Life of an intern: Tips for managing first day nerves

This week, college student Rebecca Riddle joined us for a work placement. Here are her tips for navigating the life of an intern, and how to cope with first day nerves.

Most people will feel confident on the first day of their new job or work experience. For others however, this kind of experience can be overwhelming. The thing to remember is that it’s totally normal and OK to feel nervous – in fact, it’s a common feeling for most people, at least in some point of their career journey.

On your first day, try not to be too hard on yourself. People will expect you to be nervous, but put your best foot forward and a smile on your face, and everything will fall into place. Chances are that your peers will welcome you with open arms. They will support you – after all, you’re a part of the team now.

If at any point you do feel nervous on your first day, here are a few ways to help you feel more at ease:

Hands typing at work, on laptop

Start a conversation

Speak to those around you – there’s nothing wrong with asking questions! If you’re not ready to speak out loud, try asking the person next to you if you could have a private conversation with them. See if you can go for a walk, or sit somewhere quiet for a chat. The person training you is there to support you, so they will offer a helping hand if you need it. We know, asking for help isn’t easy, but having a conversation with somebody can really help. It’s nice to talk, and they can give you some advice to help you feel better.

Be prepared

Stock up on snacks – there’s nothing worse than not knowing where to go for lunch, or feeling hungry during a meeting, so be sure to pack a lunch just in case. Chocolate in particular can make you feel good, so pop your favourite bar in your bag or drawer, ready for when you need a pick-me-up. If you’re feeling really nervous, why not eat some before you enter the building?


Like I said, feeling nervous is completely normal but feelings of anxiety can worsen if you’re not breathing as well as you should. Being nervous can keep us from breathing deeply, so taking a moment to practise a short breathing exercise can help you to relax. I find taking a moment to breathe like this really helpful. Now I try to take time to do this whenever I feel nervous or anxious. Here’s how:

Take a long deep breath in and hold it for three seconds. Breathe out slowly. Feel as your chest fills with air, and focus on the relief as you breathe out. Repeat this until you feel calm.

Like I said, it’s a normal feeling!

I felt nervous when I first started work experience two years ago – I was sixteen and has a placement at my local hospital. I didn’t know the place too well, and I didn’t know anybody in the room apart from my mum and one other woman. But the staff were really friendly. Their kindness helped me to feel a lot calmer as I started my responsibilities.

I was also nervous when my sister and I had an interview for the same role. Going up against someone close to you isn’t easy, but the interviewer was really nice and the interview went well. In the end, both of us got a job – I got the role I interviewed for, while my sister was offered a role in a department more suitable to her experience.

Remember, it’s OK to feel nervous. Really, it shows you care about the role and want to do well. Employers understand the first day nerves, so take your time and go easy on yourself. You’ll get there and soon enough, you’ll be supporting someone else on their first day. Trust me, you’re doing great.

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Written by Ellen Lees
Head of Content.
Written by Ellen Lees
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