Starting a new job nearly always come with some form of anxiety. Whether it be a light amount of nervousness, at moving into a new position to an overwhelming sense of dread, with regards to the uncertainty of your new future. It is always going to be there.
You’re starting at the bottom of the ladder when you start a new job, when you’ve most likely just reached the peak of your abilities in your previous position.
Effectively, you are starting over and that comes with challenges.
Job Anxiety is Natural
For me, as a person with diagnosed generalised anxiety disorder, I am very much aware of my body’s natural response to uncertainty. I shut down. I make mistakes more often, struggle to ask for help and I push people away to my own detriment.
I found myself in this position recently after leaving a job I loved for a brand new position within a corporate company. I had never worked for a big company before, only ever small independents, so moving from being a big fish in a small pond to a piece of plankton in an ocean of whales was overwhelming to say the least.
The first few weeks went fine, I had the designation of the ‘new girl’ therefore I was expected to make mistakes and these were accounted for in my inexperience. But three months in, after massive project after massive project, I was stressed and unaccountably making mistakes beyond my job title’s allowed quota.
Not only that, I was a manager, a role I had never had before, and I was responsible for others as well as myself. I was used to doing everything myself and not designating anything, now not only was I instructed to share my jobs out I was also told to lead others. But it’s hard to lead by example when you feel like you don’t fit in and not very good at your job.
Changing Your Perspectives
Who knew my independence could be a potential downfall for me in my career.
I play to my strengths and one of them is my ability to get things done if I do them myself. However, corporate companies don’t work like this, their best practice – one of my least favourite phrases in the world – involves about 2-5 people in each decision. And as someone who has never worked in a job with this in mind, it was going to take me three months, or more, to get to grips with this.
This is not to say I am not a team player, this is about having to go through five different people to get anything signed off, always missing the deadlines because of it and forgetting to refer to someone who I didn’t realise needed to be contacted in the first place – mostly because I was yet to be introduced to them and therefore had no idea of their existence let alone their involvement in projects. But it’s not impossible to work to it, nor is it unbearable when you get it down.
I’m still working on it, but when you’re at work you’re working on yourself as much as any project and therefore you’re going to learn things on the way.
Spotting the Patterns
But during the three months I started my anxiety sky-rocketed. Small things became much larger than they seemed, a simple spelling mistake or a misappropriated tone in an email was blown out of proportion, in my opinion at least. I was constantly receiving emails from my superior reminding me of things they had already told me, that I had ‘forgotten’ or simply had not wished to implement.
I shut down. Instead of listening and taking the emails they sent me as advice and learning I took it as constant criticism. However, as anyone who’s ever been a student knows, getting criticised by a teacher does not incline you to bounceback and prove them wrong, it makes you want to stop showing up.
The patterns of my generalised anxiety disorder began to show when I started to have regular stress dreams about work, some involving my being fired for shouting at my boss in frustration, others about me sleeping through my alarm and missing an important deadline.
For a time I dreaded going to work, snoozing my alarm more and more and leaving it until the very last second to get out of bed. Other times I found myself leaving my desk for long periods of time just to sit in the toilets with my head between my knees listening to the sound of my breathing.
As a new girl, with undeveloped relationships with her co-workers, I felt like I had no one to talk too, so I didn’t talk. I kept up this unhealthy routine of going to work in a bad mood and leaving in a bad mood, getting straight into bed when I got home, eating bags and bags of unhealthy snacks and watching back-to-back episodes of various TV shows.
Whenever someone asked me about my new and exciting job I would tell them that I enjoyed the work but I disliked the office environment, which was true. I resented the corporate working life and the lack of support on an individual basis.
It finally came to a head when I was pulled into a catch-up with my boss who told me, very kindly but in no uncertain terms, that I was screwing up more often than not and I had to improve.
I don’t know what it was about how she said it but something clicked in my mind.
I knew that the reason I was cocking up was not because I was bad at my job or even because I wasn’t enjoying it, it was because I was beating myself up every time something went wrong.
Accepting That Things Go Wrong
Here’s a fact, things go wrong. No matter what job you do, how many hours you work or who you work for, be it yourself or a corporation, things are going to go wrong.
If you fall at the first hurdle and get overwhelmed by things going wrong at just a short time, or even a long time, of working in a job then you are not going to improve, you are going to do as I did and continue to get things wrong. This is because you’re distracted by your own anxiety and processing things slower.
No amount of to-do list training, discussions with your boss or sitting in the toilets crying is going to help this. You need to change your perspective and your mind-set and change things up.
Don’t Fake it, Embrace it
I realised after that talk that I was angry. I wasn’t angry at my boss or the company I worked for, as I initially thought, I was angry at myself. Instead of taking this anger and beating myself up, as I had done previously with the critiques I had received from my superiors, I turned the anger on its head and used it as motivation to prove that I was good at my job and did know what I was doing, even if mistakes happened from time to time.
Whether you’re approaching burnout or are simply flooded with anxiety at work, don’t beat yourself up. A job is just a job, even if sometimes it feels like it is your whole life. Mistakes happen, bad days/weeks are a thing. You just have to remember that you have a choice: either let the anxiety flow and prepare to doubt yourself or bounce back with a new air or can-do attitude and a sense of self-belief.
You’ve got this and if you don’t, don’t fake it embrace it and use it to motivate yourself to do better.
-Bloom From The Darkness