Starting your first job is a bit like the first day of school: exciting, but a little scary. You’ll be meeting new people. You’ll be in a new environment. You may wonder, can I do the job? Will people like me? What if I make a mistake? Relax. KSL Jobs breaks down what to know before starting your first job. And while your mom won’t be walking you through the door this time — no, it’s definitely not cool — you can feel confident because you’ll be prepared.

Early start

Even if you already know it takes 20 minutes to drive to your new job, plan on leaving 10 minutes earlier. Giving yourself a little wiggle room means you’ll have time for the unexpected — where did I leave my keys? — and won’t need to freak out. If you’ll be pressed for time in the morning, plan your outfit and pack your supplies the night before.


Your first day on the job will mean reading and filling out paperwork (if you didn’t beforehand). No problem, just think of them as worksheets. You may be asked to sign statements agreeing to uphold company policies, such as adhering to the dress code or allowing random drug testing. 

What to bring

You’ll need to show that you are eligible to work in the U.S. Bring your social security card or birth certificate. You’ll also need one of the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Passport
  • State- or government-issued photo I.D.

You’ll also be asked to complete a W-4, the Employee’s Withholding Certificate. This form tells employers how much tax to withhold from your paycheck. The form may look intimidating, but really you only need to fill out a few lines.

  • Write your name, address and social security number
  • Check the box for single (unless you’re married, of course)
  • Sign and date the form at the bottom


Always dreamed of being handed your first paycheck? It probably won’t happen. Many companies now use direct deposit, or at least offer the option. This is where the money is deposited directly into your checking or savings account. Bring your bank account number and bank routing number (which you can find online). If you don’t already have an account, now is the time to open one.

Paystub breakdown

When you receive your first paycheck, you wouldn’t be the first to cry, “Hey, why is it so much less than I was expecting?” Your employer is required to take out funds for taxes and social security, which is what makes the difference between your gross and net income.

Gross = Hours X Wage

Net = (Hours X Wage) – Taxes 

If you earn less than $12,000 per year, you’ll receive most of the money back. Sorry, the Social Security is gone until you retire in another 50 years or so.


Most jobs will include some basic training. This could include how to use the cash register or how to cook fries to golden perfection. It can feel overwhelming and you may have a lot of questions. Go ahead and ask them. It’s much better to get clarification in the beginning than to be unsure. 

Bring a notepad and pen (phones may not be allowed) to write down all the things you’re learning. You probably won’t need them for long, but it can be nice to have a reference for the first few days.

Stay fueled

Plan to bring along a water bottle and some snacks, even if you’ll only be working for a few hours. It’s easy to skip necessities when you are feeling anxious or focused on a task. With adrenaline pumping, you may not even notice you’re starting to fatigue. Staying hydrated and fed will help you maintain your energy and make the day less exhausting.

Be responsible

Realize that you are responsible for yourself. If you need to work different hours due to school obligations, tell your supervisor in advance. If you need help, ask for it. Be prepared to handle problems on your own. Your employer does not want a phone call from your parent. 

Admit mistakes

You aren’t the first person to make a mistake at work, and you certainly won’t be the last. But ignoring the error, or trying to cover it up, will only make it a bigger issue. Just admit you made a mistake, when necessary, learn to do it correctly and move on.

Be considerate

If you won’t be able to make it into work, contact your manager before your scheduled start time. Call, email or perhaps both. Even if your reason is valid, not telling your supervisor looks bad and could lead to negative consequences. Show that you are responsible and want to help the business run smoothly.

Now you are prepared with what to know before starting your first job, you can focus on making it a positive experience. Soon, you’ll be bringing home the cash, and maybe making a few friends along the way.  

Whether for a summer job or your first post-college one, search KSL Jobs for opportunities near you. Find more tips for success in the workplace on the KSL Jobs Resources page.