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Stressed About Starting Your New Job?

5 tips you can use now to overcome new job nerves

Your legs feel shaky; you notice your palms sweating. You walk nervously into the strange new building. The colours, sounds, smells; all the new faces blend into an unfamiliar mash of impressions. Your pulse steps up to a sprint and you paste an eager-to-please smile onto your face like a 'please don't hurt me' badge. You start your first day of your new job.

  • What's his name again?
  • What's her name?
  • Where do I go for lunch?
  • What am I supposed to do?
  • Am I supposed to know all this stuff already?
  • What can I do to impress?
  • Did that woman just snigger when I walked into the broom closet?
  • How long has my tie been draped over my left shoulder?

Starting a new job feels daunting, like the first day in school. The unfamiliarity coupled with the stress of wanting to please can feel overwhelming... and too much stress makes it harder to concentrate and do a good job... causing more stress...!

What can you do?

Starting your new job and feeling like a fraud

I've had people earnestly tell me how they feel like a fraud in their new job because they don't know everything all at once. As if that were even possible.

Of course, the better you calmly focus and the more you keep positive, the better it's going to be for you while you settle in. Keeping calm (and we'll look at just how to do that) is the best way to ensure you both learn effectively and enjoy starting your new job.

So how can you best ensure that you minimize stress when starting that new job?

1) Relax with ignorance

Give yourself a break. You are not supposed to know everything or everyone. Imagine how annoying it would be for the long-established people there if you did! Starting a new job is like starting a new academic course. You may have some grounding in the subject, but you are actually there to learn. Relax with and admit your relative ignorance. Ask about everything you need to and keep on asking. A newborn chick doesn't fly immediately.

And ensure you avoid this next common mistake:

2) Beware the well-intentioned newcomer trap

We can't absolutely control what others think of us, but we can help to influence the impression we make. Over-eagerness to appear pro-active can backfire. Research has found that strangers to a group who make (possibly sensible) suggestions too soon risk annoying the members of the established group (1). This is especially so if your wonderfully perceptive suggestions seem to suggest some kind of inherent criticism of the existing 'way things are done here'.

Your suggestion may be spot on and it may be perfectly fine for one of the established workers to make the very same suggestion, but a newcomer making it risks creating initial dislike or at least irritation. So hold off from trying to 'fix' everything too soon.

3) Remember that the unfamiliar will soon be familiar

Once upon a time, where you live, long-established friends, even all your family members were all brand new, all strange and unfamiliar to you. How it all seems right now is not how it's going to seem in a week, a month, or a year. I sometimes think that the kind of intelligence that has people learn very fast is really an ability to make the unfamiliar familiar very quickly. At least, that's one way of defining intelligence.

Remind yourself that what seems new now will all seem natural and 'second nature' very soon.

4) Use self-hypnosis to relax on your first day

Okay, you don't want to be too relaxed on your first day at work. Chewing gum and yawning whilst the boss shows you the ropes doesn't make you look confident so much as sloppy. But balance is essential. Too much anxiety will just slow down the learning process.

Self-hypnosis is a way to prepare yourself to be how you want to be in an upcoming situation. Close your eyes and let relaxation flow through your body. Visualize calm as a colour flowing through you. Then start to visualize your whole first day from the outside in fast-forward - just getting the sense that the you that you're watching in the future is comfortable and calm.

5) Expect the best

Expecting the worst can be a fast track way to trip yourself up. Don't 'what if':

  • "What if I can't do what they give me to do?"
  • "What if they don't like me?"
  • "What if I make a fool of myself?"
  • "What if I sprout wings and fly?"

You can 'what if' anything and start to drive yourself nuts with it. Instead, relax with waiting to find out how it's going to be. Or if you have to try to pre-empt the future, then practice expecting the best. Why not? Purposefully make yourself imagine the best possible things happening. You can do this even more powerfully when you do it in self-hypnosis.

And remember: everyone has to start somewhere.


  1. Psychologist Matthew J. Hornsey and colleagues have confirmed this effect, as well as examining how newcomers can worm their way into a group's affections and begin to generate influence (Hornsey et al., 2007). Compared with old-timers, the health professionals in the Hornsey study thought newcomers provided less constructive criticism, agreed less with newcomers' suggestions, and were more negative about their criticisms.
Published by Mark Tyrrell - in Job Skills