Tech Dreams Series | Preparing for Day One + Beyond

Jessica Rowen

June 2, 2017

Starting a new job is super exciting, but it can also be very nerve-racking. It’s very common to spend the weeks leading up to day one with thoughts of doubt. Take me, for example: I spent nearly three weeks freaking out before starting at gdR. And because I overanalyze EVERYTHING, my first instinct was to Google “tips for starting a new job”.

What I found was 88M+ results basically saying the same thing – be prepared; do your research, get your shit together the night before so the morning isn’t chaotic, blah blah blah… But I didn’t feel like anyone was telling it straight. So here I find myself, trying to articulate all the advice I WISH I had read.

First off, it’s okay to freak out – it’s a natural reaction to change. And let me tell you, imposter syndrome is a real thing. However, what I wish someone would have said to me (in between deep breaths) is that you are there for a reason. The person who hired you is a professional. They evaluated you based on your experience in comparison to their needs and if you would be a good fit for the culture the organization has developed. I can promise you that this wasn’t an easy decision and they certainly didn’t just blindly point to a name on their short-list. Now this isn’t to say that you don’t need to put your full effort forward, because you still have an impression to make.But those thoughts of “What am I doing here?” should be at ease  as your remember that they chose you for a reason.

Now that (hopefully) we’re freaking out a little less, let’s real talk about how to prepare for day one.

  • When you return all the required paperwork to your new hiring manager, ask them how to best get to know the people you’ll work closely with so that you can start to build the relationships you need to be successful at your new role right off the bat (e.g., informal chats likely). This is also a good opportunity to ask what the structure of the organization is (e.g., some companies have org charts, but not all!)  and people’s names & titles (e.g., most have a directory) so that you can get an understanding of reporting structures and who outside of your team will impact your role.
  • If you haven’t received all the details from HR or your new boss about where to go, who to ask, what time to come in etc – don’t worry. Just send a quick follow-up email to the HR person you’ve been working with to confirm.
  • Pack a few personal items that will help make your new environment (desk/office) more comfortable. It will make you feel better about the change with some familiarity around and it also is a great conversation starter. For example, I have a bunch of Star Wars desk buddies who I brought along on day one at gdR and my new colleagues immediately started chatting about what their favourite movie is. Thankfully not one of them said Episodes I-III or I may have ran for the door.
  • Other things to bring with you on day one are your personal ID and a copy of a void cheque, so that HR can seamlessly set you up for payroll and benefits. Oh and don’t forget a phone charger! We all know how it feels to be at 1% battery.
  • Don’t pack a lunch. Going out for lunch is a great way to get to know your new colleagues and new neighbourhood. You also never want to assume the new office have everything that your home kitchen would have.
  • Stand in front of the mirror and get all of the sentences that could start with “At my last company, we used to…” out. Unless you’re specifically asked about what your last organization did, no one cares.
  • Meditate or whatever you do to clear your mind, so that you are ready to actively listen. Your first day should be 90% listening and asking questions.
  • Make sure you’re up to date on any recent trends, events, or news in the field that you’re moving to. For example, if you’re heading to a data driven company where machine learning is huge, make sure to do your behind the scene research so you are prepared to contribute to the conversation.

Preparation will help ease the stress of day one, but remember that everyone in the history of day ones has felt the same way – it’s natural – so don’t be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day, if you’ve been actively listening and making a real effort to start building relationships, you’re on the right track!


So now you’re prepared for day one. Great! But I’m sure you’re also thinking, “WTH do I do when I actually get there and they ask me to do stuff?” Below are some tips to get you through day one and beyond.

  • Begin building a relationship with your manager. Talk with them about what the next week or two will look like. What are they expecting from you? Are you immediately going to be thrown into a project or will there be a period of time where you can learn and shadow or buddy up with other team members? Is there ‘training’ (e.g., systems, tools, product, etc.)? Managers are likely super busy, so if you’re not getting the time you need, partner up with a ‘friendly’ on your team.
  • Befriend the HR person. It’s their role to help you transition into the company seamlessly and they want to see that you’re successful. Remember that they were probably a key supporter in hiring you, so don’t underestimate their role now that you’re in the job.
  • Begin to build relationships with your team. Say hi to people, grab coffee, go for lunch, etc. Are there other people in the organization you’ve worked with before or know? Start building those relationships too.
  • Consciously think about what your role is in group discussions or meetings. Should you be listening? Are people going to be immediately looking for your opinion? Remember not to be overbearing or too opinionated. Backup your comments with data and facts where possible. Ask great questions and demonstrate a genuine interest in learning before you just start talking. Communicating with the team will become more natural and flowing over time, but it may take a bit to get there.
  • Once you have someone close on your team who you can trust, ask them how to best work with your manager if this isn’t clear already. Are there dos and don’ts?
  • Observe the culture. You’re now part of it and will play your small role in defining it (as culture evolves gradually with each new employee). If you’re there to help change a culture, be cautious of how you do this. Change takes time and should be done consciously based on a plan.
  • Don’t be the first person to leave the office. Don’t be the last person in the office. Get a gauge for the office hours and their flexibility to meet your preferred schedule.
  • Avoid your phone and social media, at least while you’re learning the norms in the office. There is nothing worse than having your manager or team members seeing you more focused on snapping or posting to Facebook.
  • Don’t complain about your previous job or colleagues. Negative commentary is typically never a good thing.

I’m sure your head is spinning after all the advice we just dished out, but I want to leave you with one last piece…

Be real. They hired you for a reason. Don’t try to conform, instead be adaptable.

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