I chuckle at the thought of how subjective a thing first impressions are. Someone could be going through something terrible on the first day you meet them and you may assume they either have a bad attitude or they’re extremely quiet and shy.
I would like to believe I am neither, but if I met me on Monday I would have thought otherwise.
You know how in varsity you can just not show up when you’re not feeling well (*coughs*) and all you have to do is ask a friend for the lecture slides the next day?
Well it’s not that kind of party in the working world because from now on you are the lecture slide, baby girl.
So I showed up for my first day even though it felt like Satan himself was boxing my uterus throughout the entire day. Hello, ibuprofen.
Prior to the uterus boxing match, I had arrived in Cape Town to a devious “landlord” who disappeared with my rental deposit money faster than my hairline in winter. Welcome back to the city, Afika, this is real life.
I think it’s now fair to say I was stressed. Thembi Seete's infamous grammatically incorrect lyric: "I don't know what can I do with myself," was a very apt description for the day's mood.
My mom always told me to never wear my stress, though, so I put on my makeup (forgetting to put on my eyebrows AND my glasses) and focused on my checklist of first impressions:
Don’t be the girl who brings her problems to work
So yes, the above were my problems. Temporary problems, but still I didn’t feel the need to exude that kind of negative energy into any of the introductory handshakes for the day.
No one is expecting you to be an easy, breezy Covergirl, but I can assure you it’s rather difficult to warm up to a somber Sisipho too.
Observe your surroundings
Don’t ask or talk too much before you have properly observed. Observing doesn't mean gawking at the colleague sitting across from you, but it’s about mirroring nuances in their behavior, so you learn how better to relate with them in the long run and more importantly, how to conduct yourself.
You don’t want to be the first person to shout “shit!” in the office.
Observing your surroundings also entails getting the Wi-Fi password because those apps on your phone aren't gonna update themselves.
This is not a meet-and-greet
No one is really interested in the intricate details of your life like how many dogs you have or whether you prefer chocolate to red velvet cake. This one was a relief for me because I have never known how to answer that “so, tell me about yourself” question.
You really don’t need to volunteer certain bits of information about yourself, so whatever list of accolades you were thinking of sharing can be cancelled. Unless you really want to, of course.
In the same breath, do not ask your new colleagues personal questions. Things will flow in conversation during your time there.
This is not your mother’s house
I talk a lot once I’m comfortable with people. I also tend to joke quite a bit. Much like me, you may have come from an environment (my final year specialisation class) where the only way to have a conversation is by cackling right through it even when your PC is not responding at 2AM and you have an 8AM submission.
The lesson here is that you must never get too comfortable and familiar in the infancy of your new job - crawl before you walk. You are still dealing with your superiors here, so know your boundaries.
Don’t let that birdy chirp too much
The same way your social media posts can get you overlooked for that job you’re applying for is the same way you may lose the job you finally have.
It's best not to skinner about your colleagues on Twitter or complain about how much work you have to do. Luckily for me, I love having a lot of work to do and I have no complaints about the lovely ladies I’ve met this week.
Thank the department of education for that first additional language
You thought English was the only language you were ever going to need to survive? Nah, skat, the real world doesn’t operate like that.
All I’m saying is I’m glad I got that A for Afrikaans in matric because I would have spent half my day everyday thinking people in this building might be talking about me.
It really helps to know another language, especially in a new city because you need to ask things like all the time and you just need to not be paranoid when people speak their home languages.
There is an “I” in image.
Lastly, there may be no I in team, but there is definitely an I in image.
What this means is that whoever you work for has a brand image to uphold and as a part of a professional team, you now have the responsibility to maintain that image in your individual capacity. You’re not in Kansas anymore, so act right, be confident and enjoy.