Getting Started Watercooler

5 Tips for Avoiding the First Day Freakout

Written by Miranda Pennington

I don’t care how far you are from your last first day of school—everybody gets nervous on their first day of work at a new job. Will my coworkers like me? Where will I sit at lunch? Is my outfit too formal? Not formal enough? What if I get stuck in the elevator with the CEO?

Take a deep breath and set yourself some priorities: 1. Make a good impression on your boss. 2. Don’t make a bad impression on your colleagues. 3. Accomplish one relevant work task. There. Not too bad, right?

Now, in order to calm down enough to tackle your to-do list, try these techniques from Joanne Troppello at CareerAddict!

1. Remind Yourself You Were Chosen

On every sweepstakes I used to enter as a kid, I always noticed the “many will enter, few will win” fine print at the bottom. It’s true for jobs too—probably a ton of people applied for the position you’ve just landed, and they picked YOU. Remind yourself why you thought you were qualified for this job to begin with. A tip that seems silly but really works: reread your resume and cover letter if you have to!

2. Remember a Past Professional Success

Think back to your last job, or your favorite class in school, or a time you triumphed when the going got tough. Odds are you had to adjust to a new situation first, or had to confront obstacles in your path—even if it wasn’t easy, you got through it and accomplished something awesome on the other side. Trust that the muscle memory of succeeding is inside you somewhere, and it’ll kick in when you need it.

3. Focus on the Positive

Try to embrace the fact that you feel nervous. Accept it as proof that you want to do well at this new gig! If you let it take you down a negative spiral, it can be hard to turn back towards the light. Decide to be optimistic, decide to feign confidence until you feel it, and hold your head up on the tedious office tour or HR presentation that will kick off your first day.

4. Take the Initiative to Interact

I always get nervous at new jobs because I am not a schmoozer. I’m an introvert who would happily work side by side in silence with other introverts or my dog—but that’s not how offices work. If social interaction at the workplace doesn’t come easily to you either, have a plan for you. Greet everyone you’re introduced to with a smile or a handshake, jot names down and sketch out a seating chart to remember where their desks are, and have some innocuous questions about where to get lunch or coffee ready to go in case there’s a pause for conversation.

“It’s nice to meet you!” “I look forward to working together!” Really, that’s all you need to get started.

5. See Your Manager as a Collaborator

Once you’ve had a micromanage-y or overly critical boss it’s easy to go into a new job situation bracing for conflict. But see this job as a fresh start and remember that your boss is invested in your success—they’re on your team! Ask questions when you have them, share your enthusiasm for a particularly great project, and work smoothly with your colleagues, and they’ll appreciate you just as much.

And last but not least, lay out your outfit ahead of time. That one’s not from CareerAddict, that’s from my mom.

 5 Ways to Avoid “First Day” Nerves When Starting a New Job


About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.