How to Overcome New Job Jitters

Don't let your anxiety about starting a new job cripple your performance. Heed these six tips for controlling your new job jitters.

Mon, June 27, 2011

CIO — Starting a new job creates anxiety in even the most collected, experienced professionals. It's not uncommon for people to worry about their performance, ability to come up to speed and adjust to a new work environment in the days leading up to their start date, says Ben Hicks, a partner in staffing firm Winter Wyman's software technology group.

Hicks, who has witnessed his share of IT professionals second-guess their decisions to accept job offers, says the anxiety people feel upon starting a new job is no different from the nervousness they experience upon making many other major life decisions, including getting married and buying a house.

"It's change anxiety," he says. "Someone might take months in a job search, interviewing for positions, considering what direction they want to go in, and when they finally get the offer, they become conflicted and get cold feet."

It doesn't matter whether the individual had been engaged in a protracted job search or had been working in another job prior to starting a new one, says Hicks. New job jitters can be just as acute for someone who left an existing job to take a chance on a new opportunity as they are for people who had been unemployed for months or years. The fear in both situations is ending up without a job.

Indeed, the anxiety some people experience upon starting a new job can grow so debilitating that they end up quitting their jobs, or they get fired for poor performance, says Hicks.

"I've seen people quit new jobs two or three days in because they over-reacted to feeling like they're not integrating fast enough," he says. "We see people get offered jobs that they wanted all along and at the last minute they get jitters and they reject it. Then they come to us two weeks later wanting to resurrect the offer because they feel they made a horrible mistake."

Since new job anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown, the key to overcoming new job jitters is to have a clear understanding of the culture you're entering and the job you need to do. Here are six tips for getting a handle on both and for keeping your new job anxiety under control.

1. Check in with your new boss. Hicks recommends calling your new boss a week or two before your start date to find out what your boss wants you to accomplish on day one, week one and month one. The call also presents an opportunity for you to obtain materials that will help you ramp up in your new job. For example, says Hicks, software engineers might want documentation that will help them get up to speed on a product their new employer is building or on technologies the company uses with which they're not familiar.

Discussing your new job with your new boss before you start is a key survival strategy for two reasons. It helps to quell your anxiety and demonstrates that you're conscientious, says Hicks. "A boss will be more forgiving of someone if they feel that person is making an effort, trying to integrate themselves [with the team] and learn," he adds.

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