First job nerves: How to cope with job stress after university 😅

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Virtually every student goes through the stress and worry of wondering if all their hard work at university will pay off when it comes to applying for a job.

Postgraduate job prospects are a legitimate concern, especially if you’ve never had a full-time job before. It’s no wonder that for many people, the circumstances surrounding job applications can cause mental health and wellbeing issues.

While this may be a stressful time, the good news is that many of us have been there before. And, as a result, we’ve learnt ways to protect our mental health as we go through the transition from student to employee.

Why is starting a new job stressful?

When you think about it, nerves starting a new job make a lot of sense.

Firstly, the stress of job hunting naturally seeps into the stress of starting a new job. Finishing university and entering these stages of your life can feel incredibly daunting.

Equally, even if you have had a job before, entering a new environment with a new set of tasks is always going to cause some stress.

Stress comes from the unknown. When you know you’ve got a new commute, new colleagues to meet, and new responsibilities to be in charge of, stress is a very natural response.

The good thing is, once you come face-to-face with these things and realise that they’re not at all scary, the nerves will quickly subside.


How long does new job anxiety last?

Although new job anxiety is scary, do not scare yourself into thinking it lasts forever. First job nerves are very natural.

They’re also temporary.

Once you’ve settled into your new environment and routine, got to know your colleagues, and come to understand your responsibilities, things won’t seem as hard.

New job nerves largely come from fear of the unknown. The realtiy is that 99% of these roles are never as scary or stressful as you imagine.

Everyone has been new once, and the seniors in your company will understand this! Because of this, many find that the stress of new job can wane after just a couple of weeks.


How do you cope with stress in a new job?

Although new job nerves naturally pass over time, there are ways to help yourself in the short term.


  • Know when something’s wrong

You can’t protect your wellbeing if you’re unaware when something is wrong.

So, make sure you’re aware of the signs of mental health decline so you can stay on top of your wellbeing, and that of your friends. Stressful events and changes to routine can lead to all sorts of issues.

They can cause depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and even worse.

“Even for people who don’t typically struggle with anxiety or depression, periods of stress can lead to self-medication, which can devolve into a more serious substance use problem.

Treating mental health struggles as they arise can help all people stay ahead of that spiral”, explains Olivia Marcellino, VP of Research at

Some signs you might be struggling with include headaches and palpitations, gastrointestinal problems, trouble sleeping, or changes in appetite.

Noticed anything concerning? Speak to your GP as soon as possible.

  • Avoid social media

When you’re part of a class of people, all graduating and applying for jobs at the same time, it’s easy to compare yourself to other people. Scrolling social media sites and seeing people get job offers can be hard.

You might find that spending time doom-scrolling only serves to make you feel worse about yourself, particularly if you’re yet to get an offer of employment.

But know that these platforms only offer a highlight reel of people’s lives, and give us a skewed impression of reality.

To keep your mental health in check, avoid social media sites when you’re feeling low or stressed, and know that what you do see isn’t the full picture.


  • Set realistic targets

Whether you’re still looking for a job, or you’ve just started a new role, go easy on yourself!

Telling yourself you’re going to achieve countless lofty goals all at once will only leave you feeling deflated or anxious if you don’t manage to achieve them.

Maybe you’ve told yourself you’ll learn a certain piece of software in a set time, only to feel like a failure if it takes you longer. Or, perhaps the anxiety caused by feeling like you have to get a job by a set date is becoming overwhelming.

Remember to be kind and acknowledge that there’s a learning curve to everything. Everyone adapts at a different pace.

A good rule to remember is to speak to yourself as you’d speak to a friend, but also to focus on the process and less on the results.

Every action you take is getting you closer to achieving those goals, so embrace the journey – your mental health will thank you.


  • Open up

Your mental health can suffer when you feel like the world is on your shoulders and you’re completely alone. But there are always people you can talk to to lessen the burden.

People often find that simply the act of talking through their worries and anxieties with someone can help them feel lighter and happier.

Open up to your family and friends, if you’re able, to let them know what you’re going through and get their perspective on it.

They might see things in a way you hadn’t considered that could ease your stress, or help you tackle a problem differently.

Or you might benefit from talking therapies with a trained professional, such as a counsellor.

It can also help to be honest and open with your manager at your new job, or the company’s mental health officer.

They might be able to help by providing additional support or training to help you ease in.


  • Make time for yourself

There’s a lot to think about when you’re joining the world of full-time work.

You have to factor in those extra hours devoted to your new commute, as well as the stress that balancing work and your personal life can cause.

But, making time for yourself, no matter how packed your schedule may be, is essential for your mental health and wellbeing.

It might be meeting up with friends once a week, spending time with your partner or family, keeping up with hobbies, or even starting a new activity.

But, either way, you need things to keep your mind off of work and let you truly disengage from the office.

Self-care may be a term we hear all the time now, but it’s not without reason.

It’s important to spend time on things that nourish you, physically and mentally.

For example: cooking a healthy meal for yourself, taking the time to hit the gym after work, or meditating and journalling.

These activities might be easily disregarded when you’re busy, but they have immense value and should not be seen as inferior to your work commitments.


There’s a lot to think about when you enter the world of work, and it’s easy for your mental health to take a hit when you’re juggling so many thoughts and feelings.

From the nerves of meeting new people, to the rejection of failed job applications, it can be an overwhelming time.

But make sure that you’re prioritising your mental health and self-care in order to avoid these feelings becoming all-consuming. There is more to life than your 9-5!

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