Put your best foot forward in your first job

Maybe you have just graduated, or you have taken a break to enjoy the summer sun. Regardless, if you’re about to start your first job, you probably have plenty of questions. Canstar takes a look at some advice on starting your first office job.

1 Bring your best attitude to work

Having a positive attitude in the workplace will help make your work life a much more positive experience for you and your employer. It’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous as you start out, and bosses will understand this. But there are a few things you can do to help you put your best foot forward. Careers information website, Careers.govt.nz, provides some examples:

  • Turn up on time every day and look presentable.
  • Listen carefully to instructions.
  • Be aware that you might have to start out with some basic, unpleasant or boring tasks, but this comes with starting out in employment.
  • Double check that you understand how the break system works in your workplace. Yes, you are legally entitled to a break, but your office may have a rotation system, or similar, so just double check.
  • If you are unsure of what is expected of you, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s much better than sitting staring into space! You could try something along the lines of: I just want to make sure I understand your instructions. Can you please clarify what you need me to do here?

2 Review your salary account and your savings account

Before you start your first day on the job, you’ll be asked to send your new employer financial details, such as your tax code and what bank account your salary should be paid into. Have a think about whether your bank account is working for you and, if not, it might make sense to find one that does before you start your new role. Canstar reviews and rates transaction accounts, so you can compare products and providers. It’s also a good habit to have part of your salary paid into a savings account. And you can, of course, have a savings account with a different provider from your everyday account, if you prefer. Consider what you need from a savings account, including the interest rate and also how easily you can access your money. In some situations, you can get bonus interest for meeting certain conditions – such as not making withdrawals – so this can be a good option if you’re using the account for long-term savings.

Compare savings accounts with Canstar

3 Make sure you have signed up for KiwiSaver or have reviewed your KiwiSaver

Whether or not you sign up to KiwiSaver is entirely up to you. But there are a lot of benefits to this savings scheme, so it’s worth seriously considering joining. Firstly, you can choose a contribution rate that is comfortable for you and your finances, and even increase this rate over time as your salary increases. The current contribution rate options are 3%, 4%, 6%, 8% and 10%. Your KiwiSaver contributions are deducted from salary before tax and transferred into your KiwiSaver fund of choice (or default scheme if you haven’t actively chosen one).

Also, if you are a member of KiwiSaver, your employer will contribute an additional 3%. Some employers will choose to contribute an even higher percentage. Some employers also offer their own workplace retirement savings schemes, which may have different contribution rates and benefits to KiwiSaver. You can belong to both schemes, but your employer only has to contribute to one. On top of this, if you contribute at least $1042.86 per year to your KiwiSaver fund, you will receive the maximum government contribution of $521.43 per year.

When you first start out working, your contributions may not seem like much, but the magic of compound interest, as well as your many working years ahead, should help you build up some decent savings. The majority of KiwiSaver members will also be able to choose to withdraw their savings towards a first home deposit.

If you’re not currently in KiwiSaver and want to join, or just want to explore the benefits of switching schemes, you can compare your options on the Canstar website.

Compare KiwiSaver options with Canstar

4 Understand how to access and read your payslip

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, as can learning the systems and procedures of your new employer. One key process you are likely to come across is the way the business gives out employee payslips. For example, you might be emailed your payslip, or you might be set up with a payroll account, where your payslips are stored securely electronically.

When you start your new job, make sure you find out what day/date you are paid and whether it’s on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. This should also be written in your employment contract. You’ll also want to make sure that you know how you will receive payslips. Double-check your payslip, to make sure you’ve been paid the correct amount and that you’ve received the correct KiwiSaver contributions. One note with KiwiSaver, though, don’t panic if KiwiSaver contributions don’t show up straight away, as it often takes time to feed through to your KiwiSaver account. Also, if you want to know who this PAYE character is and why they keep taking a percentage of your pay, welcome to the working world. PAYE stands for Pay as You Earn and is the primary income tax system in New Zealand. PAYE consists primarily of income tax and ACC earner’s levy (a compulsory contribution to cover the cost of non-work injuries). Your employer handles PAYE before you receive your wages, so you don’t need to do anything. It’s just helpful to understand why it’s showing up on your payslip.

5 Dress to impress, but leave clubbing gear for the club

While it might seem superficial to get caught up in decisions about your wardrobe, how you dress can really impact how you are perceived in the workplace. Sayings such as “dress for the job you want” and “if you’d wear it in the club, then don’t wear it to the office” make a lot of sense. Chances are, if you look professional, people will look at you that way. If you notice that your office is more casual, that’s fine, you can dress less formally in time. But it’s always a good rule of thumb to start with more formal wear and ease it back, rather than risking the other way around. This will help you to make a good first impression.

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