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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

10 Ways to Avoid the First Day Jitters

If you’ve just secured your first job out of college and you’re feeling a little anxious, you aren’t alone. In fact, the feeling isn’t much different than the “first day of school jitters.”

But some of that same back-to-school advice still has value for recent grads. Whether you’re going off to a new job in the big city or a small town), here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re planning for that first day of work:

1. Go to Bed Early

Spend the night before your new job getting ready. Lay out your clothes, pack your bag, get a good night’s rest—and resist that urge to celebrate your new job with friends and cocktails on the night before. Show up to work alert, energized, and ready to make a great first impression.

2. Arrive to Work on Time

Sometime before that first day, do a trial run of the morning traffic flow to iron out any congestion hiccups. Map out your commute and take into consideration any subways transfers or possible traffic issues. Arrive calm, cool, collected, and confident—not running five minutes late, frazzled, and already stressed out.

3. Dress Appropriately for the Job

The first day of work isn’t the time to ask about the corporate dress policy—keep it conservative until you’ve had a chance to look around. Common sense says too tight, too short, or too low is a definite don’t.

4. Have a Lunch Plan and Keep a Nutritious Snack in Your Purse

Keep something quick and easy to eat on hand in case of emergency. A bag of nuts, dried fruit, or a granola bar will keep indefinitely in a desk drawer or your purse. One exec I know was so excited on her first day of work that she forgot to eat lunch entirely. She began feeling faint and jittery by mid-afternoon, and it was so bad she had to go home. Don’t let that be you.

5. Avoid Tuna Fish

Lunch at your desk may be tempting, but keep your lunch choice odor free. It’s best to get out of the office, or at least eat in the company break room to give yourself a change of scenery—and a chance to meet some of your new colleagues.

6. Make Friends With Your Colleagues

Don’t wait for your new peers to walk up to you first (although it would be good manners for them to do so). Show your confidence by extending your hand for a shake and introduce yourself using both your first and last name. Using only your first name makes you appear juvenile or of lesser authority.

7. Don’t Jack Your Desk Up With Tchotchkes

Keep your blow-up palm tree at home. The photo of you and your partner making out on the beach? That also stays on your bedroom shelf. Keep your décor classy, and don’t overdo it on Day one.

8. Play Nice With Others

A colleague may try to lure you into their camp with “helpful” warnings about co-workers or unpopular company policies. Don’t be swayed by someone with an axe to grind. Office gossip is everywhere, but make a point to be like Switzerlandand stay neutral.

9. Don’t Open the “Ex” File

Whatever you feel about your previous job or boss, you’re making a fresh start—so leave your past employment woes at the door. And remember to keep an open mind. The way you did something at your last job may not be how they do things here, so tread lightly at first and learn all that you can before jumping in with suggestions on how things should be executed differently.

10. Keep Your Game Face On

The first day can overwhelming. Or maybe you’ll be so excited about your first “real” job that you’ll have to fight the urge to do back flips down the hall. Either way, stay cool. Exude warmth, approachability, and enthusiasm for your job, but remember you’re a professional now—maintain your dignity and focus.

The first day can set the tone for your new work experience. You don’t need to be anxious about it and you don’t need to know everything when you walk in the door—but take the time to prepare in advance, do your research, arrive early, ask questions, smile, and enjoy the first day of your corporate life.

Congratulations on your new job!