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Settling into a new job can be hard. Here’s how to channel nerves into success

It’s okay to be nervous. But when you view your new job as an exciting opportunity, not an overwhelming obstacle, you’ll make strides.

Settling into a new job can be hard. Here’s how to channel nerves into success
[Photo: RossHelen/iStock]

For many of us, walking into the first day of work at a new job is a nerve-wracking experience.

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There are so many new people to meet and so many tools and processes to get acquainted with. And the hard truth is, roughly 30% of new hires don’t stick around after 90 days.

But settling into a new job doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. In fact, if you take initiative and work with your hiring manager, you can get off to a fast start that leaves you feeling comfortable and confident in your role.

Here’s how to settle in as quickly as possible:

1. Get clear on expectations

Your first week at a new company is foundational.

During this time, it’s essential that you understand the product, role, and internal tooling. But it’s also important that you use that first week to look ahead and learn where you’re expected to be 30, 60, and 90 days in. Best-case scenario, your manager already has a 90-day performance plan in place, with clear expectations set. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

One of our candidates at Edvo told me she once showed up for her first day at a company, and no one knew why she or the 10 other people in her cohort were even there. The recruiter who hired them had left the company—and apparently hadn’t communicated very well. The new hires ended up spending their first day in a conference room with zero direction or understanding of what they were supposed to be doing.

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If you find yourself in a new job without guidance, then you have to be assertive and ask questions to get clarity on what’s expected of you. Ask your manager if you can build a performance plan with them so that you’re both on the same page as far as your progress is concerned.

The sooner you know what’s expected of you, the sooner you can begin exceeding those expectations.

2. Know your goal

Having a performance plan in place is great, but it only gives you a direction—it doesn’t tell you the final destination.

You still need to ask your manager one very simple question: “By the end of my training period, what’s the one goal we want to achieve together?”

Once you know the goal, write it down and work backward to figure out how you can achieve it. For instance, in order to hit that goal by the 90-day mark, what do you need to accomplish by week one? By week two? Week eight? Then, organize your actions around that plan.

Without a clear goal in place, it’s easy to start working haphazardly on different projects or training materials, which makes the onboarding period chaotic and less productive.

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Instead, work with your manager to figure out your North Star—and then orient your work around reaching it.

3. Learn your teammates’ working styles 

Settling into a new role takes more than simply knowing your goal. There’s a human element involved that you can’t ignore.

Since our team at Edvo is relatively small, I suggest that every new hire finds time to get coffee with everyone on the team. But even if you work in a large, corporate environment, you should make it a priority to grab coffee or lunch with the people you’ll be working with directly. Get a feel for everyone’s personalities, and try to learn a little about how they like to work.

You can even ask people to share their working styles. For example, everyone on our team fills out a one-page template called “How to work with me,” which is shared internally. It includes information like:

  • Working hours
  • Best way to communicate with me
  • What I’d love to help you with
  • What makes me grumpy/happy
  • How I like to give/receive feedback

People love to talk about their work with someone who’s genuinely interested. And as a new hire, you’re in a prime position to learn from them.

Beyond one-on-one conversations, be sure to take full advantage of new hire events, buddy systems, or any other type of initiatives that help new employees get settled. If nothing is offered, take action and get people together for a happy hour after work. During my first week at Northwestern Mutual, for example, I sent a quick email out to colleagues to grab tapas after work. I was nervous that no one would show up, but of the 12 people invited, seven came! And it started a biweekly happy-hour tradition.

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The sooner you can start making yourself a part of the office culture, the better.

4. Realize it’s okay to be nervous 

No matter what you do to prepare, you’re almost certainly going to have some butterflies in your stomach when you start your new job.

Just keep one thing in mind—nervousness and excitement are the same emotion but with different applications. The only difference is the lens through which you’re viewing that emotion. If you walk into a situation with a negative mentality, worried about what might go wrong, then you’ll be nervous and uptight.

But if you walk in with a positive mindset, then you can channel your emotions into excitement. You may still have some butterflies, but you won’t have the same tense, nervous outlook on the situation.

If you’re not sure you can make that mindset shift, try repeating this to yourself before you walk in on the first day: “I’m excited to see where this takes me.”

When you start looking at your new job as an exciting opportunity rather than an overwhelming obstacle, you up your chances of quickly getting comfortable with your coworkers and crushing the first few months of your job. And that mindset is what really sets you up for long-term success.

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This article originally appeared in Minutes and is reprinted with permission.

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