Changing Jobs

New job? These tips will help you get off to a fearless start

Written by Kate Lopaze

Starting a new job is like starting a new anything else: stepping out of the familiar and into something unknown can cause major anxiety, even if you’re not usually prone to that kind of thing. If you’re about to start a new gig and want to make sure your first week sets the right tone for your next career step, we’ve got some tips for you. After all, you spent so much time, effort, and energy into getting this job offer (congrats, by the way!). A bit of prep can make your first week so much less nerve-wracking and whirlwind-y.

Do reach out to your manager before you start

You may already be in touch with your new manager from the hiring process. Or you may be in touch with HR or someone else within the company who’s handling your onboarding. Whatever the case may be, definitely reach out to your manager (getting direct contact info from your other company contact, if you don’t already have it) before your start date.

For one thing, it shows your new boss that you’re ready to hit the ground running. It can also help you get crucial information, like your actual schedule. What time are you expected to be there? Is there anything you should be aware of before the first day? Should you plan to spend time filling out paperwork or other onboarding tasks before meeting up with your new team? Is there anything you can do ahead of time to make things a bit less chaotic on the first day? Knowing ahead of time can help you plan better for that first day and feel more at ease.

Don’t skip the pre-first day homework

You probably already did a bit of digging into the company while you were applying and interviewing for your job. But even if you feel pretty knowledgeable about what the company does and what your role will be, make sure to do a research pass as an employee, not just a prospective candidate. Are there any company systems or software that were mentioned during your interview or any preliminary info sessions? If so, some quick online intel can help you get pre-acquainted.

Also, check any current industry news and your new company’s social media so that you’re not walking into something big or exciting while feeling clueless.

Do try to make a good first impression

I know, it sounds like something you might have heard on the first day of school, way back when. Play nice, right? Still applies, no matter how old and wise we get. As you make your way through your first week, try to get a handle on the company’s culture. You won’t know all the politics and vibes right away, of course, but you can get a feel for how formal the workplace is, how people interact with each other, whether people tend to email/chat online instead of calling or dropping by, etc.

Being friendly and open to everyone you meet is always a good start, but also take extra care to be mindful of how you’re interacting with people. You can’t take for granted that everyone has the same sense of humor you do, or won’t take offense at language choices. People might also take a no-nonsense stance as a kind of aggression, even if you don’t mean it that way. Mindful and neutral is the way to go until you feel more comfortable in your role and your work relationships.

Don’t compare your old job to your new one

This is something we often do subconsciously, as we process how our new job will be different from the old one. If you find yourself saying, “That’s not how we did it at my old place,” without being asked to compare, then resist that urge. There will be time later to compare old vs. new, but right now try to focus on the new, and what your new routine will be.

Do make the extra effort to be early

This one isn’t such a challenge if you’re working remotely, because a commute shouldn’t be an issue. But if you’re expected to be in the workplace at any point, do everything in your power to make sure you’re there before the “on-time” buzzer. If you do have a commute, game it out early by doing a test drive during normal commute hours, or taking a test run on any public transportation you’ll be taking regularly. 

Do find a buddy (or several!)

Having an unofficial mentor when you get started is invaluable. Sure, you’ll have your manager and direct colleagues to show you how to do the actual job, but you also need a buddy who can help with other things—like which is the best place to grab a coffee nearby, and what the office is like (unofficially). This kind of bonding can be extra challenging if, like so many people these days, you’re starting a new job by working remotely. If any of your new colleagues make an offer to meet virtually or talk on the phone, take them up on it. If no one steps forward in that kind of way, ask your manager if there’s anyone they would recommend as a go-to resource.   

Remember: you’re there because they want you, and everyone there is invested in your becoming a member of the team. Don’t be afraid to reach out, or take people up on friendly gestures as you get started.

Do give yourself a little extra TLC

Even if your new job isn’t all that different from your previous one, there’s still going to be a big learning process—and that can be exhausting. The first week, give yourself some extra space and treats to make sure you keep your mood up. Extra sleep, your favorite dinner, a daily beverage of your choosing—these may seem small, but it’s important to indulge yourself a little while you’re adapting to your new normal.

Also, give yourself some space from self-criticism. If you feel like you’re slow to pick up certain things, or are feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the information coming your way, that’s natural. You’ll get there, so give yourself a break.

Soon enough, the new job will be the status quo, and these early-day jitters will seem quaint. But when you’re in it, and feeling the anxiety of starting something new and making changes, then it’s hard to know what to do to make things easier. A little prep and a little extra effort can help make the difference between an overwhelming first week and a grounded one. Good luck—you’ve got this!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.