Yes, it’s actually happening – your time at Emerson is coming to an end and now the real world is staring you in the face. Don’t shy away my friends, stare right back at it and get your game face on – this is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
You’ve spent countless hours preparing your resume, revising and revising because it seems everyone has a different opinion on what it should look like. You’ve finally decided “it’s good enough!” and sent it out into the black hole of online job applications. You’ve gone through the long (not to mention anxiety-provoking!) job search process and you finally got what you’ve been waiting for – an offer letter!
The first day of work at your new job may be among the most memorable — and perhaps stressful —of your career. How do you prepare? What should you expect? I spent the first 10 years of my career as an HR professional before coming to Career Services here at Emerson, and want to share a few tips I learned along the way:
First, the basics:
- Dress to impress. Yes, us older Millennials have already reset expectations and many companies have adopted a more casual dress code than in the days of yore, but take it up a notch your first day. You want to show up looking sharp and professional.
- Prepare an elevator pitch. Your new boss knows what value you’ll bring to the team and why they hired you, but your new co-workers will be looking for ways to strike up a conversation. Describe what you’ll be doing in this new position, what brought you to the company, and an overview of your background.
- Take diligent notes & ask questions. I cannot stress this enough – whenever your boss or a coworker is explaining a task or giving guidance, write it down as they speak. This shows you’re actively listening and eager to learn. I had to learn this hard way – at one point my first boss pulled me aside and said I need to be writing things down – I was mortified!
- Start building relationships with your coworkers. Pack a lunch, but expect to go out with your new coworkers the first day. Once you get settled in and feeling more comfortable, don’t be shy about asking others to go to lunch with you. This shows you’re a team player and excited to get to know the team. Establishing a friendly, professional rapport with your coworkers will make your time at work not just more enjoyable, but also help you move projects along and get the support you need. Teamwork makes the dream work 😉
Next, the paperwork and benefits (boring, but important):
- I-9 Documentation. The I-9 Form is a document required by the federal government to verify your eligibility to work in the United States. Two forms of government issued ID are required, one of which needs to include a photograph. A driver’s license or passport and social security card are the most common. Technically, employers cannot allow you to begin work without completing this form. Most will let it slide the first day, but make a good impression and don’t forget!
- W-2 Tax Form. **Disclaimer: I am not qualified to provide tax advice and this summary is just a general explanation of the form.** Speak with an accountant or financial advisor should you have questions or need guidance on this topic
The W-2 form is used to by the employer to withhold the correct federal income tax from the employee’s pay. As a general rule, claiming “0” allowances means the max amount of tax is being withheld, which usually results in a larger refund. However, if you prefer to have as much money as possible in your paycheck, you can claim up to 2 allowances “1” as head of household and “1” as a single (unmarried) person. Keep in mind that this may result in either a smaller refund, OR you will owe the government money when you file your taxes. Click here for an article that goes into more details.
Retirement Savings. Most companies offer a retirement savings plan called a 401(k) that is managed by a provider such as Fidelity, ADP, MerrilLynch, etc. Each company will have a different plan, some more generous than others. Typically the company will match your contribution up to a certain percentage, and the language they use to describe their match is (in my opinion) intentionally complex. For example, a common type of plan may be described as “we will match 100% percent of your contribution up to 3%”. Basically meaning that if you put in at least 3% – they will match one hundred percent of that and contribute another 3%. You can put in more, say 9%, but their match stops at 3%. It’s all very tricky… Here is an article form the Wall Street Journal that can shed some more light on this for you.