Welcome to the workforce! Getting your first job can be a big change and although you might be excited, you might be feeling nervous too. We explain some things you should know and answer common questions new recruits have.
First impressions count
What should you wear on your first day? It seems like such a little thing to be wondering about, but this is a common question so don’t be afraid to ask someone!
Get in touch with the person who hired you and ask, and ideally do this with enough time to get yourself a couple of outfits for your first week. The main thing is that you’re dressed appropriately, and you feel confident in what you’re wearing.
While you’re asking about the dress code, be sure to clarify what time you should be at work on your first day, and make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to get there.
It pays to have your admin sorted
Bring your tax file number and the details of the bank account you want your salary paid into, so your pay can be arranged as soon as your employer is ready.
Your first job will probably also be the first time you’ll be paid super, so do some research into which super fund is right for you. Your employer may have a preferred fund, but your super is your money so you can decide where it goes. You can use the independently provided comparison tool from SuperRatings to help you compare super products, fees and services.
When you’re super account is set up, you’ll soon learn about the power of compound interest, where the super you save, plus the interest it earns accumulates over your working life. Compound interest is like ‘double chocolate topping for your savings,’ according to ASIC’s MoneySmart, and you can find out more about it on the MoneySmart website.
You should still do some homework
School might be over but if you haven’t already, you should still do some homework. Learn about your new employer and workplace, because knowing the basics of the organisation you work for might give you a bit of a head start on your first day, and will demonstrate your enthusiasm for your new job.
Have a look at their website, social media channels, and search for any news articles about the organisation. Build yourself a little bit of background knowledge on not only your new employer, but their competitors and industry.
Your rights and responsibilities
It’s important to know your rights at work, including your pay, leave entitlements and feeling safe and respected in the workplace.
Every time you get paid, you should receive a pay slip that outlines the number of hours you worked, how much you were paid, how much was paid into your super fund, and how much you were taxed. Gross pay is the amount you receive before tax, and net pay is the amount you receive in your bank account after any deductions.
Make sure both you and your employer agree on your working status – whether it’s full time, part time, casual or you are an independent contractor. There are minimum pay and conditions as set by the government, so if you suspect you’re not being paid enough, or not given the right amount of leave, you can check using tools from the Fair Work Ombudsman website.
With money comes responsibility, and as an employee, you need to do the work asked of you in your job description and contract, as well as contributing to a respectful and safe workplace. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly, have a conversation with your boss or the relevant human resources contact in the organisation, and if you need to, follow it up with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
You will have to do some ‘adult’ things
What an exciting milestone - your first tax return! Here’s a brief outline of how it will work.
So you don’t end up with a big tax bill at the end of the financial year (30 June), you will have seen tax being deducted on your pay slip each pay period. This is called Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax, and it is when your employer sends your tax to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on your behalf.
At the end of the financial year, the ATO determines if you need to pay a tax bill or if you get a tax refund. You can lodge your tax return with the ATO’s online tools via MyGov by 31 October each year. All you need is to supply the details the online program asks for. You can find more information on ASIC’s MoneySmart web page – Your first tax return.
If you haven’t had an income before, you might be tempted to spend big, but beware of blowing your budget. Try using the TrackMySpend App from the government to help you keep track of your finances.
There will be a lot of new things to learn, and lots of things to do. Help yourself manage your work load by writing lists or logging tasks in your calendar, and even asking your supervisor or team leader how long they expect a task to take you. Keep note of new computer logins or any handy information.
Another good way to learn on the job is to find some one that can ‘mentor’ you, like an experienced colleague. Not only are you making friends in the workplace, but this person can help you get a grasp of your new job, workplace, and responsibilities.
You’ll probably get hungry and tired
You might not be used to working a full day, and you’ll probably find the gap between breakfast and lunch is a long one! Bring some healthy snacks in to keep you going, and have a bottle of water at your workstation. If you work in a quiet office, try not to bring in anything noisy or smelly.
Staying fit and healthy will help you be focused at work, so be sure to get outside in your lunch break, or have some time out of the sun if you’re working outside. After your first few weeks of working, it’s also likely that you’ll be tired. Remember to take it easy in your time off, and make sure you get enough sleep before work each day.
Remember that your colleagues had a first day once, so don't be afraid to ask questions. Congratulations and good luck!