How to avoid overwhelm in your first week at work

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When you think about the first few days in a new job, what feelings spring to mind? Excitement? Butterflies in your stomach? Or just pure and overwhelming panic? It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting your career, or have clocked up years in the workplace. It’s natural to feel some form of anxiety when you start a new job. And it's easy to feel overwhelmed.

There’s so much to take on board. From bonding with colleagues, to taking on a slew of tasks and responsibilities. Not to mention getting your head around all the norms and rules peculiar to every workplace. Plus everything in between.

Nerves are healthy, but overwhelm can stop you settling in and doing your best work. So arm yourself with these tips on how to make it through your frst week a little more calmly and confidently.

Say ‘hi’, even if you’re shy

If you’re like most new starters, introducing yourself to a sea of strange faces whether in person or in a video meeting might be pretty daunting. But it’s crucial to try to speak to colleagues in your first few days. But you needn’t hold the floor in rapture with hilarious tales of your last job. This could just be a quick ‘Hello, my name’s…..’ 

remember to smile, be friendly and above all be yourself. If nerves are a real issue, approach people one by one rather than try to navigate bigger groups.

Even if you’d rather busy yourself sorting the stationery cupboard than break the ice, remember you have an advantage: People tend to be warm and welcoming to new colleagues. Plus, they might seem like strangers now, but hopefully they’ll soon be friends. And it all starts with a simple ‘hello’.

Write it all down

Door passcodes. Computer log ins. The name of the person you just met in the kitchen. The IT support email. Even how to transfer a call using that complicated phone system.

There’s so much information to take on board as a newbie that it’d take a memory champion to remember it all. Keep a notepad and pen close or a note app on your phone. Don’t be scared to use them and refer back whenever necessary.

Of course, it’s great to nod confidently when your manager’s explaining the intricacies of departmental strategy. Far more impressive? Not needing to ask for those gems of wisdom again because you took notes at the time.

Be as prepared as possible

You may not be able to control many things about the first few days in a new role. But, you do have a say over how prepared you are.

Anything that can ease anxiety levels and help you feel you have a handle on your situation is a good thing. So, prevent external factors blowing your cool before they have a chance to affect you.

Before your first day, if you're working on premises, do a dry run of your new route to work so you’re confident that you’ll be able to navigate the rush hour and arrive on time. Or if you'll be meeting virtually, make sure you're familiar with the meeting platform you'll be using. You can also cut out early morning faffing by planning exactly which clothes you’ll wear, Monday to Friday.

Even having meals planned at home can help you focus on the important stuff at work. Stock up your freezer ahead of time or book an online supermarket delivery to avoid a frantic post-work trolley dash.

Remember they chose you!

You might find your first few days in a new role a breeze. Equally some self-doubt might creep in as you wonder how long you’ll need to get up to speed. If you're particularly anxious you may be feeling close to being fired for a bit until you get the hang of things.

But bear in mind it’s completely natural to experience some feelings of inadequacy as you settle in. And there's no shame in asking for assistance as you learn the ropes. As we tell candidates we meet at HR GO, this is all part of starting a new role.

What’s important, though, is that you take confidence from the fact that you were chosen from other candidates to do this job.

You submitted a great application, impressed with a killer CV and of course you persuaded someone at an interview that you have what it takes to help their organisation thrive and succeed.

Any newbie struggles will one day be something you look back at and laugh about. Just once you’ve got to grips with that notoriously tricky phone system, that is…

Get more tips on settling into your new job on our Start a New Job page.

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