When I logged in to our company HR website earlier this month, a confetti animation fluttered over my name. Apparently, this month marks my 14 year anniversary with The Hello Foundation. Fourteen years?! Because of the nature of our work and my personal interest in short-term leaves, nearly every one of those 14 years has seen me having at least one first day in a new school at some point in the year, walking into an unfamiliar building to get the lay of the land.

A new building, a new caseload, new staff – for me, it is like starting a new book or watching the first episode of a Netflix series I’ve never heard of. I might be there on a recommendation from someone I trust. Maybe I know the general premise or the genre. But not until that first full dose – the first chapter, first episode, first day! – can I really get a handle on the characters and the expectations. At a new school, it’s important to know what questions to ask and to have a system for organizing and accessing your notes when you need them. We created this game plan (get it?!) to keep ourselves on the right track as we find our way through that often bewildering Day 1, and now we’re sharing it so you can use it, too! (Click on the image below to download a free pdf).

download first day

I have found that just as assignments and positions differ, so do first days. Much of these differences depend on who last filled your position and how you came to be there. Was your predecessor well-organized and at their best all the way to their last day, maybe even preparing for you to take over? Or was there a slow decline in productivity before you took over, maybe even a period where your position was empty? These details make a big difference in the kind of situation you find on your first day.

Sometimes, there is a Keeper of the Knowledge, someone who has been waiting for you to show up so that they can pass along the pile of files and messages and the running task list they’ve been managing. This firehose of information is daunting for the immediate need for triaging and prioritizing. 

Equally challenging is the situation where no one has been keeping your tasks and lists. You are an Explorer in a New Land and your first task is to uncover what needs to be done. Though this might initially seem like a more comfortable situation with tasks coming at you more slowly, it is imperative that you know the questions to ask and that you can decide how and when to continue digging, versus when you need to tackle the work you’ve uncovered. 

Whether you are faced with an onslaught of information, a bewildering search for what comes next, or something in between, you’ll end up in the right place if you’re organized from the get-go. Your first day in a new building is the start of something fresh and exciting. This First Day Game Plan will help you plan your approach and put you in the exploration mindset, ready to take on whatever you find.