How Not to Be Awkward on Your First Day

December 11th, 2018

Your new job is about to begin! Roughly two weeks from now, you’ll be stepping into a new workplace, with new responsibilities, new clients, and new coworkers. But there’s one small challenge lying ahead that’s unique to your specific personality; You’re an awkward person, and your shyness and social anxiety don’t usually help you in these types of situations. In fact, sometimes they really stand in your way. Here’s what to do about it.

Don’t let your worries run away with you.

Anxious people tend to overthink, and when they overthink, they overestimate the problems and challenges that lie ahead. Molehills become mountains and small monsters become unslayable dragons. Imagine the worst-case scenario that looms in your mind—Is this scenario truly realistic? Of course not. Dial it down, and then down again, until it reassembles a situation that reflects real life.

If you seem happy and okay, everyone around you will relax.

If you’re visibly nervous and upset, others around you will pick up on that energy. The opposite is also true. Frame your calm demeanor as an effort to help others. Think of your relaxed smile and easy energy as a gift to those around you. It’s a friendly form of reassurance.

Try to remember names.

You’ll be blasted with lots of new information on your first day, and some of it will slide in one ear and out the other. That’s natural and normal. If what you’re hearing is truly important, don’t worry; you’ll hear it again. Meanwhile, take notes and prioritize the value of what you’re hearing and which bits you really should try hardest to process and remember. The most important thing will probably be names. So, each time you shake hands with a new person, make a conscious effort to listen to the person’s name, repeat it in your mind, and file it away.

Don’t sweat your small mistakes.

During the first day on almost any job, a new employee is universally given a kind of break. Take advantage of this fleeting moment and don’t beat yourself up over small blunders. Save that for later. For now, just fix your mistake or shrug it off and move on.

Remember where you are.

New employees—especially those who feel awkward in unfamiliar situations—are prone to one specific and common type of embarrassing blunder: forgetting which hallways they’ve walked down, which doors they’ve gone through, and where they are in the workplace. “How do I get back to my desk?” is a more common question than you might think. Do yourself a favor and anticipate this. Don’t just follow your new supervisor around blindly.

For more on how to keep a cool head and an easy relaxed attitude during your first day in a new workplace, talk to the career management consultants at PSU. 

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