When you take a new job, you’re likely to suffer from nerves or jitters. Even wonderful opportunities can be fraught with uncertainty as you face the overwhelm of new responsibilities, a new organization and new coworkers.
Despite how normal it is to feel uneasy about a new job, you don’t want to let the jitters knock you off course or keep you from being your best—so some smart strategies can help.
Worry is Widespread
It may be helpful to know how widespread worry can be when you take a new job. In fact, 87% of people report they are nervous when they start a job, according to a new poll by Monster. And 53% of people say starting a new job is as scary as going to the dentist, confronting snakes or spiders or even skydiving.
It makes sense. Your brain tends to prefer certainty, shying away from ambiguity. And few things are as uncertain and unknown as a new job. The risks are also high. A fresh vacation spot or an unknown kickboxing instructor offer short-term, low-risk novelty, but a new job affects your esteem, how you spend your time, your level of flexibility, your relationships and even your mental health. It’s a high commitment and comes with big risks and big rewards.
Making It Work
But it’s possible to manage your nerves, make great early impressions and set the stage for a brilliant next step in your career. Here’s how.
#1 – Reassure Yourself
In addition to feeling generally nervous, chances are high that as you learn more about the job and the culture, you’re assessing and re-assessing your fit. In fact, according to the Monster survey, 50% of people worried they would be viewed as unqualified and 65% said they experienced imposter syndrome—in which they were unsure of their capabilities and felt as if they were posing—and not cut out for the challenges in front of them.
In the face of these concerns, reassure yourself that you got the job because of your skills and your potential and that you have what it takes to succeed. The hiring process is intense, and the competitiveness of the job market means you were certainly up against others who were capable and qualified. Your new company chose you because they value you, want to work with you and believe you’ll make a terrific contribution.
Also remind yourself that every new boss and new organization expects to orient you, train you and help you succeed. You have what it takes, and you don’t have to have it all—there will be time to learn and acclimate.
#2 – Demonstrate Your Commitment
As you’re getting started, you’ll also want to be intentional about demonstrating your commitment and your desire to perform well. You’ll have plenty of goodies to take advantage of over time—like flexible working, great colleagues, generous benefits and meaningful work-life fulfillment. These are likely the criteria you used in choosing to join the company in the first place.
But also plan on making a solid commitment up front. Ask questions, listen to others, watch behaviors and norms—so you can learn the culture. Be yourself, but also respect and value the organization you’ve joined and the colleagues who have a lot to teach you.
In the poll, 25% avoided taking paid time off (PTO) right away, and this was probably wise. If you have a vacation which has been on the books for a while, make the hiring manager aware before you begin. But then plan to spend your time and energy in your work for the first period of months as you demonstrate your commitment.
In fact, feeling happiness in your work is correlated with commitment and immersion. When you make an investment and get involved in doing great work, it can pay off in terms of your positive feelings about the contribution you’re making.
Also perform to the best of your ability. This too is correlated with happiness. When you’re working hard, it’s statistically linked with feeling greater joy—because you are expressing your talents and contributing to those around you.
Fully 22% didn’t feel they were performing to the best of their ability because of their jitters. Try to take the focus off of your worries, and instead emphasize your learning, your responsibilities and your goals. You bring a valuable and unique perspective because you have fresh eyes.
Also resist the urge to prove yourself which can detract from your credibility and likability. Your boss chose you because they valued you and want to work with you. They’ll want to see your effort, but they’re already in your corner and want you to succeed.
#3 – Nurture Relationships
One of the most fulfilling parts of any role is your relationships with your colleagues—and a new job is a terrific time to get to know others and build new friendships. However, new job nerves got in the way for 19% of poll respondents who said their worries were infringing on personal relationships.
When you’re going through something new or uncertain, it’s natural for stress to spillover to other parts of your life. The best strategy is to think of your closest relationships as safe harbors. Be open about your uncertainties or worries so your people know what you’re going through, but share your stress by talking about it and seeking support, not by acting on it or taking your stress out on others.
Also get to know your new coworkers. Seek to understand what they do, what’s important to them and what you can learn from them uniquely. Hold one-on-one meetings, invite colleagues for coffee and let people know you value their insights. As you build a strong support network at work you’ll in turn reduce your tensions because you’ll feel a greater sense of belonging—more like an insider than a newbie.
#4 – Manage Your Stress
Many people who take a new job experience loss of sleep (59%), negative physical or emotional symptoms (49%) and struggles to balance all their commitments (35%). These are normal reactions and one of the best strategies to get through new job jitters is to normalize them.
When you feel nervous, it’s a signal you care—and this is a good thing. When you feel unsure, it’s a signal you have new opportunities to learn—also a good thing. When you feel worried, it’s a signal you’re working to establish new routines and new ways of being. All of these can be positive moments for stretch and growth.
It’s a myth that a happy life is one without stress. There is a Goldilocks rule of stress (called eustress) in which just enough can be best. If you never face challenges, it can be demotivating—or if you face too many, it can be debilitating. Remind yourself that a new job is a wonderful new prospect. You’ll have to learn new skills, develop new habits, schedule your time differently, build new relationships and find new equilibrium with work and life. But these can be points of growth, simulation and new beginnings.
In addition to managing your mindset, take action using your best stress reduction strategies. Exercise, spend time in nature, stay hydrated, meditate, take cold showers, breathe, walk your dog, spend time with loved ones and seek support when you need it. Do what works for you, knowing it’s normal to have some nerves and that you can manage yourself through it.
#5 – Give It Time
Perhaps most important is to give yourself time to adjust, adapt and acclimate. For 22% of people in the poll, it took one week to one month to settle in. And for 25% of people the process took one to three months. But there were variations of course—from less than a week to more than a year. Your experience will vary—based on the job, the culture, where and when you work, your style and so much more.
Transitions take time and nothing is immediate. Your best bet will be to be patient with yourself and with others as you get the hang of things and settle into your best contributions.
A Bright Future
You’ve taken a terrific new job and you’re on course for the next step in your career journey. Just getting the job is an accomplishment, and you’ll have plenty of moments to learn, grow and make contributions which are meaningful to you and to your new colleagues and company. Do your best in the present as you focus on a bright future.