New Job Jitters

Mar 09, 2021

Janet was super nervous about her new job.  She had been out of the work force for several years raising her kids and was now returning to work as a lawyer in a local firm.  While she had much experience and great training, she was nervous about diving back into the work world.  The thoughts of self-doubt kept running through her mind:   “What if I am not good enough?  What if I don’t remember what I learned?  What if I don’t get along with my colleagues?  And what about my Hebrew!?!”

Janet’s fears and feelings were all so normal!  The unknown is daunting for most people at all stages of life.  Human beings love certainty and predictability-relying on past experiences to inform decisions and when faced with something new it can cause significant stress. 

As with most things in life it is helpful to look at our mindset (thoughts and assumptions) and behaviors to create a more positive outcome.

Carol Dweck has taught the world about the benefits of having a "Growth Mindset".  With a growth mindset we can focus on what can be learned from every experience both positive and negative.  We adopt an inherent belief that we can always improve and grow and life is a process not a race.  The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset and Dweck explains that this mindset compels us to constantly prove ourselves, to try and avoid mistakes (or hide shortcomings) and to view others as our competition rather than potential partners.  In the fixed mindset, new situations are seen as a test and not a learning opportunity.

When beginning a new job if you are constantly worried about failing and feeling like you need to prove yourself at every turn that can cause significant stress which will most likely hinder performance.  Rather than engendering positive relationships and being open to learning, the fear of someone discovering shortcomings will be so pervasive that it will be very difficult to acclimate to the new position effectively.  On the other hand, a growth mindset which encourages you to learn from others, think about mistakes as essential to the process of learning and acclimating and being open to a new way of doing things will lead you to have more joy and energy, feel less anxious,  and make a good impression on your colleagues.

In addition to changing your mindset here are some things you can do to help manage the stress you may be feeling:

  • Regularly remind yourself of another time you started something new and how you overcame the challenges.
  • Recognize that you are in a transition.
  • Let go of your old position and picture yourself in your new job.  Think about what differences there are and how you will need to think and behave differently.
  • Prepare yourself as best as possible before starting.  If there are basic skills you are expected to have, brush up on them with an online course, a tutor etc.
  • Remember that everyone had a first day and needed to learn a new way of doing things.
  • Become familiar with the work culture - identify someone who can show you the informal ropes.

By adopting more of a growth mindset and preparing yourself for your new position, you are likely to better manage your stress and acclimate to your new position more successfully.