Starting a new job

Get tips for how to make a great first impression while managing the stress and demands of a new job.

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Starting a new job can be an exciting time, and it can also come with some level of apprehension, fear, and stress. It’s normal to have mixed emotions when coping with change

Whether this is your first job, a lateral move, or a promotion, you could be working with new people, learning new things, and may feel pressure to perform. Most of us want to make a great first impression and to compensate for any lack of experience in the new role. It can be tempting in the beginning to push yourself in unhealthy ways while trying to prove yourself. The truth is, it’s not sustainable and it could negatively impact your relationships, physical health and mental health, leading to burnout. It also can set unrealistic expectations for the hours that you’ll work and how you’ll perform in the long term. 

Try our short eLearning module which includes key concepts related to this topic. You can share this with others or use it as part of a more in-depth learning program.

Reflect on how you’re feeling

As you start a new role, take time to reflect on how you’re feeling. Be aware of any fears or concerns you may have and consider which may be worry myths or unhelpful thoughts. Answer the following questions to explore what you could do to deal with this: 

  • What strengths, skills or experience am I bringing to this role?
  • Am I clear on what level of performance will be good enough in this role? 
  • Am I able to be satisfied with realistic expectations instead of striving for the illusion of perfection?
  • What has helped me to manage work stressors before? 
  • Are there unhealthy coping strategies that I need to avoid, such as overworking, sleep deprivation, substance use or lack of self-care?
  • What will help me thrive in this new role? Do any of the things I need require support from someone else? If yes, what’s the best way for me to request their support? 
  • Who can I reach out to at work or personally for support during this transition?

By taking your time to understand yourself, your strengths and the value you add to this new role, you’ll be better able to support your success and hopefully reduce your stress.

Re-align your habits

A new job is an opportunity to reset. Psychologists call this the “fresh start effect”, which can motivate us to make positive changes in our habits. As you prepare for your new job, think about:

  • Habits you’d like to drop. Maybe you were answering emails outside of office hours in your last role or not taking lunch. Now is a great time to think about unhelpful habits you formed in previous roles that you’d like to change to support your ongoing success and well-being. 
  • Habits you want to nurture. Perhaps in your last role you had walking meetings, scheduled weekly informal coffee check-ins with colleagues or blocked time in your calendar for focused work. Hold onto and nurture those habits that supported your success and well-being in the past. 
  • Habits you want to create. Consider new strategies and approaches that you feel would be in your best interest in terms of supporting your success on the job, your health and well-being and your quality of life. This could include stretching every hour, getting adequate sleep, making a point of connecting with coworkers, watching less distressing news or eating food that is more nutritious. 

It’s important we hold ourselves accountable to sustain the habits we set for ourselves. Try setting time aside every week to reflect on where you’re at with dropping habits that aren’t helpful and nurturing, or creating positive ones. It can also help to find an accountability buddy as that can amplify your success by up to 95%.

On the job

Once you begin the new role, there are opportunities to set yourself up for success. 

  • Know what supports you to do your best work and share this information with your manager or supervisor. The conversation could begin, “There are some things that help me to do my best work. I want to share this with you to see what is possible in this role.” You might share:
    • Your ideal work hours, only if you know that flexibility is possible
    • Strategies you use to deal with work stress and tight deadlines
    • The type of environment that works best for you in terms of noise, lighting and distractions
    • Resources and equipment you’d like to help you do your job well
    • The types of tasks you feel confident doing and those you feel you need more support or training to do
    • When your energy is highest and when it is lowest
    • The type and frequency of support, recognition or feedback you’d appreciate from your leader
    • Your preference to work with others or alone

Setting boundaries at work can be challenging, especially for high achievers who may think setting limits will make them look weak, difficult or even demanding. The reality is, knowing your limits, managing your time and energy, and modeling good self-care are important skills, and ensure you can sustainably deliver at a high level.

  • Get to know what perks are available to you and how you can access them. Make a point of understanding what’s available to you in terms of:
    • Earned time off, vacation time, sick time, bereavement leave, family leave and personal time, if any
    • The process to request or advise of the need for time off
    • Statutory and organization-wide holidays 
    • Any additional policies regarding working hours such as flex time, summer hours, etc.
    • Benefits – such as vision, dental, medical, disability, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or other services you are entitled to
    • Opportunities and budget for training and education
    • Pensions, Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) matching, stock options or other incentives
    • Work-sponsored social events or business travel
  • Prioritize relationships and building trust with your colleagues. The relationships you create will be a big part of your work satisfaction, so take time to nurture them. 
    • Keep your lunch plans open so you can connect with your new colleagues – you can wait for invitations or proactively reach out to ask if you can join other. If you’re on a remote team, you can always set up an online lunch or coffee meeting to get to know each other.
    • Show curiosity in your colleagues and their work, and really listen – try listening twice as much as you talk and ask questions that help you get to know them, their work, and how they fit into the big picture of the organization.
    • Take time to develop allies, supporters and key influencers who can help support your success on the job. 
  • Use your energy strategically. Making a good first impression doesn’t mean spreading yourself thin, it means being selective and strategic.
    • Have a conversation with your manager about expectations and how success will be measured so you know what you need to deliver and how.
    • Learn your leader’s priorities and align your efforts around these to demonstrate your value.
    • Be curious and collaborative rather than just pushing for your ideas and suggestions to be heard. This can help you avoid unintentionally dismissing or disrespecting the work the team has done before, and causing a reaction like defensiveness or hostility. Instead try to share ideas by posing questions that seek to understand what has already been done, such as: “Have you tried…”, “I wonder about…” so you learn about context and what’s worked, and what hasn’t, in the past.

More than anything, have self-compassion and cut yourself some slack. It will take time to understand the new context in which you’re working, and to develop relationships and integrate into the team. Even positive change can be stressful and evoke strong emotions or grief responses for the jobs and coworkers we’ve left behind. 

10-minute e-learning

Use this PDF as a reminder of the new job or role tips.

An accessible version is also available.

For more eLearning topics, see Microlearning modules

Additional resources

  • Coping with change. Explore how you can navigate change in ways that help you accept and adapt to changes that are outside your control.
  • Building trust for leaders. Learn how to show your employees you’re trustworthy by exploring these core competencies and behaviours.
  • Employees' role in psychological health and safety. Free online learning program for employees to learn how to contribute to a mentally healthy workplace. This orientation to psychological health and safety in the workplace is for all employees.
  • Plan for resilience. A tool to help you bounce back after a health, personal or work crisis. This resource helps you develop healthy coping strategies to deal with life's challenges.
  • Managing stress. Learn how to manage your reactions to stress and protect your well-being.


Contributors include.articlesAlex Kollo Coaching and ToolsDavid K. MacDonaldMary Ann BayntonSarah JennerWorkplace Strategies team 2022 to present

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