I got nervous on my first day of a new job and made a huge mistake -- here's what I should have done instead

Áine Cain/Business InsiderI messed up on my first day of work.

I had a bit of a shaky start at one of my recent summer internships. The internship itself ultimately turned out to be an all-around fantastic experience, but my nerves definitely messed up my first day on the job.

I was a latecomer to this particular program. Most of the other interns had been working at this firm for at least week or so when I first arrived. When I showed up on my first day, I was somewhat worried I’d be behind.

This feeling only worsened when all of the interns — old and new — gathered together in one of the conference rooms to listen to some employees going over different aspects of the program.

After that presentation, I headed back to my new desk, which was located far away from the other interns. I hadn’t been given anything to do, other than some paperwork for human resources. It felt like everything was moving in slow motion.

I ended up sitting around for a lot of the day, waiting for someone to give me something to work on. It was excruciating, but I didn’t want to annoy anyone by asking them to assign me work.

This turned out to be a huge mistake.

All those hours of sitting around were really a missed opportunity. I could have walked about and introduced myself to my coworkers or fellow interns; scoped out the layout of the office (it was kind of a labyrinth); or even asked my new boss how I could help or if there was anything she’d like me to get started on.

Instead, I set myself up for feeling nervous on the job — a feeling which lingered for about two weeks. Who knows? Had I been more outgoing and open that day, I might have made a good friend or established a valuable professional connection.

Here’s what I learned from that experience that I’ve applied to subsequent first days at various jobs since:

Inertia is your main enemy

The more I sat around not doing anything, the more I became unable to ask for help (because they it’d become apparent that I’d been just sitting around all day).

Don’t expect hand-holding — or to hit the ground running

I was wrong to expect that there would be someone telling me exactly what to do all day. I also had dumb expectations about what my first day would look like. You won’t always have a lot to do on your first day. Instead of over thinking it, it’s better to try to find ways to introduce yourself to the people around the office. I wish I’d spent time connecting with my coworkers instead of worrying.

Loosen up

Everyone’s nervous on their first day on the job. Try to work through those feelings of anxiety and use your first day as an opportunity to make connections. Odds are, you won’t have a ton to do anyways, aside from attending orientations or filling out mandatory HR firms.

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