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Sink or Swim: New job anxiety

March 4, 2008

My new job has been making me really anxious. Being new is never fun, and the learning curve is extremely steep. I’m not certain what I’m supposed to be accomplishing on a daily basis. While the overall goal of our project is somewhat defined (though not concretely), where I fit in isn’t. And where I fit in today most certainly isn’t. Worse, I’m not sure who to turn to in order to find out. It is really frustrating.

I have started a new job before, and I have felt this way before–like I’m not being given appropriate tasks and goals. It is frustrating to not be immediately talented at (or even capable of) my job. However, at my last company, I never felt so much like I was thrown in the deep end without a goal or a life raft. Sink or swim! Here is what I”m doing in order to, hopefully, swim.

Hanging in there: This is my current strategy. I’m going to the meetings, and my name is attached to a block diagram I’m supposed to produce by Friday. I feel lost, but at least I have a task this week. Each week is slightly better than the last. These waves of anxiety hit hard, but I have to remember that this feeling is normal in a job like this. When I left my last job, my manager kindly stated that I was one of the top performers, despite having these similar feelings a couple months into my job. It will get better!

Seek Help: I need to do more of this. I have task lead, and even though he seems somewhat inaccessible, I really need to get more direction from him. I also need to work more closely with those on my team–there are some really smart people that I’m working with. I also need to find a mentor (informal or formal)–perhaps the woman I mentioned in this post, truly a self made success. She seems very smart and nice–I think if I offered to buy her a coffee once a month in exchange for some advice, she’d be up for it. It is a little awkward to approach someone and ask for a formal mentorship, but it could pay off.

Find a better fit: The management structure is set up in a way that if this project ultimately does not work out for me, I can talk to my manager and ask to be moved to something else. They had a spot for me to do more traditional work on another program, but I opted to work on this. If we win, this program is the future of our company and I have the chance to get in on the ground floor. This task is a pain, but the whole program is really key to our company. Still, I can’t help but wonder if I would be making more of a meaningful contribution on the other (easier) program. I recognize that this specific task is only through June. If it doesn’t work out, we will find something that does.

Recognize that I’m learning:
I’m stretching the limits of my knowledge, and learning about an area I’ve always been interested in. It is stressful and hard, but when/if I get a handle on things, it will be extremely rewarding.

Did you ever feel like this in your job? Did I miss any other things I should be doing?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2008 9:14 am

    I’ve felt this way about starting jobs before. I think it’s key to find a mentor and someone who won’t be bothered by your many questions. I’ve found the best way to get past this is to have a key person, or people who can answer your questions.

  2. holly permalink
    March 4, 2008 9:23 am

    As we would say in Memphis, “bless your heart!” I remember being a fledging lawyer and the extreme stress, anxiety and fear of making a mistake. Give yourself a break and don’t strive for perfection, but strive for professional excellence. You’ve got to give yourself a learning curve in any new job, and your boss and peers know that. Give yourself a hug, girl and stop being too hard on yourself! I read your blog and I think that you’re doing great.

  3. March 6, 2008 9:20 am

    I am a new lawyer and I just recently switched jobs. Having started two new jobs in the last two years, I know your pain. The thing that I find stressful about my job is trying to learn how each supervising attorney wants things done. Just last week, five different attorneys gave me five different (and conflicting) suggestions on how to do one thing. This means when I do projects for each of them I will have to conform it to their suggestion. It makes you realize there is never a “right” way to do something, just different ways. Hang in there! It will get better.

  4. Erica permalink
    January 19, 2010 4:08 pm

    I feel this way at the beginning of my third week. I feel like I have a huge learning curve and since I am learning new computer programs, she has to be right behind me. It’s so nerve wracking!!

  5. Kim permalink
    June 20, 2012 12:08 pm

    I’m a marketing major thrown into an IT position right after college. Third day in and I have no idea what is going on, and feel miserable and under-prepared :/ Not only that but I’m the youngest in the office by like 10 years. Nothing to relate to.


  6. Anonymous permalink
    December 18, 2012 3:56 pm

    I too just started a new job after spending 6 years we my previous employer. It was difficult for me to step out of my comfort zone and start in a new company. I am also feeling extreme anxiety and I just finished my first week. It feels good to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I think I will take the advice of Holly and strive for professional excellence rather than perfection,

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