Next week I’m starting a new job (huzzah!) and while I’m very excited about it, I’m also pretty dang nervous. I think that’s normal every time you start out in a new workplace, especially if, in my case, it’s a job you’ve been wanting for ages. I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure, mostly self-inflicted, about meeting my own expectations, surpassing the expectations of others, remembering every new thing I learn the second I learn it, and oh yeah, being amazingly, spectacularly perfect at all the parts of my new job. What? That’s a totally reasonable, normal list of goals to have for one’s first day. Don’t look at me like that.
OK, so maybe I’m a little bit scared. Or a lot. When the nerves start getting really nervy, working me up into a frenzy—”Oh god, are they sure I’m the right fit, what if I accidentally light the break room on fire by exploding the microwave, will they still let me work there?”—I have to talk myself down a little. Or a lot. I’ve had quite a few jobs in my time, but I haven’t ever nabbed one I wanted quite so much, and I’m experiencing what we might call an anxiety surge. Here’s what I’ve been telling myself to get through it (and hopefully, it might help you if you find yourself in the same spiral).
It’s OK to not know everything right away. I mean, yeah, duh, but this obvious fact doesn’t always stick in my brain when I’m learning a new whirlwind of information and feeling the familiar fog that happens when my mind is about to get totally overwhelmed. It really is OK to not know everything. All your new coworkers are not expecting you to know everything — actually, chances are, they’re used to newbies not knowing a lot at all. The only one who thinks you should be able to do it all right away is you. Remember that there’s a learning curve, you’re not a superhuman, and it might take a while to settle in.
Don’t worry about eating lunch alone in the break room. Or setting the microwave on fire, because no matter how addled your nerves are, you’re probably not going to be sticking aluminum foil in the zapper anytime soon. Making friends at any new place takes time, and just like you always got over those first-day-of-school jitters, you’ll get over this anxiety too. Listen, I’m not gonna tell you that “making friends isn’t a necessary part of your job” because I have had friends everywhere I’ve worked, and they make life better (especially when the nature of your job is team-based). I’m also not gonna lie; it will probably take a little bit before you’re noshing on frozen burritos with pals on your break. But for now, bring a book, prop up your phone, read a dang newspaper, and don’t worry about it.
Making mistakes is just part of the process. I mean, that’s true for every area of life. But it’s especially true for a new workplace. It takes time to learn new routines, and you don’t grow knowledgeable in a new area overnight. You’re going to need to give yourself some grace for the inevitable mess-ups. Owning your mistakes and asking for help is, also, part of the process. I know, I know, it sounds really repetitive and mundane, but it’s true.
You don’t have to remember everyone’s name right away. I bet you they’re probably not going to remember yours for a little while, anyway. In my case, it helps a lot that mostly everyone will be wearing ID’s somewhere on their person, so this is kind of a cheat. But people can still tell when you’re eyeing their name tag — don’t worry, it’s to be expected.
You will have questions. Many of them. That is fine. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions!” Every supervisor has told me this on my first day. And I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. . .until I got to the 50th query and started to feel like a broken record. It’s in my nature to want to appear confident and unflappable at all times and I have a really hard time when that fails (this, coming from a girl who, just last week, walked into a door and fell over in front of a crowd of people). Ask all the questions you need. It’s better to ask when you’re wondering than to fake it ’til you break it.