Dealing with new job fears

If you’re like most people, you find a new job, or broader responsibilities in your current job, is a nerve racking experience. Change is scary. No matter what you say, or how much you embrace change, it’s a short step from, “I’m so excited!”, to “what in the world have I done?”

Real talk, on the day you accepted that offer, you flipped from one extreme to the other — at least 4 times. Even with self-care (proper hydration, exercise, adequate sleep and food), you might be spinning from excited to ‘oops!’ rapidly. Thankfully, these self-care steps are some great coping mechanisms we can all use. And beyond self care, you can test your fears. They complement each other, so you can start testing each fear, and move on to dealing with your fears via exercise, sleep, whatever, and you’ll find that using both, you’re minimizing your fears moving forward.

In my last post I discussed coaching my teammates, peers, new hires, and people at school and in earlier jobs — I found the worries they experience with changes land into one of 3 categories:

  • Imposter syndrome — will I do ok?
  • Human tribal nature — will they like me?
  • Choice economics — did I do the right thing?

And the 5-step scientific framework we’ll apply here:

  • Test
  • Assess
  • Apply
  • Evaluate
  • Repeat if needed

Let’s discuss the first fear, imposter syndrome, and how we can apply our framework to it.
Just in case you want to know more about imposter syndrome, here’s a great TED talk I’ve found helpful, and an article on HBR.

Once you’ve finished with these links, you’re may still be wondering if you’ll do well at your new job. Don’t forget! You got this job based on your history, experience, and your performance during your interview. If you’re still feeling like an imposter, you can tell yourself that you got this gig based on your interview and prior achievements, so don’t worry too much! Many people still need a little help, and this is where we can apply our framework.

To reality-test your performance, talk to your boss, ask your peers, or seek feedback from clients and customers. If you genuinely seek and ask for feedback, most people will be happy to share their thoughts. Maybe your boss tells you that that you did a thorough job researching a document, but it isn’t in the format they expected, and it’s more granular than they wanted. You need to figure out a fix.

First try asking if the current format’s ok, or if they’d prefer you re-work it. Let’s say your boss suggests you keep the current format but maybe roll it up into a less-granular summarization of the first draft. Great! You have a direction now, you can test with that. Without being pedantic, you can whip up a fix that attempts to correct for the feedback you received, and later circle back with the update. At this point, your boss is happy (or not) and you can iterate from there, or know that you completed the project to your boss’ satisfaction…and you can, in the future, remind yourself that you did a job to your boss’ requirements, and that satisfied your boss. Tell that nagging voice in your head that you’re not an imposter if you can make a satisfactory deliverable for a big project that your boss cares about.

One way to get the imposter in your mind to back off is to do your job well. Praise and gratitude both help silence the imposter, but in the long run, praise and gratitude from others do end up being external motivation. The most satisfying motivation comes from within. Remind yourself that you did a good job! And use that satisfaction to continue moving forward and achieving.

As a bonus, I’ll link two books that helped me with Imposter Syndrome personally include Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Amy Cuddy’s Presence.

My next post will cover how to apply this framework to human tribal nature, and choice economics.

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