I just recently started at a new job. Due to short contracts and part-time work being a large factor in getting employment as a graduate, this is the 3rd ‘first day’ in the last year! (I’m now working two part-time jobs, one of which is causal and the other a one year contract)
In any case, I’m really excited about the opportunities this new workplace will provide. I’ll be expanding from high school libraries to a specialist university (law) library. Learning new programs, taking research classes with university students, developing their e-learning modules, there’s a lot to learn and do!
So I thought I would share my experience (there was a really amazing art exhibit involved!), and provide some tips for that sometimes stressful ‘first day’.
My first two days were full of the usual, and a few extra fun things!
I luckily got some free parking and knew where to go to meet my supervisor from my earlier interview. I forgot to bring a nice warm jacket and instantly regretted that! We spoke generally about the position description, the hours and filling out tax forms etc. I went through some induction materials on the university’s intranet and get a feel for what working there will be like. I got assigned a list of tasks, and made myself a ‘to do’ timeline so I could keep on top of everything. I was introduced to all the staff members (so many new names!) and got a tour of the campus. We even had a coffee at a nice cafe – lovely.
The community feel amongst the library staff here is wonderful – there’s about 250 library staff across the university (multiple campuses and libraries) which is a big change to the usual three staff members at high school libraries I’ve worked in! (I will definitely write a post about the differences between working in high schools and academic libraries soon!)
The Engineering and IT Library on campus had a digital art exhibition opening the day I started, so I was lucky enough to attend that. It was really spectacular – a series of 50 evolved digital plant images alluding to the use of oil in our civilisation and its affect on the environment. It was called Fifty Sisters by Professor Jon McCormack. You can see some of the images and get more info here. You can also read about it on the university blog here. It was explained that:
“Fossil fuels began as plants that over millions of years were transformed by geological processes into the coal and oil that powers modern civilisation. To create this artwork, a variety of ‘digital genes’ (a computer equivalent of DNA) were crafted to replicate the structure and form of Mesozoic plants and their modern descendants. These digital genes were used to ‘grow’ imaginary plants species in the computer, being then subject to evolutionary processes of mutation and crossover. Through a process akin to selective breeding, new and exotic species were evolved. The geometric elements of these digital organisms were derived from the geometric abstractions of oil company logos, which often subtly reference plants from the environment. In the final images, some of the original elements remain quite obvious, others are so strangely distorted or changed by evolution, that they are only subliminally recognisable, if at all.”
It was a really wonderful experience to be a part of on my first day and assured me I was working in a great environment. I felt inspired and excited that the libraries here were open to doing such unusual and interesting things. It was such a progressive way to interest the students in the library’s specialised field; a fusion of art and IT.
Later, we had a morning tea to farewell another staff member and so I was spoiled again with snacks, cakes and drinks.
I started work on some info-graphics (using data collected in feedback surveys) and learnt how to manage the library’s ‘information point’. I got an array of logins and usernames, started learning some new systems and editing some video tutorials. I definitely feel a bit challenged, but that’s part of the experience of learning! It’s hard starting out, as you don’t want to make mistakes or look like you don’t know what you’re doing.. but we have to be confident in our intelligence and skills and keep at it. Fingers crossed it all goes well in my second week coming up!
Are you just about to start a new job? Here’s some tips for your first day:
- In preparing for the first day, spend some time figuring out your plan of how to get there, where you will park, who you need to speak to etc. Obviously, get there a bit early!
- Usually on the first day, or within the first week, you will have to get your staff photo/ID card. Make sure you’re looking good and professional, it sucks having a bad photo on every system in the workplace for however long you are there.
- It’s usually really warm inside the offices, and cold outside (at least in Melbourne winter). Dress in layers. You can take off your coat/scarf and wear a cardigan inside.
- Bring a notebook and pen. This way you can write down all the important info – there will be a lot of it coming at you very quickly! From basic rules about lunch breaks and locking doors, to complex info about using programs and your work requirements. Make sure to keep a to-do timeline, and spreadsheet of the tasks you have completed (for future reference).
- Don’t feel overwhelmed! The first day has so much new information for you to take in, and sometimes you’ll feel there’s no way you can get on top of it all. It’s like a tidal wave of new things to learn, but don’t get swept away, take a deep breath and power through. After you’ve settled in, it will all become more straight forward. The information will be explained again. You’ll repeat the tasks a few times and commit it all to memory, until then – rely on your notes! And don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Make a list of questions, especially if you have some before you start. As you go, add to these and request some time to have a chat and clarify anything you’re not sure about.
- Try to remember everyones names. You’ll be introduced to lots of new staff and this can be hard, but it’s important to do your best. Try some tricks like associating the names, rhymes, repeating them, or writing them down.
- Bring extra bits and pieces like headphones – this way you won’t disturb anyone if you need to do an online tutorial (like OHS) etc. Most workplaces will provide you with stationary, but you will probably want to personalise your work area with a few useful or enjoyable items.
Tune in next time for some more general discussion about starting work as a graduate (with limited work experience) and what you can expect 🙂
Thanks for reading!
Michelle De Aizpurua