Getting settled in a new job is a process, not a one-time thing. Hence, it might seem difficult at first: when all the information about your new career hits you like a wave and you drown in stress and anxiety. However, as the shock of the wave subsides, you will slowly understand that confidently adapting to these adverse working conditions is not an impossible feat!
A study referencing Holmes and Rahe’s Stress Inventory claims that psychological stress is a common reaction to major life events. The study further highlights that a change in career or a new job is considered as one of the major life-changing events in an adult’s life. Hence, if you want to survive your career transition, then you need to hone the necessary skills to adapt to your new job!
It’s all the same for us. Whether you are a fresh graduate settling in your first new job, or a long-time professional seeking a change in occupation or work environment, the first few weeks of a new job often rattles our self-confidence. However, it is important to note that stress is a fairly normal reaction when you are about to head-off into a new chapter in your life.
What Causes Stress in a New Job?
Stress in a new job does not necessarily come from the actual work itself but rather from our own agitation and nervousness. Of course, it doesn’t help when nerves and first-day-jitters get the best of us. During this period, we are filled with self-doubt, anxiousness and over-all dread prior to assuming a new job role.
According to an article by Harvard Business Review, entering a new job entails acclimating to the new corporate culture that the company has. Corporate culture is a set of rules, standards, and protocol within a workplace that employees learn to incorporate in their day to day functions. These rules are often unspoken and unwritten, which further adds to our stress as we need to be careful not to break any of them unwittingly.
Most of the time, it isn’t the workload that is most stressful but rather fitting in to the new norms and expectations of the new work environment. Thus, it is vital to keep an open mind and be observant in your first day at a new job. You need to be able to think on your feet and react to unfamiliar situations with a thirst for learning and openness to experience.
What is Career Adaptability?
Since you need to learn to accept that things might not be as you are familiar with at your old job, this is where career adaptability becomes an important asset. Learning to get along well with new colleagues, fitting in at the workplace culture, and successfully managing the demands of a new position are all facets of career adaptability.
Researchers define Career Adaptability as specific skills and resources that employees use to cope with difficult tasks, transitions and traumas in their occupational roles. It is further divided into four categories namely: concern, control, curiosity, and confidence. All of which are essential skills to overcome the common causes of first-day-in-a-new-job stress.
Adapting this skillset into your arsenal and keeping an open mindset are your best weapons into beating stress and anxiety during your first day at work. After all, an indispensable employee is not always the one who gets the job right but rather one who can learn from their mistakes and confidently face whatever it is that comes their way.
Adapting to the Common Causes of Stress in a New Job
As I have said, the first day in a new job is usually the most stressful. Business News Daily further identifies four most common causes of stress in a new job. Here, we will be discussing each one along with career adaptability tips so you can handle these stressors confidently should you encounter them yourselves:
Fear of Job Security
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns of new employees is that whether or not they will survive the probationary period. Most jobs give workers a “trial period” of around three to six months to see if they will ease well into the job. There is often too much pressure to perform well and impress the company as you are made aware you are under evaluation.
During this period of your career, you should rely on your concern adaptability skills. The career adapt-ability scale defines this skill as your focus and capacity to look ahead and anticipate changes and challenges. Let your forward-thinking attitude shine through and win your job security through determination and perseverance.
In addition, it helps if during this time you would avoid absences and reporting to work late. Showing initiative and volunteering for tasks will also work on your favor. You have to let them know that no matter what happens, they can count on you to show up to work and put your best foot forward.
Adapting to the Corporate Culture
Work environments are like small nations in themselves. Each with their own unique set of language, rules, and culture. Therefore, settling in a new job is very much like making yourself at home in a foreign country — it is both an equally exciting and terrifying experience.
A study claims that it is normal for employees to need time to cope up with a changing corporate culture. It is very much the same when you feel homesick or culture shock when you are in an unfamiliar country. Instead of focusing on the negative, utilize this time, instead, to adapt and learn how things work around you.
Take note of the communication channels in your workplace. Do people resort to more formal channels such as meetings and detailed emails? Or can you simply send a text or drop-by a coworker’s desk for a quick chat? It is usually over-thinking small details like these that stress us out in a new job.
Your first few weeks in a workplace is usually the best time to exercise your control adaptability skills. Control skills refer to being motivated and disciplined to mold oneself and one’s environment to achieve career goals. This is evident in how you reprogram your mindset to align with the corporate values so that you can fit in better in the workplace.
For example: If the company values professionalism and formality, then it would be in your best interest to present yourself as such. Wearing smart casual attire, appearing as clean and pleasant, using a more formal language, writing emails and memos, and coming prepared to every meeting would become a part of your employee persona.
If instead, the company values creativity and spontaneity, then you might become someone who is idealistic and more reflexive. Coming up with quick spontaneous ideas, setting up an impromptu meeting and presentations, being resourceful and capable of pitching ideas and solutions to problems on-the-spot would be your employee persona, instead.
Relationships with Colleagues
You will usually meet with a lot of new faces in your first couple of days at work and you’d better learn to match faces into names pronto! It is customary to introduce yourself to teammates, supervisors, and top-management bosses in your first day. As the newbie, it will be your responsibility to fit into the dynamic of your team by learning their quirks, work styles and personalities.
Additionally, you should allot your first few weeks into more than just making an impression (you already did that in your interview!), instead you would want to build rapport. Your relationship with your new colleagues will either make or break your new career. Now is the time to get out of your shell and forge lasting friendships which will be useful in the future.
This is where the curiosity skill comes into play. Curiosity will push you to explore options and determine helpful information to aid in your career decisions. Get to know your coworkers and determine which of them you can approach if you ever needed any help or mentoring.
Usually, it is always best to get in the good side of secretaries and personal assistants. Not only can they clue you in when the big bosses are in a sour mood, but they can also put in a good word for you should you need it. As these people are also masters of office politics and the latest technical know-hows, you can rely on them to make your transition smoother .
You should also ask questions and build a strong bond with your workmates. They will soon be your support system and mentors, and it’s better to break the ice early on rather than be perceived as cold and aloof. If possible, try to get their contact numbers or email address as you meet them. This will give you a way of getting back to them as you meet more people on your first day.
Managing Lacking or Overwhelming Workload
When it comes to the amount of workload, you will be facing two different scenarios: You will either be benched or swamped with workload during your first few weeks.
If you will be filling a previously vacant position, chances are there isn’t much work to do on your first day. Your coworkers may be too hesitant to delegate workload to you and your superiors may be reluctant to trust you with big projects on your own. Do not let this hamper your motivation; instead show them your confidence and willingness to learn.
Confidence adaptability skills refers to your ability to actualize your career aspirations. Approach your teammate and ask if you can help with anything. You can also reach out to your mentor and politely ask if they can teach you how they work. If you are feeling bold, you may also approach your superiors to ask if you can join in on a project or pitch an idea you’d like to work on yourself.
On the other hand, if you will be replacing an employee in a previously occupied position, chances are you will be welcomed with a pile of work on your first day. Don’t feel obliged to go through them all in one sitting. Break your tasks into smaller, more manageable groups, and slowly make your way through them each day.
Sitting around doing nothing, waiting for orders, or breaking down in front of insurmountable tasks will give you a bad rap at work. Instead, you need to learn to take initiative and work independently during your first day. Assure your coworkers that you are capable enough to be included in teams and work on important projects.
Quick Tips for New Job Seekers:
If you are a new job seeker, chances are you don’t want to look forward to the stressors I mentioned earlier. Hence, here are some quick tips to keep in mind to make your work transition hassle-free:
- Research about the market you want to enter. Learn about their corporate values!
- Prepare yourself emotionally. (You don’t want tears on your first day!)
- Be open to new experiences. Never say never!
- Ask questions in your interview.
- Brush up on your technical skills. (Phone and email etiquette, basic computer know-hows, etc.)
- Learn how to make people like you.
As I have said, getting into new jobs is very much like moving to a foreign country. It doesn’t happen in just a day, and you would need time and commitment to make it work. It is stressful, yes, and it takes a lot of work before things start to get better.
But at the end of the day, you have already taken a huge step into the next chapter of your new life and it is up to you to keep the journey going!
Featured image credit: Coffee vector created by upklyak - www.freepik.com
Clarence Velasco is a psychometrician with a degree in psychology, and 4 years of journalism experience. Clarence is a Life of a Winner contributor, doing her part in helping people navigate the stressors of daily life.