When we transition from one stage in our lives to the next the excitement, the anticipation and the looming winds of change fill us with a nervous energy. Are we sure about this change? Will we be successful at it and, most importantly of all, will it make us happier?
I guess you could say the first major transitional time for us all is when we move from junior school to senior school. During our school career the leap to senior school sees us go from being the oldest and most experienced in the school to the youngest (and smallest!) This is a huge change for children to deal with but I wonder if, as we go along life, the transitional times we experience ever get easier. Moving from school to college, college to university, into the working world and beyond, I think we can all feel like the smallest in the school again.
Even an adult with a successful career background will get nervous when it’s time for a change. It’s the fear of the unknown which we spoke about before in Diversity Diaries 3: The Fearful Fool. Rather than making a fearful fool though, these kind of nerves can only be detrimental if they get out of hand and incapacitate us.
So how do we deal with the stress of change and how can we improve our coping strategies for dealing with professional transformation? Here, we will look at work transitions in particular, but the following points can easily relate to life outside of work too.
You won’t conquer that mountain in your first week in the job so don’t try to. Those first few weeks in a new role are for finding your feet so don’t try and run the joint yet – give it at least a week!
Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses
It’s no good saying you can do something that you can’t do, you’ll only be caught out and look like you’ve over egged your pudding. Be vocal about your strengths but also honest about your weaknesses. If you’re going into a new job you have likely been hired because of your strengths. But when you get there you may well find there are areas for improvement. Embrace these and be honest about them with your manager. This is the only way to get the support you need in order to develop those weaker skills and a humble and accepting attitude to learning and developing will only gain you respect.
Keep learning and allow yourself to be learning
As we go through life the learning never stops and nor should it, but sometimes people don’t allow themselves to be on a learning journey and instead think they are expected to know it all already. No decent employer or manager will expect you to walk into a new role and know how to do everything straight away, so allow yourself some development time and embrace the challenges.
What do you hope to achieve in your new role? What do you want out of life? These big questions can only be answered by you so take some time to come up with some answers. You may have been asked at interview where you would like to be in five or ten years' time. Do you know?
When trying to find these answers, remember that nothing is set in stone and as you grow and develop these may change. That’s fine, but having some goals and an idea of where you want your journey to lead you can help you focus and also aid your manager in getting you to achieve those goals.
Easier for some than others but being organised at work is a proven way to increase productivity. When I say organised, I don’t mean get a diary. I mean organise your whole work set up and especially set aside your time off. When we go into a new role it can be easy to get carried away trying to impress and this can lead to burn out, so organising your breaks, your holidays and your weekends is as important as your work schedule.
Try and keep on top of the admin. Perhaps set ten minutes at the start of each day aside as ‘administration time’. Flick through your diary and get your tasks for the day or week written down. This can help organise your mind and help you not to feel overwhelmed.
Take it one task at a time
A new role can be a source of stress for all. On top of getting used to the work itself there are new office systems to get your head around, a new team of personalities to engage with, potentially a different journey to and from the office and the anxieties that come with transition. Take things one step at a time, ask questions and be open to the new practices you are experiencing.
If your week looks hectic and you don’t think you can fit it all in, strip it down and perhaps diarise, allocating blocks of time to specific tasks rather than working from a never ending to do list. Planning when you will attempt each task can take those tasks out of your head and reduce the anxiety that you can’t complete them. If you’ve got a two-week task planner in place you can approach each one with a fresh mind not plagued by information overload.
This kind of planning also helps your manager know your capacity. If they load another task on you and you’ve already got a full schedule you can show it to them and they can help you prioritise if it is all a bit much.
This one may sound daft but the last thing you want in a new role is workmate gripes and antagonism so make sure you don’t get sucked into any toxic work cliques and keep friendly with everyone. Make a point of saying hi to the whole team when you go into the office and show an interest in your work colleagues. Yes, you are there to work, but your colleagues are people too so treat them as such.