Starting your new job – and planning for the first day at work!

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First of all- Congratulations on landing your first job in the USA!

You probably have been through a lot to get here (building resumes, cover letters and going through the interview process). Now you are ready to get to work!

We would like to prepare you to make this day successful.

It is important to understand some of the key points when starting your first job in this country.


This can be a tricky one depending on where you live!

Back home I would use public transportation all day and you would find a bus station and train station at every corner.

Well, not so in the United States!

If you live in a suburban (or even rural) area, you will need to use a car to find your way around.

Public Transportation can be very limited (unless you happen to live in big cities like NYC).

So you need to do your research on how to get around if you don’t have a car.

Print out some bus/train schedule a few days before and “test ride” your route. Get a good idea of how long it will take you to get to work.

Bring your documents

Most employers require you to bring documents that prove that you are eligible and authorized to work in the United States.

Always be prepared and bring at least the following documents: Social Security Card, Driver’s License or State ID, Green Card and Passport.

Also, some employers will pay you by providing a paper check on payday.

However, if your employer only pays you via Direct Deposit to your bank account, make sure you bring a document such as a void check.

The document needs to show the Name of your Bank, the Routing Number, and the Account Number.

Dress appropriately

Ask your supervisor/manager about the dress code and how you should dress on your first day on the job. For example scrubs, uniforms, casual or business casual, etc.

If you don’t dress appropriately on your first day at work, it will leave a pretty bad first impression, so- be prepared!

Know your rights

One of our home countries (Germany) is pretty big on contracts, so we were expecting to receive a contract on the first day of starting the job.

We learned that work contracts are actually an uncommon thing here (unless you are a contractor). The majority of jobs in the US are an “Employment at will”.

Employment at will means that you can quit anytime without providing a reason.

However, a good and fair practice is to give them at least a  2-weeks- notice if you resign.

Your employer can terminate (fire) you anytime without given you a reason, too. 

Sadly, there is no protection from this procedure unless you were terminated for illegal/unethical reasons such as:

  • Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Reasons that go against Company policies.

Let’s explain the last bullet point in this list. If you feel like the reasons you were fired go against company policies, you can either let the HR Department know or seek legal advice outside the company.

It is extremely important that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities in the American Workplace.

We did not really know what the expectations are until we read this guide on roles and responsibilities in American Jobs.

This guide was written by an attorney (Sachi Barreiro) and really breaks it down to you.

The guide shown in the picture above will really help you understand the American Culture in your workplace, and how to protect yourself against any wrong/unfair actions on the job.

Unfair treatment and wrongful terminations are defined differently in certain countries.

That’s why you need to know what the signs and definitions are to protect yourself when working in the United States!

If you read the guide above and you feel like you are the victim of unfair treatment or wrongful termination, seek legal advice to see what options you have to fight this decision.

Only because most employers use Employment at Will agreements, it doesn’t mean that they can terminate you for reasons that are wrongful under US law.

The examples in the list above are only a few examples. There are a lot of legal implications that you need to pay attention to.

If you are ever faced with a difficult/unfair situation in the workplace, it is always a good idea to refer to this guide (or hire a lawyer).

Know your responsibilities

Okay, so other than, that we would like to share that Punctuality is important here so if your manager says: “Be here tomorrow at 8 am.”, – they really MEAN 8 am!

Not 8:15 am, not 8:30 am or any other time ?

We know some countries are pretty laid back about this. It depends on the culture and being late is not always a big deal.

Please be advised that this is usually not the case here!

As mentioned above, your employer may want to check your ID’s for administrative/work permit purposes.

Ask your supervisor if they have an Employee Handbook. It will help you learn about company policies and understand your rights and responsibilities!

Friends, if you tackled the challenge of writing a Resume, Searching for Jobs, mastering the Job Interview and Starting your new Job, it is time for you to focus on other important topics that you will encounter in the United States!

Here are more posts to help you with subjects all around Working in the USA:

How to Master the US Job Interview

How to create an American Resume (CV)

Job Search in the USA

Working in America – Overview

How to Finally Get a Job Offer in the USA & Avoid Common Mistakes

Simple Ways to look for Sponsored Jobs