How to settle in and reduce stress in your new role/job

Written by Dorcas Solomon

Starting a new job or position can be quite exciting; the, “I can’t believe I got this job”, feeling quickly settles in. However, apprehension can overtake that fresh feeling and affect your thoughts about the role, the workplace culture, whether or not you can actually perform.

Planning, having a positive outlook, and taking the necessary actions can make this all a little less stressful and make you productive amidst the transition and changes. Whether you are a new graduate starting your first job or an experienced professional changing roles, this article will cover 5 tips that can help.

1) Clarify expectations

This is a lesson that I learned early on. Clarifying the expectations that come with your new role saves you from the guessing game, and gives more insight on what you should be focusing on, and at what time. It also allows you to know what standards you will be measured to, which is very important. Lastly, it helps you rank your priorities based on the business’ needs. Even if you’ve been in the workforce for a while, it’s important to review your expectations routinely, as this gives you guidance, and reminds you of what your priorities are after you’ve become a seasoned part of the staff.

Sometimes the projects and tasks that you’ve been pouring hours upon hours into may not be all that valuable to the company. Just saying, “I would love to learn what your expectations of me are in this role and at this time, to ensure that my work is in alignment with the company’s needs”, will protect you from looking incompetent and will instead make you look proactive.  

2) Specialize and FOCUS

A critical thing is learning the fact that you can’t know it all. There is barely anyone who does. I am a strong believer in doing 1 thing excellently, rather than doing 2 with mediocrity. When beginning a new role, give yourself an area of concentration. You can designate one for each quarter in your organization, every two months, or as you wish. For instance, if you work in the IT industry, your first quarter goal could be to learn more about the security aspect of your business, the next quarter could be software, the following quarter storage, and so on. Never try to be a jack of all trades to prove your worth, in my experience, this approach tends to be unproductive.

This simple act can be very difficult especially for new hires as you feel you have to prove yourself by knowing it all, but over the past 3 years I’ve known this to be a sure route to frustration. Find an area to specialize or focus on for a given time, then move on to the next. This helps to give you direction, in-depth knowledge and most importantly quantifiable progress. This is not to say you shouldn’t learn all there is to know about your industry but to do so with a plan that keeps you focused and isn’t overwhelming.

 3) Stop being busy

In this context, busy means “out of control”Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines busy as, “full of distracting detail” (those days when I feel extremely busy, but have achieved very little by the end come to mind). The thing about activities or tasks is that even though you may view working on them as making progress, this is not always the case. This mind-trick can be avoided by asking yourself: Is this bringing me closer to my final goal? How important is this task or activity to my success? Especially when starting a new role, make sure that you are doing only what matters and eliminating time-wasting pursuits. The key to achieving this is prioritizing. Create a to-do list or a time-log as they are a critical step in taking control of your time, and directing your effort (read the importance and how to create a time log here).

“There is scientific evidence that the act of planning activities through to-do lists reduces the burden on the brain.” [1]

4) Plan your day ahead

Although this is probably the simplest tip in this article, it’s often the most neglected. This tedious little routine has literally increased my productivity.

The night before I:

–       Pick out my clothes for the next morning

–        Pack my lunch, backpack or hand bag

–       Arrange documents and important notes for the next day

That’s it. That really is all it takes. Through this easy act you avoid rushing in the morning 80 percent of the time, and, as a bonus, it sets a put-together, productive tone to your day. Being proactive is a major key in being efficient. This tip goes doubly for new graduates; your first job may be a completely different pace or routine from what you are used to coming out of university. So, staying proactive by taking a few quick moments to prepare ahead of time leaves you more time to worry about presenting a project, rather than debating whether you’ll be 10 minutes late, or 20.

5) Give it time

Everything takes time, be patient with yourself. Some people feel that when they start a new job they have to blow everyone out of the water. But be careful, as this expectation can cause unnecessary stress, or for you to put too much pressure on yourself to perform. Focus on the process, I would even take it a step further and say trust your process – Before becoming a master of your workspace, it will takes time. Statistics shows it takes anywhere from three to six months to fully grasp, be comfortable and well-informed in your role. So give it time, because it takes time.

I guess my last unofficial tip would be to ask questions; you know the old saying, “there are no stupid questions”. Whatever you are unsure of, someone has probably been through it. Just bite the bullet and ask so that you receive the direction needed. Proving your worth to the company is not always about competition and being the best without any guidance, proving your worth is also about being a team player, who not only progresses internally but also helps the company grow as well. So ask lots of questions and don’t feel you would come off incompetent for doing so, making mistakes that could be avoidable by asking question would make you look worse.

I hope you found these few tips helpful; I wish you the best in your new position! Comment below on tips/actions that helped you settle into your role or something you wish you had done differently starting out.