Entering the workforce: first job tips

How to succeed at your first job out of college

first day at new job

Your first job after college is a huge milestone, and you'll have quite a bit to think about.

Demonstrating an eagerness to learn and making a good impression can have a major impact on your career. You’ll be more likely to draw the attention of mentors who can help you along, and to acquire skills that will be useful now and later.

Here are some tips that'll help you in every step of your first job out of college:

Your first day at your new job

On your first day, you may not do much work related to your position. There will likely be administrative things to finalize, including filling out employment paperwork, setting up your computer and workstation, or getting a company ID so you can access the building. Be sure to bring along your Social Security card and a piece of photo identification; your employer may need this information for your paperwork if you haven't provided it already.

Your employer may assign someone to review with you the basics of working at the company. They may take you on an office tour, introduce you to coworkers and provide insight into daily routines. Listen carefully, feel free to take notes, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If your company doesn’t couple you with a co-worker, find someone who's willing to answer your questions. That may be a recent hire who’s experienced the same issues you’re curious about, or administrative staff.

Depending on the company size, you may also join an orientation with other new employees. These programs can be a good way to make friends early on. Orientation often covers human resource policies and benefits, including insurance, retirement plans and vacation time.

How to meet people at your new job

Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself around the office. There will be ample opportunities for first interactions that set a positive tone. For example, when you see someone at the coffee machine in the morning, say hi and tell them you’re new.

You may not have any idea of the person’s status at the company when meeting them, and it doesn’t matter what level they are. But looking like a friendly person who's excited to have joined the company will make you look good and feel good, too.

What to expect the first 90 days on the job

During your first 90 days on the job, learn who you're working with, including colleagues in your department and individuals you’ll be supporting in different areas. Ask them out for lunch or bring coffee to share in the break room to get to know them better. Spend time listening to them. Find out more about the company, particular projects and any potential obstacles they're anticipating where you may be able to offer support.

Ask a lot of questions but don't offer your opinion too quickly. While you may have fresh ideas, it’s important to fully understand the situation before suggesting changes, and that includes understanding the personalities of the people who may have been working at the organization for much longer. Ideas must be balanced with personalities in the office, so be tactful when offering suggestions for change.

Understand your new job’s benefits

During your first days, a human resources staff member may give you insurance and retirement documents to fill out. If this is your first job out of college, these benefits may not make much sense, but you should feel free to schedule time to discuss things like your 401(k) with HR if you have questions. Retirement is a long way off, and different insurance policies, like disability, may not seem applicable.

But this is the perfect time to maximize your savings and retirement plan. Get in the habit of putting away the most you can for retirement, especially using direct deposit. Not only will the money grow over a longer period of time but your company may match funds depending on the amount you contribute. That’s free money for you, and you should take advantage of it.

Understanding retirement and investment options can be confusing. Sometimes your human resources contact can advise you or refer you to the investment company your company works with. You can also speak with an independent investment planner who can give you customized advice to help you with your finances. Use this first job as a way to set yourself up for the future by taking control of your financial future.

If you're looking for companies to apply at, consider Nationwide for your first job out of college. Search for positions at Nationwide.

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