With another school year behind us, High Point University students are preparing to enter the workforce. For new graduates, professional careers or graduate school programs are their next step. For underclassmen, internship experience is the goal. No matter the class year, freshman to graduate, students should ask themselves, “How can I bring value and relevance to my job or internship?”
Career and Professional Development at HPU has compiled a list of ways to stand out, beginning the first day on the job. Although your first day can be nerve-racking and exciting, it is also an opportunity to convey the professionalism and competence that led to your hire. To shine from day one, follow these five keys to success:
1. Arrive early
Your first day is all about proving that you deserve to be there. You want people to know that your hiring manager made an excellent selection in hiring you. The first step in leaving a positive impression: show up early.
HPU recruitment coordinator Lindsay Kremer suggests practicing your route to work before your first day begins.
“If your route to get to and from your internship or job is unfamiliar, practice it,” Kremer says. “Always allow for extra time for unexpected traffic and delayed trains, so that you can still arrive early.”
Instead of showing up late, disheveled from the commute, you will be confident in knowing that you’ll arrive early.
2. Be presentable
You’ve heard the adage “dress for success.” Look professional, bring a padfolio and wear comfortable and appropriate shoes. However, being presentable also involves understanding the company culture. If everyone in the office wears suits, dress like them. If everyone shows up in slacks and button down shirts or skirts, blouses and sweaters, dress that way.
“Dressing appropriately demonstrates that you are organized, professional, and knowledgeable about the company culture,” says career advisor Elizabeth Walker. “It’s about conveying that you are the perfect fit for the role. One way to do that is by dressing the part.”
During your interview, you will have noticed the attire of the people who interviewed you. If you forgot to observe this detail, ask the human resources person before your first day. By being presentable on your first day, you give the impression of competence and fit – two qualities you want your colleagues to remember about you.
3. Come prepared for anything
Whether asked for an extra pen by a fellow intern or two forms of identification by the human resources department, be prepared for a variety of tasks and activities on your first day.
“Expect the unexpected,” says career advisor Eric Melniczek. “For example, on my first day at my first internship, I was asked to lunch and my boss asked me to drive. I had to go outside and take 20 minutes to clean out my car before we left because it was filled with stuff.”
Melniczek now employs this same strategy when working with interns. He believes it gives insight into the new hire’s preparedness and organization.
Also, pack a lunch that doesn’t require the refrigerator or microwave like a peanut butter sandwich, apple and chips. It sounds simple, but doing so allows for flexibility. You can be ready to eat at any time, whether the day is so busy you don’t have time for a break, or a colleague asks you to eat lunch with them.
Being prepared for any situation allows for the flexibility to excel no matter what task, challenge or activity arises.
4. Be ready to answer questions
The first day is an extension of your interview. It’s important to continue to convey professionalism and competence. Fellow interns, supervisors and colleagues will ask questions about your background and interests. Have your elevator pitch ready to give at a moment’s notice. You will be meeting many new people who will want to know about your professional experience and goals. Be prepared to answer questions about your experience and your interest in the company.
5. Be likable
From the first person you see on the elevator to the colleague who walks you out to your car, every person is forming an opinion of you. Make sure it’s a positive one. Act polite, thoughtful and interested in everyone you meet.
Career advisor Doug Hall suggests conveying humility, enthusiasm and an openness to learn.
“New hires’ approach to being successful in the workplace will require them to engage with co-workers and team members and take every opportunity to learn by maintaining a humble and teachable attitude,” Hall says.
Building a strong reputation within the organization starts the moment you set foot on the premises. When you head home from your first day, you want to ensure you have left a lasting and positive impression.