My first day of work was a 7-hour shift at the Chick-fil-A near my house. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. Fast forward to my first corporate experiences and my first real “big girl” job, and it felt like the new job jitters had multiplied.
Between Chick-fil-A, several internships, a year teaching abroad, and a full-time corporate gig, I’ve been nervous for the first day of work multiple times. In those experiences, I’ve used these coping mechanisms to ease “starting a new job” nerves, first job anxiety, and new job worries. I hope that with these ways to overcome nerves, you can focus on making a great first impression on your first day of work.
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First Job Anxiety & New Job Anxiety*
For those of us starting our first job or a new job, we might experience new job anxiety: the fear of the unknown and worry over all of the possible things that can go wrong.
Some people might feel anxious because this job is something they’ve never done before. Others may simply be worried about making a good first impression. Perhaps some even wonder if they are really qualified for the job and if the hiring manager will change their mind.
Anxiety for the First Day of Work
For me, the reason I have anxiety for my first day of work is choice “D – All of the above.” I’ve been nervous about a new job because it was something I’d never done before. I’ve sat in my bed late at night wondering if I really have the job qualifications. The worst anxiety I have is fear that I’ve made the wrong decision and should keep looking for a job or go back to my old team.
I worry myself sick thinking about all of the unknowns and things I can’t control. What if my boss is awful? What if my teammates are rude?
What if I get lost on the way to the office and show up three hours late?
Is new job anxiety normal?
But being scared to start a new job isn’t new. In fact, new job anxiety is completely normal. Like stress, nerves are a natural response to what’s going on in our environment. In the case of new job anxiety, that is a response to starting a new job or your first job.
Even professionals who have job hopped over the course of their careers have some new job anxiety. They still feel nervous about starting a new job. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them (or you). Actually, it means the opposite.
There is nothing strange about that. Those new job jitters are completely normal and show your commitment to be your best in your new position.
*In this context, I’m using anxiety as a non-clinical term. Some people do have mental health anxiety disorders, and to apply that definition to this article would be taking this article out of context. While they could still benefit from these ways to cope with “starting a new job” nerves, they may also need additional help from a clinical professional.
How long does new job anxiety last?
It depends! New job anxiety could last a couple of hours as you prepare to go into the office or the entire day of your first day of work. For others, it could go on as long as a week, thirty days, or longer.
Longer? Yes, longer. But before you get alarmed, know that how long new job anxiety lasts could depend on a lot of factors which are out of your control. You have to consider the company culture, how big of a transition you made, your past experiences, your new manager, your teammates, your commute, and what else is going on in your life.
If you put that in an equation, you get somewhere between a couple of hours and thirty days or longer.
How long does it take to feel confident in a new job?
If we put new job worries aside, it usually takes between 30 and 90 days to feel confident in a new position. So, while your new job anxiety may lessen after your first day or week, you’ll still need more time to get used to your new job.
So instead of focusing on the things you can’t control, focus on what you can control. You can control:
- how you react to all the moving parts, and
- how you handle all the nerves you have for the first day of work.
To find out how, keep reading for the 12 positive ways to cope with being nervous for your first day of work.
Tips for Young Professionals Nervous for First Day of Work
The first day of work is quickly approaching. Something that seemed so far off is now very real. Your start date is set, underlined in red in your planner and on your wall calendar.
You start your first job tomorrow. Do you feel nervous for the first day of work? If you’re screaming yes, I’m right there with you. These tips for young professionals nervous about their first job are for you.
Dealing with “Starting a New Job” Nerves
1. Manage Your Expectations. The first day of work is typically a low-key day with a slim agenda. It may involve orientation, HR paperwork, introductions, and/or tours of the facilities or offices. If you’re doing an internal transfer to a new job, it will probably focus heavily on introductions and getting you up to speed on the team’s work and goals.
Whichever it is, having realistic expectations can help calm your new job jitters. Reach out to your hiring manager to see if there’s an agenda, new hire resources, or an onboarding guide that you can use to get your feet wet and gain a better understanding of what you can expect on your first day.
2. Have a realistic view of the role. If you’re a young professional going to your first job, you may be eager to start making an impact from day 1. However, you’ll likely need to build more experience and skills before you can see a tangible impact on the business.
Be patient. This company is investing time in you and your career, so give it time to grow.
How should you act when starting a new job? In Valuable Career Advice for Young Professionals, I have pointers for how to be successful, invest early in your career, and navigate the workplace. Also check out the best career advice I ever got for 3 pieces of advice that changed how I view my career.
3. Find something to look forward to. While first job anxiety is normal and expected, that doesn’t mean that we have to focus all of our energy on it. Instead of thinking about how nervous you are for the first day of work, concentrate on what you are looking forward to. What excites you about the job? Why did you apply in the first place? What are you hoping to learn?
Write down those things and then reread them when you feel anxious or nervous about the new job. Remember that this is a job you decided to take because you believed it would benefit you professionally, challenge you, and lead to your personal growth. Don’t lose sight of that.
What should you do the day before starting a new job?
The day before starting your job, focus on these 2 activities:
4. Preparation for the first day of work. Some of your new job anxiety and new job jitters can be fought with some simple preparation. Fill your car up with gas. Pick out your clothes for the next day. Look up your commute (and a couple of back up routes). Pack your purse or backpack. Make breakfast ahead of time, etc.
While these may seem trivial, preparing in this way can reduce stress and anxiety around starting the new job. It may not make your nerves disappear, but it gives you less things to worry about, which can have a huge impact on your first day of work. That way, you can focus on taking in all of the new information.
5. Do something relaxing to unwind. The day before starting a new job, you shouldn’t spend the entire day thinking about the new job or preparing for it. Schedule some relaxing time for yourself, plan a fun activity to do with friends, or work on a hobby to get your mind off of work.
These 9 ways to unwind after work are also things you can do to relax before starting a new job. They can help get your mind off of whatever is making you nervous and reduce stress before the first day of work.
When You’re Scared to Start New Job
6. Write down what scares you. One of the best ways to overcome fear is to face the fear. Write down all the unknowns and the aspects of the new job that scare you. When you’re done, take a five-minute break where you don’t look at the list or think about the job.
Now, go back to the list with a critical eye. Examine your list and ask yourself how you can prepare in advance to combat that fear. By doing this, you will find things in two categories.
Letting Go of New Job Worries
The first category—things you can do something about. Perhaps the fear is that you’ll get lost on the way to the office or get stuck in traffic. Then, look up your route to the office adjusted for the time of day and add additional time to back into when you need to leave your apartment. Add your new manager or first day contact’s number to your phone so you can call in case there’s a delay. Now, cross out that fear.
For the second category—thing you can’t do something about—you have to acknowledge this is out of your control. You could play what if all night, but you’ll just wear yourself out and make yourself more nervous. Instead, acknowledge the fear and move on. All the hours you spend worrying about it, you can’t get back anyway.
How can I calm my nerves before starting a new job?
7. Find Resources to Help. One of the arts of adulting is learning how to ask for help. By reading this post, you’ve already mastered that art by seeking out advice and lessons learned.
In preparing for work life, this article about transitioning from college to career has great tips as you move into the adult, working world. I also have an article dedicated to valuable career advice for young professionals to help manage expectations and give you a blueprint for making a good first impression.
8. Pray and Dig into the Word. At Kara J Lovett Co. you’ll find the intersection of life, faith, and work. It may seem more conventional to keep them separate, but why? God cares about you and your entire life, work included. He wants to meet you in your struggles and ease your fears and new job worries. 1 Peter says:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)
God wants us to bring our new job anxiety and nerves about starting a new job to him. From there, he can encourage us and carry the burden for us.
How do I Get Over Starting a New Job with Anxiety?
9. Look at your nerves in a different way. Traditionally, nervousness is seen as a bad thing or something that should go away after practice and proper preparation. Half of that statement is true; preparation can go a long way to reducing nerves. However, expecting that new job nerves will ever go away entirely is setting yourself up for failure.
Everyone has nerves. So give yourself the grace to be nervous. It’s your first job or a brand new job (or both). Of course, you’re nervous. You want to do a good job and make a great first impression. Who wouldn’t be nervous? Instead of beating yourself up for being nervous, be nervous.
10. Find your Theme Song. Sometimes all you need is a confidence booster to help you overcome first day of work nervousness. Find an upbeat song, dance song, worship song, or whatever you would consider your theme song, and play it whenever you feel nervous, anxious, or scared about the new job. I also suggest you play it in the car during your commute or right before you leave your apartment. In the same way, power poses have also been cited as effective for boosting confidence.
Special Advice for First Job Anxiety
11. Connect with other Young Professionals in Your Starting Class. For young professionals in particular, companies will usually have multiple people start at once. Even if they aren’t in the same division as you nor have the same job title, they can likely relate to all the “first job anxiety” that you’re feeling. Having someone who can sympathize with and validate your feelings may be just what you need to let go of those new job jitters.
If you’re the only young professional starting at your company, then reach out to other young professionals in your network. Who do you know that’s started a new job recently? Are any of your friends also starting their first jobs at another company? Connect with them and share why your nervous for the first day of work. They may be able to offer advice or a listening ear.
12. Reach out to Alumni or Company Contacts in Your Network. If you’ve spent time building your professional network, now is the time to cash in. Contact some university alumni or other contacts that work at the company and/or the division you are joining. See if you can get a first-hand lay of the land to calm your nerves and help settle any last-minute questions you have.
You can take that a step further by asking them to show you around your first day or meet up with you during your first week for a quick coffee chat.
I Start My First Job Tomorrow
Like most things when it comes to adulting, starting a new job is both exciting and scary. We’re anxious to know what the job will be like and who we’ll be working with. There are many unknowns that can cloud our mind. But these coping mechanisms can help you focus on the excitement and everything you have to look forward to in this new role.
On the first day of work, know that you’ll be the new kid on the block for a while. Just like when you started college, you’ll have to learn to navigate a new environment, find mentors and advocates, and make an impact in your new position. But just as you did it in university or high school, you’ll survive this transition to the new job, too.
Despite feeling nervous for the first day of work, allow yourself to be excited, too. This is quite an achievement, so find a way to celebrate this accomplishment. You’re a young professional; welcome to adulting!
How did you calm your nerves before starting your first job?
Leave me a comment below!
Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:
- Transitioning from College to Career: Tips for a Rewarding Post Grad Life
- 15 Networking Tips for People who Hate Networking
- The Best Career Advice I Ever Got
- Finding Great Mentors who can Impact Your Career
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