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Starting a New Job: Eight Tips to Cope with Anxiety, Expectations, and Everything Else

Starting a new job can cause anxiety. It means new co-workers, new office policies and procedures, a new environment, and new things to learn. Here are some practical tips to help smooth the transition:

  1. Lower your expectations. If you are leaving your current job, don’t expect a big send-off. Former employers and colleagues don’t always make leaving easy. Accept that. Don’t burn bridges, but don’t take it personally if they don’t throw you a going-away party.

Similarly, don’t expect fanfare when you arrive at your new job. New employers and new coworkers don’t always make starting easy. Be confident and know that you are wanted—they wouldn’t have hired you otherwise—but don’t expect a cake. 

  1. Make a great first impression. Here’s how:
  • Dress for success. Look like you belong there. Follow the lead of the people you saw during your interviews. You may even want to overdress a bit the first week to be on the safe side; just don’t overdo it, and never underdress.
  • The night before, get out everything you need: your outfit, any badges, parking passes, forms, directions, lunch, snacks, etc. You do not want to be scrambling for these things in the morning.
  • Get plenty of rest. You want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed, so go to bed early. Triple check the alarm. And no boozing it up the night before. The last thing you want on your first day is a hangover.
  • Be on time. Better yet, be early. Know how to get there, how long it takes, and leave with plenty of extra time. You should also know where you need to be, to whom you need to report, or in which office you should start.
  1. Be courteous and respectful to everyone. And I mean everyone, including parking attendants, receptionists, and security guards. These people are your colleagues, too, and should be treated with respect.
  1. Understand expectations. On the first day, meet with your boss to establish goals and objectives. Ask specific questions, clarify expectations, and understand your role in the organization. Find out exactly what they want you to do.
  1. Stay positive. Don’t be surprised if there’s a little disorganization on the first day, or if you don’t feel altogether welcome. Most employers don’t really do a great job of onboarding,  so lower your expectations and try to remain upbeat. It will get better. 
  1. Soak in the office culture. A key part of success is fitting in. You need to learn your new firm’s way of doing things, so observing and asking questions is the best course of action. Pay attention to how people act, how they talk, how they dress, etc.
  1. Socialize with your colleagues. Your new colleagues may or may not be receptive to you, but you certainly have to be receptive to them. Work is a social environment, and, to be successful, you must take the time to get to know your new colleagues. Here’s how:

First, don’t be a know-it-all and don’t talk too much. It’s not all about you. Ask questions. Listen. Be curious. Find out what is going on in the organization.

Second, eat lunch with them. Pack your lunch on the first day; until you learn what the lunch culture is you should be prepared to eat in. If there is a lunchroom, go there, ask if you may join some people and introduce yourself. For your first week, don’t have lunch with friends outside the office. Stick around.

  1. Final tips:
  • Don’t text or phone friends. No personal stuff of any kind!
  • Don’t get caught updating your Facebook page on your first day.
  • Don’t smoke in front of anyone.
  • Don’t leave, even for a latte run. And certainly don’t leave early, unless someone is dying.
  • The walls have ears, so don’t talk about your new job or your new boss in anything but the most glowing of terms. Similarly, don’t badmouth your former employer or place of work.
  • Don’t flirt. Period.
  • Don’t put in for vacation time. Unless you’ve pre-negotiated a vacation up front, I’d wait six months to even ask.
  • It is OK to start networking immediately. You should absolutely attend any office happy hours, parties, and other social events. Accept invitations for lunch, dinner, seminars, events, etc.
  • If you go out for cocktails or attend an event with colleagues, have only one drink. No exceptions. And no shots.
  • Don’t go negative. If you assume that people don’t like you or you make early judgments about the office, you won’t have a positive attitude. Try to focus on the things that you like so far about the work and stay away from anyone who is saying negative things on the job.

Good luck!

Want to learn more about Office Etiquette for your organization? Check it out:

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