Along with the self-discovery, excitement, and other confusing feelings that finding a different profession can bring up, anxiety at a new job is more common than we might think.
The average person changes jobs 12 times in their lifetime. This event may not happen too often for some, so we could forget what it’s like being the new person and having to navigate a myriad of professional roles and responsibilities.
In fact, a lot of my clients have been in the same organization for decades and, therefore, anxiety at a new job is something they would never have faced as fully grown adults.
How to Cope With New Job Anxiety
The great resignation (also known as the Great Reshuffle), records amounts of people have been drafting their resignation letters in search of something else, something new, and something that aligns with who they are now, following a significant personal and professional disruption.
It’s been a key theme for many of my career coaching clients who want to stop drifting along and take back control of their career choices. It’s led to a lot of pondering about what else they could do for work and where they could find a job that ticks all their new values and motivations.
Here are seven ways to cope with new job anxiety for those who have chosen to enter a new job or been forced to find something new.
1. Remember That They Chose You for a Reason
They picked you! You are the chosen one.
Following all the copious amounts of interest, CVs, interviews, and decisions that a recruiting manager had to handle, you were the one that had what they were looking for. Out of everyone, you got selected.
Even if on the very rare occasion that you were the only candidate, the company still could have ghosted you or said, “no, thank you!”
So, before you’ve even started the job, it should feel like validation that you are best placed to help that team, department, and organization with their continued success. Good job!
2. Manage Your Expectations
Once you’ve finished celebrating your awesomeness, we now need to talk about this thing called new job anxiety. Anxiety in a new role is real. There will be so much that you don’t know, and it will feel considerably different from where you were before—horrible and uncomfortable even.
That comfort zone where you knew all the acronyms, everyone’s name, and where all the folders were stored will shortly disappear and in its place will be a form of new job anxiety. You may suffer from imposter syndrome or waves of self-doubt. Trust me, I’ve been there a few times.
The key thing here is to dial down the early expectations of yourself. I always say to clients who start new jobs that in their first 90 days, they are generally free to ask as many questions as they like. The more the better.
“What does that mean?”
“Why do you do it this way?”
“How do I do that?”
This is your “free hit” period, so just start swinging.
It’s unrealistic to think that you will immediately be performing at the level you were just a few short months prior, so just be aware of that.
When I made a huge career switch in 2018, I felt like I had made the wrong decision because I’d gone from knowing everything and everyone to nothing and nobody. That wasn’t necessarily true, but it felt that way.
All I could see were the things I didn’t know, which created anxiety rather than the excitement of learning a load of brand new stuff to supplement and evolve all my previous knowledge.
Leave your perfectionism at the door, at least for now. Just show up, ask questions, and enjoy watching your new team members tackle the bureaucracy of getting you access to all the systems you need.
3. Take the Thought to Court
How long does new job anxiety last? Well, there are a lot of variants here that can play a role.
I remember one of my switches feeling so anxious for months. Every day, I walk into a big building with bigger expectations and the belief that I didn’t know what I was doing.
Before anything had even happened that day, I was full of dread and I was sitting with other people who knew more than me and were better than me. I worried so much about getting things wrong and not understanding what they were talking about. This happened every day until I started to take my thoughts to court.
If I had a thought consisting of something like, “I’ll never get this,” I just asked myself whether I could prove or disprove it. Take it to court! Of course, that thought was a story and not a fact. I’d get it all eventually, just one small bit today.
“They know more than me”—take it to court. Prove it.
Is this a story you’ve made up or is it fact? What evidence do you have to make a huge call like that? And how would you ever know? What you know and what others know is different—not more, not less, just different. And I’d bet that you know different stuff from what your new teammate knows.
The journal—the non-judgemental sanctuary. It demands nothing but honesty and regularity and can absorb all your thoughts and spit them back out for you to analyze and better understand yourself and any life events that may be occurring. It works wonders for anxiety at a new job.
I can’t tell you exactly why I started a journal at one of my new jobs, but for some reason, I just thought it would be beneficial and interesting to keep a track of what was going on in my head during a significant personal transition period.
In the first few days, I was just logging stuff that I had done, who I sat with, and what they did. I logged more detail about what was expected of me, what the team did, and what their backgrounds were. I went back to it a few times as it felt like my safe place—a place where I could test what I had just been told but put it in a language I understood.
After week two, I randomly wrote about my journey to work and how the train was delayed and packed, which then put me in a sulk until about 11 am. This was the first time I had expressed any type of detail as to how I felt.
The following day, I wrote, “feel good today, positive.” The day after “hint of self-doubt,” and the day after that, “overwhelmed.” I was logging what I was learning about the role but also about how I was feeling about it.
As the weeks and months went on, I started to learn just as much about myself as the new job. By using this exercise of journaling, I diffused a lot of negative situations that could have previously led me down into a rabbit hole of self-pity and shame.
The journal now forms a regular part of my working day no matter what job I do or how long I’ve been doing it. It’s the tactics board I can refer back to. It doubles up as a great mindfulness tool as well as somewhere you can log your successes.
Plus, you can use it in any change situation, new diet, stress management, habits, etc. It can improve decision-making, critical thinking, calmness, and control as well as provide an opportunity to remove clutter from your memory to have clearer thoughts.
5. Swerve the Politics
Sometimes, teams love a new person—fresh meat to dig into as well as someone else to help with the workload.
You may have really nice people wanting to help and get to know you, people who already know the culture and the unwritten rules of the department. Whether consciously or subconsciously, their desire to make new friends and overshare their opinion with stakeholders may disrupt your organic understanding of who is who and what needs doing.
I always think it’s best to mind your own business if someone wants to talk negatively about something or someone else. They may just be trying to influence you. I’ve seen it happen a few times in the past—professional gossipers wrangling a recruit.
Go ahead and listen of course, but don’t let them cloud your view on others before you’ve even met them.
6. Be Honest With the Boss
It’s your boss’s job to settle you in. They may delegate parts of it to team members. But ultimately, it’s down to them to help you get up to speed and feel part of everything.
Therefore, it’s important that you share whatever is working or not working for you regularly, so they can adjust things accordingly. Neither of you is a mind reader, and it’s a vital phase where you are getting to know how each other works best.
Keep the conversations going regularly. A decent boss should be booking these in for you at least for the first few weeks. These should be a quick daily catch-up or longer weekly sessions so they can serve you.
7. Get to Know the People Behind the Job Titles
Building connections with your new work colleagues will ease any new job anxiety. The better connection and trust that is built up earlier on, the more proactive and considerate their training or passing on of knowledge will be.
New people can sometimes be seen as a threat, especially if you’ve come from outside the organization. New knowledge and change can feel uncomfortable even for established colleagues. But by getting to know them as people and showing your vulnerability to the team, you break down walls and relationships can quickly blossom.
Pets are always a good one that comes up whenever I’ve changed jobs. You’ll regularly get an idea around the team who has furry friends and then likely be asked to get your dog on a Zoom call.
We are social creatures and like to build community, so if there are opportunities to go for drinks or other social events early on in your role, take them as they build collective memories.
You’ll likely be overwhelmed with information in the first few months, so having a few people who can help slice through the less important stuff will help ease that new job anxiety.
Starting something new that has a lot riding on it will generally cause some level of anxiety, but the key thing is that everyone is in your corner and ready to support.
So, use that common new job anxiety to raise your self-awareness, and let it dissipate. Once you’re settled, don’t forget to tell the new person after you how you overcame it. You’ve got this.
Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com
|Bureau of Labor Statistics: Number of Jobs, Labor Market Experience, Marital Status, and Health: Results From a National Longitudinal Survey
|World Economic Forum: Explainer: What is the Great Reshuffle and how is it affecting the jobs market?