Starting a new job

Get tips 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. It can also come with 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:

  • Work with new people
  • Learn new things
  • Feel pressure to perform

To make a great first impression and make up for experience you lack as you start the new job, you might be tempted to push yourself in unhealthy ways. Trying to prove yourself in this way isn’t sustainable. It could also negatively impact your relationships, physical health and mental health – any of which can lead to burnout. Pushing yourself beyond your usual limits can also set unrealistic expectations for the hours 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 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? 
  • Can I 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 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 and change unhelpful habits you formed in previous roles. This will 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 support your success and well-being. 
  • Habits you want to create – Consider new strategies and approaches you feel would be in your best interest to support your:
    • Success on the job
    • Health and well-being
    • Quality of life
    • They could include:
      • Stretching every hour
      • Getting adequate sleep
      • Connecting with co-workers
      • Watching less distressing news
      • Eating nutritious food 

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 unhelpful habits and nurturing or creating positive ones. It can also help to find an accountability buddy – this 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 need to do your best work and share this information with your manager or supervisor. The conversation could begin like this: “I’d like to share with you things that help me to do my best work to see what’s possible in this role.” You might share:
    • Your ideal work hours, only if you know 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’s 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. In reality, you can sustainably deliver quality work when you:
    • Know your limits
    • Manage your time and energy
    • Model good self-care
  • Get to know what perks are available to you and how you can access them. Understand what’s available in these areas:
    • Time at and away from work:
      • Earned time off (lieu time)
      • Vacation time
      • Sick time
      • Bereavement leave
      • Family leave
      • Personal time
      • Opportunity to work at home or remotely
      • The process to request or advise of the need for time off
      • Statutory and organization-wide holidays
      • Policies regarding working hours such as flex time and summer hours
    • Benefits
      • Vision
      • Dental
      • Medical
      • Disability
      • Wellness
      • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
      • Other services
    • Incentives
      • Opportunities and budget for training and education
      • Pensions
      • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) matching
      • Stock options
      • Support for child or elder care
      • Extended parental leave
      • Others
      • Work-sponsored business or social events
  • Prioritize relationships and build trust with your colleagues – The relationships you create will be a big part of your work satisfaction, so take time to nurture them.
    • Take a break and get to know each other
      • Keep lunch and break times open to connect with your new colleagues
      • Accept invitations and proactively ask if you can join others
      • If you’re on a remote team, set up an online lunch or coffee meeting
    • Be curious
      • Show interest in your colleagues and their work
      • Really listen – try listening twice as much as you talk
      • Ask questions that help you get to know them, their work and how they fit into the big picture of the organization
    • Cultivate relationships over time
      • Get to know as many people at work by name as you can
      • Build at least a few relationships where you can rely on each other
      • Meet 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. Then you’ll know what you need to deliver and how.
    • Learn your leader’s priorities and align your efforts around them to demonstrate your value.
    • Be curious and collaborative rather than pushing to have your ideas and suggestions heard. This can help you avoid unintentionally dismissing or disrespecting work the team did before, which can cause a reaction like defensiveness or hostility. You can learn about context and what has and hasn’t worked.

Try to share ideas by posing questions that seek to understand what’s already been done, like: “Have you tried…” or “I wonder about…” 

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. All change comes with loss. Even positive change can be stressful and evoke strong emotions or grief responses for the jobs and coworkers we’ve left behind. 

Share this with anyone who is starting a new job or role.

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 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. Access this free online learning program 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. Use this 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.


  1. Coleman, Ken. 18 Tips for Starting a New Job the Right Way. Ramsey Solutions. Published September 28, 2022. Retrieved from:
  2. Lyons, Marlo. Starting a New Job as a Mid-Career Professional. Harvard Business Review. Published April 15, 2022. Retrieved from:
  3. Thrive Studio. 7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Entry Interview. Published September 8, 2022. Retrieved from:
  4. Peppercorn, Susan. Starting a New Job? Take Control of Your Onboarding. Harvard Business Review. Published August 8, 2018. Retrieved from:
  5. Wilding, Melody. How to Set Healthy Boundaries When Starting a New Job. Harvard Business Review. Published April 19, 2022. Retrieved from:
Contributors include.articlesAlex Kollo Coaching and ToolsDavid K. MacDonaldMary Ann BayntonSarah JennerWorkplace Strategies team 2022 to present

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