Working life

How to settle in at your first job

22 Jun 2023, 13:23

There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with a new job, especially when it is your first job. You’ll encounter new people, a new environment and a new set of responsibilities. We’ve put together a few tips to guide you through your first milestones in your career. Success during the early stages of a job is about balance – you want to make great first impressions, but you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything right. The goal is to learn about your new workplace and find your place within it.

Colleagues in an office

Professional qualifications

Many graduates starting work will have the opportunity to train for professional qualifications. This could be through distance learning or day-release and will involve assessment and exams accredited by a professional body. The business and finance sector is particularly noted for new graduates following specific professional exams, for example in accountancy, taxation, banking, marketing or human resources. Other more technical careers, such as engineering or surveying, also give the chance to study for a professional qualification. Professional qualifications allow access to your relevant professional body and the range of resources and contacts it offers for further career development.

Introduce yourself and be friendly

One of the major sources of anxiety in new situations can come in part from not feeling confident in how to introduce yourself. It’s a natural feeling – when you’re new, you don’t necessarily want to call attention to yourself. But in the first days of a new job, you also want your enthusiasm to shine through. So, find the timing that feels right and give a quick introduction to the people you don’t know yet.

If meeting new people is particularly important to you, you can enlist the help of others. Mention to your manager that introducing yourself is a priority for you and ask for a list of people you should get to know. In meetings, you could ask the organiser to give you some time at the beginning or end to introduce yourself.

Here are some ways to ease into your


  • Prepare your introduction; put simply, who you are and what your role is

  • Pay attention to your surroundings and other people. Don’t interrupt a meeting to introduce yourself or speak too loudly in communal spaces. As you’re introducing yourself, take note of how the other person is reacting. If they seem distracted, keep it short. If they seem receptive, you may want to get to know this person better. You can make a great first impression by making someone else feel heard.

  • Do your best to remember names. You can do this by saying the person’s name back to them and writing down a quick note about them when you part. Don’t get overwhelmed by needing to remember everyone’s name, though. If you forget someone’s name, honesty is the best policy: “I’m sorry, I’ve been taking in a lot of new information over the last few days. Could you remind me of your name?”

Ask questions, make them sensible

Research has consistently shown that new employees perform better when they ask more questions. By asking your leaders and peers for new information, you’ll get up to speed quickly.

But in your first week, you want to find the right time to ask questions. Here are some guidelines for how and when to ask:

  • Think about what you want to know. In some cases, you may need permission, while at other times you may need advice or validation. If you get specific, you’ll be better able to ask and less likely to waste time.

  • Prioritise the information you need. For example, if you can’t get your computer or access badge to work, that’s something you need help with immediately. If you’re not clear on the quarterly goals for your team, you can probably wait to talk with your manager about that over the coming weeks.

  • Write down your questions so you don’t forget. You can raise these questions during a one-on-one meeting with your manager. You should learn your manager’s preferences: do they want to be asked questions via email or in person? If you have a lot of questions for one person or group, consider setting up a meeting rather than stopping by their desk or office. In the meeting invite, you can list out the questions you have. This gives them time to prepare responses.

Make friends

Once you’ve made some introductions and have a sense of who you’ll be working with, ask a new colleague to lunch or coffee. It could be the person sitting next to you or another newcomer who started at the same time. Developing a trusted relationship will make you feel more comfortable as you’re getting to know this new workplace. In fact, research has shown that having social ties at work can make work more productive and more enjoyable.

During this first week, you may not find your best friend or develop a deep relationship with anyone. But seeking out someone you can relate to even in the short term will provide some needed stability.

Discover your new workplace

Locate the bathrooms, the coffee and water, the stairs and elevators, where you can eat lunch and take breaks, and seek out any other amenities this workplace offers. If you haven’t been given a tour, consider asking a colleague for one. In the early stages of your job, you may also want to experiment with your commute: finding the right times to leave home and testing different routes or transportation methods. Identifying and establishing the routines early on will give you peace of mind.

Most likely, your job was open and you were hired because there is a lot of work to be done. So, your main priority should be to soak up information, but consider challenging yourself to add value in ways big or small. Here are some ideas of where to start:

  • Ask your manager what one of their biggest burdens is. Once you know the answer, spend your first week thinking about how to lessen that burden. Don’t force it or step on anyone’s toes, but if there’s something you can do, do it.

  • Think back to your interviews. Was there a specific need that came up? Consider writing up a short proposal for how you would take on that challenge.

Nobody wants to work with a busy body, but they don’t want to work alongside someone who sits silently at their desk all day either. The reality is you will spend more time with your colleagues than you will with almost anyone else, so focus on making it enjoyable and productive for you and for them.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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