Starting a new role can be a rush, especially when you’ve been courted by several employers and land the job you want. The excitement of acing your interview, scoring the job, and rocking up to your new workplace. But what happens after the honeymoon period is over? Feeling overwhelmed at the start of a new job can be the inevitable drop from the roller coaster ride of gaining new employment.
From my experience starting out at a new company, I want to share some key tips to help you find your feet, including how to be comfortable with not being at the top of your game straight away.
Following are 3 steps to help you ride the highs and lows, and stay motivated as you bring your expertise into a new environment.
1. Figure out any unrealistic pressure
“The successful candidate will hit the ground running…”
This must be one of the most overused phrases in job advertising – and in my opinion, one of the most harmful.
By comparing a new starter’s first moments in a new job to an athlete sprinting out of the starting-blocks, employers are signaling they don’t have the time to spare for someone to find their feet in their organisation. If there’s any learning curve at all, it’s going to be uncomfortably steep.
It’s a good idea to identify where the pressure is coming from. If you see this statement in a job ad, it could be that the manager’s expectations are too high, or it may be that you are setting yourself an incredibly high standard too soon.
Let me explain: most job ads refer to candidates being able to demonstrate initiative and drive. For managers who have such expectations, as is true in a lot of contracting roles, the motivations are clear: it’s a race for value, and the organisation is looking for ways to shortcut time-to-productivity.
Human Panel defines this as “the time between the first day of hire and when the employee is contributing in full to the organisation and reaching full productivity”.
So, my first tip is to engage with the expectation. This can be a good opportunity to test where the pressure is coming from. Find the source of the pressure - is it your inner voice saying you need to be the best in the race right from the start, or are the expectations in your new role high or potentially unrealistic?
Adopt a curious mindset and ask your manager to clarify the expectations of your role, exactly when you need to achieve certain goals or targets, and cross examine this with your own expectations.
You may find that you have set yourself high standards too soon, without giving yourself the opportunity to learn the lay of the land first. Having an open dialogue can help manage your own expectations and navigate your way out of the pressure.
2. Embrace failure to learn faster
After doing a self-assessment, focus on resetting. Accept that you might not be at the top of your game straight away.
Mistakes can make you feel like a failure and be frustrating. But even with the best induction, it can take time to familiarize yourself with the processes, people, and systems you need to do your job well. At some point, you are probably going to send the wrong email, enter the wrong data, or say the ‘wrong’ thing in a meeting. But that’s ok - you’re human and you’re learning. Being ok with being fallible can help you learn faster.
According to IBM, “Failing fast requires a culture where the team has the freedom to fail but can learn something from each failure that helps the team succeed faster the next time.”
‘Failure’ isn’t a bad word. India’s former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once said,
“If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning”. Approach it as a learning experience that will help you improve in the future.
3. Focus on building self-belief and resilience
After acceptance, you need to bounce back. Whilst talking up the benefits of failure, it’s important to acknowledge that the feeling of failing can be discouraging. When the pressure is on to prove yourself, making mistakes and facing setbacks can lead to feelings of fear and panic, which may even make you think about running back to the safety of your old job.
Focus on building strong self-belief, resilience and a bounce-back mindset. Remember you were hired because you were the best person for the job. This self-belief will be the foundation of your resilience and ability to bounce back.
Avoid comparing your early performance in a new job with your prior ability in previous roles, or with other top performers in your company. Setting realistic foundations can help you stay motivated to go on and achieve your potential. You’re inevitably going to trip up at some point but it’s the way you handle it that matters. Find the clarity to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, and enjoy the journey. You’ve got this!
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