lead your new boss to wonder why you aren’t still there.
  7. Show up unprepared. Just like you researched your new employer before your interview, do it again, but go deeper. Who are their competitors? What is the general demographic of their client/customer? Are they part of a huge, multinational conglomerate, or started by two people in a garage? Do they have shareholders? The more information you have on your new place of employment, the easier it’s going to be to become a part of it and make a difference.
  8. Be inappropriate. Jokes, off-color comments, vulgar language— these should all be heavily avoided. You are in a new environment, with people you’ve never met; be sensitive to the fact that you don’t know their values or what may offend them. You’ll already be spending most of your first day in human resources, just make sure you’re there to fill out new hire paperwork, and not for a reprimand!
  9. Be afraid to ask questions. While there are such things as stupid questions, you won’t know which ones they are until you ask them. The simple fact is that you will be bombarded with information on your first day, and if you don’t ask questions when you don’t quite understand, then you won’t remember it at all. Asking questions and getting clarifying answers allows your brain to build more neural access points to the information, making it easier to remember it later. Do yourself a favor and ask immediately when you don’t understand something, it’ll be a lot less humiliating than to ask it later when they’ve assumed you already knew.
  10. Be intimidated. We’ve journeyed through a ton of don’ts up to this point, and this could have you jumping at your own shadow or questioning your every word. But remember: they chose you! Amongst all the other applicants, through all of the other interviewees, it was you who shown the brightest! You will not know what you’re doing at first. You will make mistakes. It’s okay. The only way to learn is not to know, just like the only mistake is one you don’t learn from. You have what it takes, so get in there and prove your boss right for hiring you!

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. To find out more about WGU’s online degree programs, please visit our website at www.wgu.edu

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