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7 Ways to Quell First Job Jitters



By Lea McLeod, M.A. , Founder & CEO, Degrees of Transition

In spite of all the talk out there about Gen Y employees being presumptive and entitled in the workplace, I more often meet with young professionals who are anxious to get started in their first real job, and apprehensive about appearing well prepared.

You may have similar feelings. You’ve got the degree, sailed through the interviews, and landed the job (or internship) of your dreams. Now you have to show up and act like you’re every bit the person they thought they hired.

The early days on your first job are all about getting started, learning the ropes, and, building your confidence. Here are a few ideas for just that.


1. Impress them with your preparation.

Most companies have forms to complete, things to be signed, information that’s needed, before you even show up on the job.

You might need to coordinate travel arrangements, or get a passport. Things will move smoothly for you, and the folks processing your hire, if you get them what they need, when they need it.

Small things really make a difference when you are trying to make a good impression. Nailing the deadlines before Day 1 is an easy way to get off to a confident start.

2. Look good.

I know it might sound trite, but the fact is if you look good, you’ll feel better about anything you do. It’s a confidence booster. Furthermore, studies show that we’re evaluated in the workplace based on our appearance.  A recent USA Today article cited:

“Looking good on the job is an intangible asset that can be important, just as sharp technology skills or the ability to be a team player can give certain workers an edge.”

Before showing up, of course, make sure you know the dress code, so that while looking good you also feel like you’re fitting in!

3. Write it down

Never talk to anyone without a notebook and a pen in your hand. You’ll be drinking from a fire hose.

You’ll be getting instructions, names, titles, to-do’s and other miscellany you’ll need to refer back to. No one will think you a nerd if you write stuff down. They WILL find you annoying if you keep asking the same question repeatedly because you didn’t.

You’re new. You’re fresh out of school. Maybe you’ve been on vacation for three months. You don’t need to be like the order-taking savant in the restaurant. Write it down.

4. Connect with a mentor

You may have a mentor already assigned, in which case your first goal is to start building a relationship with that person. If you don’t have one assigned, start identifying potential people who can serve this important role for you.

Research shows that professionals with mentors can benefit from:

  • learning the workplace expectations more quickly

  • being more effective in their role

  • long term increased earnings, promotions and job satisfaction

Mentors can provide you the voice of experience and insight in the organization. They can also field questions that you would rather not ask your reporting manager. Especially since some of your questions might be about your reporting manager.

Their role is also to believe in you, and encourage you, which is exactly what you’ll need as you start out.

5. Get your work habits in working order

A recent survey by CareerBuilder.com cites a messy office or cubicle as one of the reasons you may get passed over for a promotion.

So find a quick and easy way to handle your note taking, email, voice mail management, paper file organization and other personal management aspects of the job. If you look organized, people will believe you ARE organized.

Additionally, if you have simple, repeatable processes that are your “go-to” for getting and staying organized, you can spend your real energy learning the job, the people and the organization.

Not an organization freak? Find someone in the workplace who is. Ask them how they stay organized and steal every good idea they give you!

6. Hydrate and freshen

Never fear a conversation because of dry mouth or bad breath. As you go through the blur of the first few weeks, you may often be reaching for that dose of h2o, Gatorade or whatever your office-appropriate drink of choice is.

Because you’ll be having so many one-on-one conversations, you’ll feel confident if you know you can pop a breath mint in your mouth at any time. I’m a big fan of Altoids, and I find that others will partake of the tin box when offered.

Bonding over breath mints, think of the possibilities!

7. Get your zzzzz’s

One responder in our research said:

“I never spent 8 hours a day on school, so the increased time spent at work was an adjustment.”

You may have never actually “worked” a 40 hour week before either. Spending all that time “on” in the first few weeks is physically and emotionally exhausting. Be prepared and expect to be pooped at the end of the day.

Compensate by making a good night’s sleep a top priority. Your well rested brain will thank you in the morning!

Starting your first job is a big deal. It may feel clumsy and overwhelming at first. But that’s a temporary situation. You’ve worked hard to earn this opportunity and with some stellar basics you will begin to make it your own.

{#/pub/images/LeaMcLeod.jpg}Written by Lea McLeod, M.A., Founder & CEO, Degrees of Transition 

Lea works extensively with new grads who are tackling the job search for the first time.  She is a guest speaker, as well as facilitator of the “Find a Job Faster” Job Search Program and “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop & Webinar series, bringing over 20 years of director level experience, most recently with Hewlett-Packard, managing, leading and serving worldwide employees. She holds a degree in Marketing from St. Bonaventure University, and a Master of Arts in Organization Development from Seattle University.


Do you have a question for Lea?  Post it here in our College Student/Recent Grad Community, she will be happy to help: Ask An Expert 


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