New Job Jitters

Learn to embrace change and say goodbye to new job angst

Your phone rings.

It’s the hiring manager at the company you interviewed with last week for that great new job!

You let the phone ring twice (best to seem not too desperate), sit up a little straighter, and prep your very best “business voice.”

You got the job!


Money, happiness, and world domination are all within your reach!

Suddenly, the soundtrack of your life shifts into a minor key, the bright shiny cartoon sun that had just moments ago been beaming above you begins to dim, and that new job grin starts to narrow.

Sure, you got the job, but now you actually have to do it.

New job anxiety is common. It can take the form of anything from mild jitters to full-blown panic. What if you end up hating your position or your boss? What if you fooled everyone into thinking you were right for the job? What if you fail so badly that you end up destitute and broken, swiping your imaginary office ID at tree stumps in a jobless, shame-fueled fugue state?!

First of all, take a deep breath and relax. There is a high probability that none of the above will actually happen. Remember that you were chosen specifically from a pool of applicants as the best candidate based on your stellar skills, flawless resume, and sparkling personality. Your new company already believes in you! Now, you just have to do the same.

Taming those nerves is easier said than done. Significant change, in any aspect of our lives, is frequently accompanied by a healthy dose of discomfort. That’s especially true today when the job market, deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, has seen more people than usual searching for their next job or their new career. Whether you’re making a lateral move, stepping up into a promotion, or completely switching careers, here are a few tips to help turn anxiety into optimism and help you regain that new job glow.

“… So, feel, express, share, and don’t be afraid to be human!” –Tammy Spenziero, Director of Career Services

Talk it out. If you’re feeling stressed, don’t keep it to yourself. Tammy Spenziero, director of career services at Excelsior College, coaches that the first step to relief could be simply to tell people how you are feeling. “Career changes can certainly create both excitement and sadness. We are not robots. We are human and therefore feel and have emotions — this is normal! So, feel, express, share, and don’t be afraid to be human!” she says.

Think a little differently. Hays, a global recruiting company based in London, England, recommends adopting a “growth mindset” about your new job. This means, instead of focusing on the negative, scary, and uncertain aspects of your career transition, work on thinking about how much these new challenges will help you grow and improve your skills and your resume. Remind yourself that this new job is a journey — that you won’t know everything your first day or even your first month. Talk yourself up instead of talking yourself down, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your attitude changes.

Remember this feeling won’t last forever. It’s important to understand that this anxiety is only temporary. It’s hard being the “new kid,” but remind yourself that everyone has been that kid before you. In a few weeks, more likely than not, you will have found your routine, maybe found an office buddy or two, and found that you’ve completely forgotten how nervous you were. Starting a new job is a momentous occasion, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Remember that it’s only change, and, as with other changes in your life, you have the strength within you to adapt and thrive.

First prepare, and then self-care. When you’re feeling nervous, a little preparation can be a big help in providing stability. The employment search engine Indeed recommends preparing a list of thoughtful questions to ask on your first day. If you commute to work, plan out your driving route, and preselect a first-day outfit that makes you feel your best. If you work from home, take time to set up a workspace where you can feel your calmest, most confident self. It’s also beneficial to take time and unwind after your first day. Whether you order your favorite food, head outside for a hike, or indulge in quiet time with a good book, a bit of self-care will help you decompress, celebrate your first day, and be ready to take on the days to come.

Stay connected. Spenziero suggests that connecting with others who share your career is a good way to start feeling a sense of investment and community in your new position: “Join LinkedIn; find groups, associations, and memberships in your career area; and connect with professionals in the field. Seek mentors — yes, more than one! Talk to others, be realistic, and seek advice and help when needed.”

Now, remember how excited you were when you accepted your new job? That’s the feeling you should be carrying with you as you take this next big step. And, if you’re still working toward your next big career break, Spenziero coaches that persistence and a positive attitude go a long way. She adds that job seekers should adopt a practical approach and align their job searches with organizations that are still hiring. According to Spenziero, “You will need to compromise and make changes, but this resiliency will set you up for long-term success.”

Most important, Spenziero reminds us: “Fear of the unknown is normal. We all have special gifts to share, and none of us is perfect. Be proud of all you have contributed, and know that life happens. Keep going!”