How to Nail Your First Day of Co-op or Practicum


Congratulations, you did it! You landed the co-op, practicum, preceptorship, or clinical role you’ve been eyeing since the beginning of the semester and made it past the most stressful part of the job search.

But your efforts shouldn’t stop there. In fact, your journey to becoming a working professional is only beginning. While the most nerve-racking part may be over, you still need to impress your new manager and get along with your new colleagues.

Your first day of co-op, practicum, preceptorship, or clinical can build up a lot of anxiety and nerves, especially if it’s your very first one.

A lot of questions probably come to mind for you. What should you wear? How early should you be? How should you introduce yourself to your colleagues? How can you be prepared? If you’re that nervous, don’t worry as we’ll be covering 4 useful tips and tricks that can help make a great first impression on your first day.

1. Don’t Wait

This first tip starts before you even have your first day of work experience.

Most of the time, your Employment Services Coordinator (ESS) will provide you with the contact information of your manager. If you have access to this information, you want to take full advantage of this and show your initiative!

Email your manager first and show him/her that you’re excited and ready to start your new role at the company. Show them that you’re prepared and ready for your first day – this helps give you a good first impression before you’ve even started the job.

2. Be Punctual

Punctuality is important in making a strong first impression.

Have you ever heard the saying “early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable?”

On your first day on the job, it’s important to avoid being late at all costs. Being late on the first day is going to make a negative first impression and show your manager and colleagues that you already don’t care or take your work seriously. And you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

3. Introduce Yourself

Your first day in an entirely new environment with new faces can be overwhelming. Sometimes, your manager will give you a tour of the office and introduce you around, but in the case that doesn’t happen, don’t wait to introduce yourself around. Take the initiative and say hello to colleagues in and outside of your department. Taking initiative and introducing yourself shows that you have confidence and a friendly face that your colleagues can get to know. 

As a student, your work experience lets you meet industry professionals who are already working in the field you’re interested in. Take this opportunity to build professional relationships with these individuals who may down the road be able to connect you with someone hiring for a role that you qualify for. Don’t miss your chance to impress these people.

4. Dress to Impress

We all know the power appearances can have on our first impressions. Some people may make strong assumptions based on how you’re dressed and what you’re wearing. For example, if you’re wearing ripped jeans and a band t-shirt on the first day, that’s going to say a lot about you – and not anything you want said.  But if you’re wearing appropriate attire based on your company and industry, that’s going to say the right things about you. It’s always better to overdress than underdress.

group of professional co-op students

If you’re in the business and administration industry, wearing an appropriate blouse and a crisp pair of slacks are a safe choice. If you’re doing a preceptorship at a healthcare center, you fortunately have it easy as you know wearing your uniform is what’s expected.  

If you’re completely unsure of how you should dress, it doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact, it might even show your manager that you’re prepared and organized.

Now, while your first day of work experience (or any new job!) may be daunting, remember that there’s no need to be nervous. You’ve already got the job so the most stressful part is over and done with.

Bonus tip, don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep the night before and you’ll be ready to take on whatever this opportunity throws at you.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask your Employment Services Coordinator who would be more than happy to answer them – they’re here to help you!

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