What To Know Before Your First Day at Work

Dressing For Interview

College students starting out in the working world after years as students may be feeling apprehensive about about what lies ahead in the working world. Below, Carolyn Thompson, longtime executive recruiter and Managing Principal at Merito Group, talks about what college grads should know before their first day as a gainfully employed adult.

How can recent graduates learn about and adapt to the company culture of their new employers?

Lay low and observe the first few months.  Patterns will emerge and you’ll know what social norms you’ll want to be mindful of.  Don’t fall into a gossip circle too early.  Make a wide variety of friends across the organization to avoid being associated with people who may be on the out list.

When should recent graduates negotiate salaries and when should they refrain from negotiating? And how does an employee with little or no experience successfully negotiate his or her starting salary?

To negotiate, you always have to be ready to walk away.  You can’t change your mind and say, ‘well, ok, I’ll take it anyway.’  You can always ask graciously about review schedule and timing to determine if you would have to wait more than a year for a raise; that’s a great time to ask for more up front.

When should young employees speak up and when is it best to respect the company hierarchy?

Always respect the hierarchy, but don’t be bullied.  Realize you have a lot to learn about what makes a successful employee.  It’s not always the one who works the hardest, it’s the one who is best liked AND works the hardest.  Do your best to please your boss by asking what expectations they have so you can meet them.  State them back to make sure, “Just so I am clear, if I achieve X, that will not only meet but exceed your expectation on this project…etc.”

What should a new employee wear on the first day at work?

Dress for the next job, not the current one.  Consider what the boss was wearing when they interviewed you and use that as your guide

How can recent graduates use their fresh perspectives to improve their new workplaces?

Refrain from telling someone how to run their business until you have a full business cycle under your belt.  And don’t offer advice or thoughts unless asked.  Keep it to yourself; even if other people are discussing it, try to stay out of the gossip.

Any other advice for recent graduates just starting out in the working world?

Channel your enthusiasm to exceed your boss’ expectations, and if your boss changes, you need to ask them about their expectations.  Don’t assume because you are still in the same role that the new boss has the same objectives as the last one.