Managing the Anxiety of Starting a New Job and Making a Positive Impression

Starting a new position is a big transition. If you are considering a job change, or about to start a new opportunity, what can you do to make sure you make a positive impression on your new employer? Here are a few things to consider:

Acknowledge that it is a big change — Beginning a new job is widely considered to be one of the top ten life-changing (a.k.a., stressful) events. Like getting married, divorced or having a baby, starting at a new company has a way of significantly altering your day-to-day life. A different job means a new role, but it also means many other considerable changes — a different company, new people to meet, a new manager and managing style, a foreign culture, new schedules and a different benefits package to learn. The changes can be overwhelming. Even the seemingly “small” aspects of starting a new job (the commute, who to have lunch with, finding the restrooms) can cause some stress.

Change anxiety is normal — It is important to realize that it is perfectly normal to feel anxious. Things are going to be different, and it is natural to feel nervous about the changes. You may even find yourself second-guessing your decision to leave your previous job, but don’t react too quickly. Give yourself time to get adjusted to your new surroundings and find something positive to focus on every day (e.g., “My office-mate is friendly, and it’s great that I already know how to use the software package.”).

Work like you’re in a fish bowl — First impressions aren’t made in a day, but over the first few months. Don’t get too comfortable in your new job too fast. Instead, work like you’re on “probation.” You have several weeks to prove to your employer that they made the right choice in hiring you — or not. But if you do slip up and make a mistake, make sure to own up to it and come back the next day to try again.

Be a model worker — Showing that you’re a good worker is actually quite easy. Showcase your good work habits like arriving to work on time and not leaving early. Be productive at your desk. Don’t linger at the coffee maker chatting about what happened over the weekend or take long lunches. Avoid checking your personal email and Facebook account. Stay busy, ask good questions, don’t distract others and try not to complain. Your colleagues and manager will appreciate you more for just doing your job.

Pay attention to culture — Learning about office culture is not something you can fully grasp by reading an employee handbook; you have to live it to understand it. While it is important to follow office policies and guidelines, you must also clue into the “unwritten” rules and systems at work. For example, you may discover that your team members meet for coffee in the cafeteria 20 minutes before work, and you could fit in more quickly if you joined them. You may also find ways to lose favor with your bosses by not paying attention to the culture. If, for instance, a VP uses a conference room on most Wednesdays at 9:00 AM even though it isn’t on the schedule, don’t book a meeting in the same room at 8:45 AM.

Be open to direction and feedback — Since you are new to the job, by definition you are not an expert. Check in with your manager and colleagues to make sure you are on the right track. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for feedback (“How am I doing so far?”).

Take initiative — While checking in with your manager occasionally is a great idea, don’t become too dependent on your boss’ guidance. You want to prove that you can work autonomously and can add value to the organization. Volunteer for projects, or offer to assist with them. Brainstorm new ideas to tackle the company’s or department’s business issues. Show that you can take initiative while keeping lines of communication open.

The beginning weeks in a new job are a time of transition, but they also give you a chance to demonstrate what kind of worker you are. Make sure to show that you are a key player, not a poor hiring choice. By following these guidelines you can prove that you are a solid employee and a future top performer in the organization.

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