Nervous for the First Day of Work? 12 Excellent Ways to Cope

What makes you nervous for the first day of work? Some people might feel nervous because this new 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. In fact, all these new job worries have crossed my mind at some point. 

No matter what you’re worrying about, I hope these 12 ways to cope with new job nerves help you be calm, confident, and composed on your first day of work.

a business woman is sitting at a table in her new office on her first day of work

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How to Cope when Nervous about First Day of Work

For those of us starting our first job or a new job, we might experience new jobnerves or  anxiety*. First day of work anxiety comes from the fear of the unknown and worry over all the possible things that could go wrong. 

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?

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. Maybe I should even go back to my old job.  

Is new job anxiety normal?

But being scared to start a new job isn’t new. In fact, new job nerves are completely normal. Like stress, nerves are a natural response to what’s going on in our environment. In the case of first day of work 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 nerves. They still feel nervous about starting a new job. This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them (or you). 

Feeling nervous proves that you care about the new position and you want to do a good job.

*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 do I deal with new job nerves?

Here are 12 activities you can do when you’re nervous for the first day of work. These coping mechanisms should ease your new job nerves and worries.

  1. Manage your expectations
  2. Have a realistic view of the role
  3. Find something to look forward to
  4. Prepare for the first day
  5. Unwind with a relaxing activity
  6. Write down what scares you
  7. Find resources to help
  8. Pray and Read the Bible for encouragement
  9. Look at your nerves in a different way
  10. Find your theme song
  11. Connect with others starting with you
  12. Reach out to alumni and company contacts 

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. Having a better understanding of what you can expect on your first day should help calm your nerves.

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? I offer pointers and career advice for young professionals about how to be successful, invest early in your career, and navigate the workplace. Also the best career advice I ever got was 3 pieces of advice that changed how I viewed my career.

3. Find something to look forward to.

While first job nerves are normal and expected, that doesn’t mean that we must 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 this is a job you decided to take because you believed it would benefit you professionally, challenge you, and grow your career. Don’t lose sight of that. 

4. Prepare properly for the first day of work.

Some of your new job anxiety and new job jitters can be fought with simple preparation. Here are a couple of examples of preparing for the first day of work:

  • 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 preparation tasks 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 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 work.

These 9 ways to unwind after work should help you relax before starting a new job. They can help get your mind off whatever is making you nervous and reduce stress before the first workday. 

6. Write down and ponder 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. 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—things 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.

a woman is nervous about her first day of work so she sits in a hammock in her apartment to destress

7. Find Resources to Help. 

One important skill for adulting is learning how to ask for help. By reading this post, you’ve already started to master that by seeking out advice and lessons learned. 

Here are additional resources to assist you in staring your new job and building your confidence.

8. Pray and Dig into the Bible. 

At Kara J Lovett Co. you’ll find the intersection of life, faith, and work. It may be more conventional to keep them separate, but why not connect them all? 

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 nerves. 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.” 

God wants us to bring our new job worries and nerves about starting a new job to him. From there, He can encourage us and carry the burden for us. 

Remember your job is not your identity. You are so much more than a job or a position or a salary!

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. 

New job jitters are completely normal and show your commitment to be your best in your new position.

There is nothing strange about that. So, 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. 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 been cited as effective for boosting confidence.

Bottom line, replace those nerves with confidence.

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, 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. 

Starting a New Job Nerves

Like most things when it comes to adulting, starting a new job is both exciting and scary. There are many unknowns that can cloud our mind. 

We’re anxious to know what the job will be like and who we’ll be working with. But these coping mechanisms can help you focus on the excitement and everything you have to look forward to in this new role. 

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. 

How do you handle first day of work anxiety?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:

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4 thoughts on “Nervous for the First Day of Work? 12 Excellent Ways to Cope”

      1. I can’t sleep at all, but this alleviated my nervousness and gave me the confidence I needed. From fast food to retail to my first office job, very thrilled to have this opportunity. I don’t want to mess it up with these jitters.

        1. Hi Dan,
          I am so happy to hear that this post helped you with the first day of your office job! You have already shown drive and determination as you have moved from fast food to office job so keep it up. Breathe, smile and be kind – you’ll do great!

          ~Trish, from KJL Co.

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