Guide: how to cope with feeling nervous about a new job

Updated 30 September 2022

If you're changing jobs or starting work for the first time, it's natural to feel nervous at first. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that changing jobs typically means adjusting to new responsibilities. Understanding why you feel nervous about your new job and knowing how to handle your feelings can make your first days and weeks there more enjoyable. In this article, we discuss why you might feel nervous about starting a new job and explain how to overcome this feeling.

Causes of feeling nervous about a new job

A new job is a major life change and it is natural to feel nervous about it. You will be starting work in a new environment and this can take time to get used to. Moreover, you are about to meet many new people who probably already know each other and you may feel anxious about making the right impression and fitting in. The work itself can also cause feelings of nervousness. There are new tasks and responsibilities to learn and become proficient in. Give yourself time to develop specific capabilities in your new role. Be patient as you allow yourself become fully familiar with the work you are doing, with your workplace and and with your colleagues.

Identifying feelings of nervousness and acknowledging them is a first step to resolving them. When you are starting your first job after finishing formal education, then everything about the experience is likely to be new to you. To consider another example, if you've taken time away from work for personal reasons, you might feel worried about your skills and whether your knowledge is still as relevant and up-to-date.

Related: How to change careers

How to overcome feeling nervous about a new job

The first weeks at a new company or in a new role within the same company can be challenging but there are steps you can take to feel relaxed about starting a new job. Practising the steps below can help you start your new job with confidence and allow you to quickly adapt to your new routine and environment:

1. Talk about your feelings

Talking about your feelings with a close friend or family member is one way to calm your nerves. The person you talk to might also have experienced similar feelings of nervousness about starting a new job and could offer some helpful advice about overcoming those feelings. Talking about particular aspects of the job that you feel nervous about, such as meeting new colleagues, can help you find ways to ease the situation and start to build new relationships.

2. Prepare as much as possible

Feelings of nervousness often occur when facing unknown situations. Preparing as much as possible beforehand can help to reduce nervousness in your new job. For example, deciding upon the route to travel to work and practising your new commute before your first day might help. Choosing what to wear on your first day is another decision which may help calm your nerves. Doing more research into your new organisation may help you build confidence as you start your new role.

It may also be helpful to contact your new manager in advance if appropriate and ask if there's anything they recommend you do to prepare in advance. They might encourage you to refresh a particular skill or research aspects of the job. A message from you may lead them to give you an update on any relevant changes since your last communication, such as the name of a colleague or the person allocated to support your induction to the company. Direction from your new manager can help you feel ready for your first day. Managers develop their own capabilities in supporting newly recruited team members to become accustomed to their new role.

Related: A complete guide to starting a new job successfully

3. Familiarise yourself with your responsibilities

Remind yourself about the responsibilities of your new job. Re-read the job description to remind yourself of your new employer's expectations of you in the role. Remember you are not expected to know everything. Managers allow for new staff to develop their skills over time and this in itself is reassuring.

4. Remember why you got the job

Another cause of nervousness can occur when doubt creeps in about your responsibilities and how capable you are. Although it may be natural to feel nervous when there seems so much to learn, it's also important to remind yourself that you were selected for the role over other candidates. In doing so, your manager has confidence in your ability to perform well in your role. Take the time to recall the positive feedback you received during the interviewing and hiring process.

5. Manage your expectations

Managing your own expectations is a good way to reduce feelings of nervousness. Even if you've previously worked in a similar role, you're entering a new environment with different requirements and procedures. It's understandable that you may require time to learn and adjust. Your employer knows and understands this. Manage your expectations by remembering that you're new and give yourself time to adjust to your new workplace.

6. Ask questions

It's often a good idea to ask questions during your first days and weeks. These can be questions about the company and your role, and questions that help you get to know your new colleagues. Ask for clarification when you need it. As your knowledge grows, your questions become more specific and help you develop competence in your role. Asking questions also gives your manager confidence that you are committed to learning your job thoroughly. Remember that new hires take time to adjust and learn, and your new employer is likely to understand this.

Related: How to welcome new employees (with steps and examples)

7. Have a positive attitude

Having a positive attitude can greatly reduce your nervousness. You can do this by focusing on the new opportunities, the chance to meet new people and how this can help your career. It's also useful to remember why you wanted this job and considered the opportunities it offers.

8. Be friendly and enthusiastic

When joining a new organisation, your new colleagues are equally as curious about you as you are about them. Being friendly and enthusiastic can therefore make it easier and pleasanter to adjust to the new environment and to begin to make new work friends. This approach can make a good impression while reducing your nervousness and help you build rapport with your colleagues.

Related: Forming relationships with work colleagues

9. Plan something to look forward to

One way of reducing the feeling of nervousness when starting a new job is by planning something enjoyable to look forward to once you finish your first day at work. For example, you can make plans to go out with your friends to celebrate your new job. Spending time with friends can give you a chance to discuss your first day and also give you something positive to focus on.

10. Exercise

Physical activities can help overcome nervousness. Choose an activity you find calming. For example, if you prefer gentle physical activities, then going for a walk or bike ride can be a good way to make you feel more relaxed. You may also consider more intensive physical activities, such as engaging in a sport you enjoy or working out at a gym.

11. Practise mindfulness

If you're feeling overwhelmed by nerves and anxiety, consider practising mindfulness. This can be as simple as noticing and acknowledging how you feel and paying attention to the present moment. Notice the sights and sounds around you and focus on appreciating the moment, even if you're in a busy work environment. Practising mindfulness can help you learn how to acknowledge and then let go of negative feelings and avoid becoming overburdened by them.

Related: Relaxation techniques to use when you're stressed at work

12. Write your feelings down

You might find it helpful to write down your feelings in a journal. This is another way of acknowledging and accepting how you feel. You may find that writing about your feelings helps you to let go of them and makes you feel calmer and more confident. Writing about your feelings can also help you identify what specifically is making you feel nervous and help you remember the positive aspects of the new job.

13. Remember that it's going to pass

It can be easy to focus too much on the short term. Even if you're going to feel nervous and require time to adjust, you're likely to get used to the new job sooner than you expect. Consider how you may feel after a few weeks or months, at which point the new job becomes part of your life. Also, visualise the time a few months from now when you look back on your first days and realise there was little reason to feel nervous.

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