My first week of ‘real’ work was in London back in 2005… I like to think I followed my own advice below!

Whether it’s an unpaid internship at an NGO or an Analyst gig at an investment bank, you have to make a good impression. Once someone has an opinion of you, research shows that they have to be proven wrong not once or twice, but 14 times before they’ll change their mind. So get it right the first time. Here are 5 must-do’s for your first week (drum roll….):


1. Do your research.

There’s tons of info online about almost every employer out there. This is your chance to get ahead. There is no excuse not to know who the CEO and Chair are (and just as important, what they look like!). Side note: my work BFF and I had code names to ‘casually’ alert the other that someone senior was on our floor. Asking to borrow the stapler usually meant the CEO was around, apart from when, you know, we actually needed a stapler. You also never want to be introduced to one of the Directors, and then ask them what their job is! Likewise, know what’s in the media lately – this will lead you to ask good questions at introductory meetings.


2. Figure out everyone’s names.

I know, you meet someone and it’s in one ear, out the next. But you HAVE to remember names. Repeat it in your head, say it out loud (“So nice to meet you, John”) and write it down as soon as you can, along with their job and a description. This is critical, or you’ll look like you weren’t paying attention when your boss tells you to go speak to Joe, who you just met. Uh oh… And if all else fails, fess up, saying “It’s been so great talking with you that I have to admit I can’t recall your name. I’m so sorry!”.


3. Ask the dumb questions now.

Yes, you heard right. The thing is, now is the best time. Each week, it only gets harder and harder. You don’t want to be three months in when you ask what the organizational values are. One caveat though – ignorance is not bliss. Don’t ask a question you could find out the answer to online – through the external company website or through the intranet. Tons is on company intranet sites these days, and nothing frustrates me more than repeated questions from someone who works for me that they could take the time to (easily) figure out themselves.


4. Don’t think that you really have a 9-5 job.

Yes, your contract might say you have an hour lunch, but you need to show you’re not work averse. I’m not saying you need to work crazy hours, but don’t come at 9, take lunch (especially if no one else does!), and leave at 5… Show you have a good work ethic by doing some additional reading, sitting in on an extra meeting, or preparing for the next day.


5. Be enthusiastic.

One of my old team members was so enthusiastic, she’d thank me for the ‘opportunity’ each time I asked her to do something interesting. That was a bit much, but I totally appreciated her attitude. As a boss, how great is it to have someone so excited to help you out?! When you start, nothing should be a problem. To quote my friend, Rachel, you’re often as ‘useful as a chocolate teapot’ when you start out, so if you are the least bit challenging, you’ll be more trouble than you’re worth.


What do you think’s missing? What did you do in your first week that made a difference, or what did you wish you did? Let me know in the comments below.

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Comments & Responses

2 Responses so far.

  1. Joyce L says:

    I hate that so much of work is about how much time you spend at the office? Isn’t it about what you deliver?

  2. Kari says:

    Hi Joyce! It should be… but this isn’t always the case. I spent years telling managers to assess performance based on output, not input, but there will always be people who judge you if you are in at 9 and out at 5. One thing I’ve noticed is that some newer grads approach their corporate work like a job rather than a career. They ‘count’ hours, asking to leave an hour early because they came in early… Well it usually doesn’t work like that because the expectation is that we work ‘overtime’. So long as you don’t come across as work averse, I think you’re okay… You definitely don’t need to pull investment banking hours (of course unless that’s your job!).

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