- Arrive early on the first day
Thinking of leaving the house ten minutes early? Add an extra ten or fifteen minutes to that. You do not want to be late on your first day. Lateness is among the worst first impressions you can possibly give. Allow yourself time to get your appearance in order, navigate constantly fluctuating traffic, secure a sweet parking spot, and find out where your desk actually is. Worst case scenario, you get there too early and wind up sitting in your car, flipping through your phone or the pages of whatever book you may have thrown in the passenger seat.
- Bring a book
You will probably have some downtime on your first day or two. You do not know what you are doing, your boss probably has yet to figure out what you are doing, and thus much of your time will be spent sitting and staring off into space. At least if you have a book, you can look busy whilst simultaneously keeping your mind off of how out of place you feel.
- Wear sensible clothes and comfortable shoes
If you are unsure about whether to go with a casual, dressy casual, or full-on dressy look, always air on the side of looking more formal than less. You will get an immediate sense of the office dress code after your first day and can adjust your outfit choices apparently. But it never hurt anyone to make an extra effort for that first day. Also, wear comfortable shoes. You will almost assuredly be walked around the office and displayed like a prized horse, and you do not want to be waltzing in on your second day covered in blisters.
- Make friends and do not alienate people
An office is kind of like high school with a bit of money thrown in. There will be people you like, people you do not like, people who like you, and people who would rather you had never been hired. This is the way of the world. But although a certain subsection of the office may not like your face, you must give them no real reason to dislike you. Be polite, be respectful, and remember that a smile can be the best form of armor you will ever own.
- Make extra special friends with the secretaries and the IT people
On a basic survival level, you need to be kind to anyone you might need help from. The secretaries are often the least respected people in the office given that they are at the bottom of the totem pole, but they control your meetings, your messages, and the office grapevine. Make sure you stay on their good side—always be friendly, never take your frustration out on them, and they will think well of you. The IT people are essential to keeping the office running, and those with eyes to see are always sure to be on good terms with them. If you need your computer fixed, you want to have a good relationship with the IT department. Otherwise, you could be waiting all day for tech support and will almost assuredly miss your deadline.
- That person in the office who hates you probably hates everyone else as well
There is always one person who is determined to be unpleasant. This is as true of the office as it is of life. And you may understandably think that their hostility is directed at you specifically, but generally that person hates everyone else along with you. Some people are just disagreeable by nature. Maintain your smile and your positive attitude. And whatever you do, make sure that you do not respond in kind. You will find that kindness is almost always the best response to hostility.
- Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself
People will push your buttons to see how serious you are. Hold respectfully firm. You were hired based upon your perceived ability to do your job. Understand that you still have much to learn, but never forget that you are capable. If someone pushes you, do not be afraid to hold to your principles. When in doubt, go to your boss for some subtle backup. People may push your buttons, but they are unlikely to push your boss’s buttons. And remember that although you do not want to make waves, you are entitled to be treated with the same respect you are showing others. If someone is being disrespectful on a continual and prolonged basis, a discrete word to your boss might be in order. Use your best judgment and do your best to diffuse the disrespect before seeking help from the mother/father figure of the office.
- Even if no one else likes you, your boss has to
Ingratiate yourself to your boss. They had enough faith in you to hire you—remember that faith and do all you can to live up to it. At the end of the day, your boss will decide whether you stay or go. Work hard for them and do everything humanly possible to make their job easier. Also, make sure your boss always looks good to their boss. Make sure your boss looks good to everybody, really. And never complain about your boss to anyone in the workplace—loose lips sink ships, and you do not want your ship to get sunk.
- Remember that all things take time
You will learn, you will get to know people, and you will grow to feel more comfortable—give yourself time. Nobody is expecting you to be perfect or to fit right in. But tolerate the initial awkwardness and you are sure to get better at your job and make a place for yourself. Do not put too much pressure on yourself to succeed right off the bat, and you will be more likely to bat above the average if you allow yourself some time to plant your feet and wait for the right pitch.