By Jonathan London on 21st May 2014

Contractor first day tips: How to integrate yourself into a new workplace

Moving from contract to contract is just a fact of life for a freelancer. One of the biggest benefits of working for your self means that you can constantly change your environment, taking on new challenges all the time. Naturally, this means that you’re set to have more ‘first days’ than most in your career, something that even the most experienced contractor can find daunting from time to time.

For the most part your first day as an independent worker is much the same as it would be if you were on a permanent contract.

Things like arriving on time, dressing appropriately and making a good first impression on your new employer are all important. However, as a temporary member of staff there are a few things you can do to help integrate yourself in with the people you’ll be calling colleagues over the next six months.

A great deal of these suggestions are just common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t make the effort on their first day and become isolated as a result.

Introduce yourself to other staff

In rare cases, some of the permanent staff may resent you being there. After all, you are probably on a higher rate than them. This is pretty uncommon but generally depends on the workplace. Most people are not like this and won’t make you feel unwelcome. If you make yourself approachable with a friendly introduction it can help you settle in quicker and make it much easier to socialise with the people you’ll be working in and amongst over the course of your contract.

Make an effort to learn names

This might seem trivial, especially for a contractor who has been brought in to do a specific task, but the more names you can learn the more straightforward it will be to go about your day. Asking where the canteen or the bathrooms are is much easier if you can address someone by name.

Obviously you won’t be able to remember everyone’s name on the first day but with a little extra care you can memorise those of the people in the immediate vicinity.

Don’t be afraid to talk

It’s only natural to strike up a few conversations with those around you and this will help include you into the group on a more personal level. Of course it’s not wise to sit there chatting away – you have a job to do after all – but you’ll be surprised how far a little small talk can go. You can take any conversations further on your breaks, perhaps try and see if anyone you may be working close to has any mutual interests such as music, sport or other social activities.

Don’t panic!

Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan on some first days and sometimes you can end up feeling a little forgotten. This can include: your new client not letting the security staff know you’re coming (always an awkward one!), no desk ready to sit at or a lack of computer log ins at the ready.

But don’t panic! Just remain calm and seek out the project manager. These issues can all be rectified with ease so don’t let them put you in a bad mood early on.

Plan your trip in advance

Contracting means constantly changing your commute, and so planning out your journey to work a little in advance is advisable – you don’t want to be late on your first day!

If you’re driving, don’t just rely on your sat nav system, have a look around the area on a map just in case the client’s site is on a back road that GPRS does not recognise and you end up missing it.

For public transport, plan out each part of your route – including the walking route – and take into account how long it will take you to get from the nearest station to the workplace. Will you need to get another bus or can you walk it?

Is there anything else you’d suggest from your own experience?

Jonathan London Written by Jonathan London

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