Addressing your new job fears, continued

Hello friends, and welcome back! Continuing on with (and closing out!) my semi-intentionally serial post, the worries that I’ve gathered people experience, with any change, land into one of 3 categories:

  1. Imposter syndrome – will I do ok?
  2. Human tribal nature – will they like me?
  3. Choice economics – did I do the right thing, did I move to the right place, did I move at the right time?

The scientific framework we will apply here:

  • First, test
  • Then asses one or more fixes
  • Apply the first fix
  • Evaluate how it went
  • If more fixes needed, continue to apply and evaluate them in sequence until the benefit no longer outweighs your effort

We’ve addressed what I do about imposter syndrome in my last post, and this post I will attempt to digest how I deal with fears around being accepted by the group, and whether the recent job move or increase in responsibility was, ultimately, correct.

To address human tribal nature, we might cross a bit into relationship management or even ‘politics’. No one seems to like politics. People complain about it whenever they think they’ve been a victim of politics, and yet we often find ourselves unintentionally acting in a political manner, because it’s an easy trap to fall into. People are, ultimately, tribal creatures. We like to align ourselves with the people we like and respect, and avoid the people we don’t. Therefore this worry lends itself most easily to test. Either you find it easy to get other people to buy in to your projects, to give you the inputs you need for your deliverables, and you can just “get ‘er done”. If you find it challenging for you to work with others and perform your job duties successfully, you know that this test has failed, and you need to apply some kind of a fix …or get a different job ASAP! (Finding a new job is ultimately a type of a fix, I suppose.)

I wave my hands at this point, because I could write an entire book on improving your relationship with coworkers when you need to collaborate to succeed on your own. I’d prefer to focus on the original point of this post, where I show you how to use the framework above to quash your new-job worries. So, you’ll create a list of potential fixes, apply some kind of a fix to your issue, see if that makes it easier for you to collaborate with your coworkers, and if it doesn’t — then you iterate and try again.

As a sidebar, I’d like to point out that much like imposter syndrome, your peers worry about whether you like THEM, as well. So take a moment every day to express your interest in your peers, ask your boss how they’re doing today, spend an extra five minutes answering questions for the new person on the team, and consciously spread some of your attention around. You will find that the time you spend paying attention to, and caring about, your coworkers will pay dividends in the future. People help the people that help them. Because I’ve spent 10+ years at my company helping people without expecting a quid-pro-quo, my peers have started sending each other my name as a potential good boss to work for. I couldn’t get any more flattered and happy about the trust that people show me when they recommend a friend reach out to me for a job.

Okay, let’s address the framework for our third and final fear – did I make the right decision when I chose to take this new challenge on? That one takes time to test, and ultimately your emotions will guide you, here. Your test becomes, “does this feel right?” and requires self-awareness and attention to a rubric that each person builds for themselves. You really can’t rush this one. You can’t tie the outcome to your external veneer of success because you can, for example, get a promotion, but hate the job itself.

For me, I know I’ve made the right choice with a new job or new responsibility when I find a sense of satisfaction with my ultimate outputs. Each day, I start the day off thinking about which three things I’d like to get done, and at the end of the day I spend a moment evaluating if I did those three things, and how I feel about them. This takes less than five minutes total, at this point. I also run the same exercise for the week on Mondays and evaluate the week’s deliverables on Fridays. I used to write my To Do list down, but lately I perform the check mentally…and sometimes I forget to do a weekly analysis and that’s ok, for me, for now. My job requires constant attention to relative priority among projects, because I can easily get lost in the weeds and react to the most urgent problem, when the long-term strategic priorities forever end up sliding off my plate. We don’t want that! I won’t meet my business and personal goals if I let the important but not-urgent issues constantly go unaddressed.

So, to test whether I made the right move with my new job, ultimately I’ll just have a sense of satisfaction about the products I launch, I’ll see my team growing in their own career goals, and I’ll be proud and happy about the product and the people. Since I’ve only been at my new job for two months, it’s too early to say that I made the right choice for certain – though I can tell you, if you made the wrong one, you’ll know definitively, and pretty fast. Somewhat confusingly, my absence of negative emotions and lack of worry means that I probably made the right choice even if it’s too early to authoritatively tell.

Because it’s so hard to test this worry, it means it’s also hard to apply a fix and iterate. I’ve had friends move into a new job role and transfer out again in 30 days, which seemed rather fast to me. Talking with them about the change, though, they knew that they couldn’t work for a boss who screamed, or who used sexist/racist/*ist statements that made my friend immediately uncomfortable. My friends moved as soon as they could find another gig. I feel lucky that I’ve never landed in a role that was that bad, that quickly – but on the bright side? They saw an undeniable signal that, no, this job won’t work for them. This choice was 100% the wrong one!

Personally, I test whether I still feel satisfaction logging onto my computer every morning. I know that if I will feel pride when I finish a keystone project or can imagine that I will get a sense of satisfaction from promoting an employee, I’ve probably made the right choice. At a minimum, I know I have pointed myself in the right direction and should continue on. That kind of mindful test allows me to make minor changes in course when there’s just not much signal to go off of, so I may move a certain item up my To Do list. With that change in priority, I check in with myself and see if I feel optimistic about the future state of the world… and that’s all I can do, really.

Let me know if you apply this framework to your new job fears, and how they turn out. I think some of these worries apply themselves to testing more easily than others, as you’ve seen from my description of how I apply my framework. I find it easier to address my imposter syndrome and my human tribal worries than to address my fears around “doing the right thing”. While it’s frustrating to not really know that I’ve made the right choice in life, that seems like a pretty universal human condition, doesn’t it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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