Expect to be Uncomfortable- Navigating the New

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Change is hard. There is nothing surprising in that statement. I’ve recently switched careers and no matter how much you can prepare yourself for the variances that come with a change like that, it certainly comes with a number of dynamics that may throw you off your A game. It’s funny, months before my own leap of faith, I found myself counseling a friend who had recently moved to a different company. He was describing to me the “fish out of water” feeling, being a stranger to everyone, missing his friends and body of work. He had been engrained in his business for years, and he was an expert. I immediately flashed back to when I switched careers after 18 years of being embedded in a business. It’s a shock to the system and can be debilitating if you don’t expect to feel, well, disoriented. This isn’t to say that one isn’t excited for a fresh start and the new challenge ahead, but we seem to understate the value in routine, surroundings and relationships. We underestimate that there can be a grieving process that exists with a career change no matter the circumstances of the departure.

I explained to my friend that everything he was feeling was very normal. After all he went from being the expert to knowing nothing about the new business. From being the “go-to” for most things, to not being known at all was a stark reality. His lunch routine was off as he would get his steps in on nice days, walking the same route. He knew exactly how many miles he would walk, the markers on his route that would tell him how many more minutes until he stopped and how many steps if he veered slightly off path. He knew the extensions of the people he would need to call to get things pushed through by heart, and he was incredibly fluent in the business and had years of historical experience. You get my drift, think about your daily routine, the people you get to see and enjoy, and all of the aspects of your job that bring about a high level of comfort and confidence and make your job enjoyable. It’s the minute daily things you grow accustomed to that you may not even notice, until it’s no longer available.

Don’t kid yourself, when you move to a new company the lack of your normal routine can manifest in the way of regret, self-doubt, and grief. But by the time the move is made, there is no going back. And while you may covet the idea of crawling back into the comfort of your previous role, don’t lose sight of why you left. You had pondered leaving for months, you knew you had to pursue other avenues, it was time. For whatever reason you got to that point, those reasons still exist in the rear view. Don’t look back, don’t put yourself through those mental gymnastics.

Instead, live with how it feels and just mentally tell yourself, I’m feeling exactly how I should at this moment. It will pass and brighter days will appear in short order. You have to remember you were hired at your new company for a reason. You are capable, you have a niche talent and experience combination that made you the best fit for the organization that you are fumbling around in current state. Your personality shown through in the interview and your new employer has already vetted if you are a good fit for the organization. They know the importance of team synergies and the high price of turn over if you don’t work out. So, while you may not be feeling full throttle, give yourself a break, there are plenty of people who are wanting you to deliver just like you did in your past roles and that while you are searching for your confidence, they are carrying the ‘confidence in you’ load for you both.

As far as routine, that won’t take long either. You will find your voice and your work tribe and you will become a part of and influence the culture of the organization. Now, as I seem to have all of the answers, it certainly didn’t prevent me from going through some of these feeling to a degree with my recent job change. I have an added benefit in that I know my new tribe and I know they have confidence in me. I understand the body of work and I believe in the leadership and appreciate the respect that had been given to me prior to accepting a role with the company. All of those items led to my decision to accept the position and it was helpful in the transition however, it did not solve for all of my scratchiness. Having an understanding that I would go through some change challenges during a period of time did help. I prepared for it in various ways for example,  I set up my new work environment similar to my previous office. I keep pictures of my legacy crew displayed in my office and I make a point to reach out to people from work that are important to me to continue our friendships. Becoming a master observer will benefit you in the transition as well. Listen for culture cues and rules of the road so you can integrate quickly with your surroundings.

My advice to my friend was give it two weeks and let’s check in and see how its going. Just recognize this is the normal state for this sort of transition, you’ve got this! I’m happy to say, it was less than the two weeks and he had his legs squarely under him, contributing in new ways, and figuring out his next path to navigate in his new world.

So, to all of you job seekers, and newly hired employees, you too, have got this! Just prepare for the change, know its normal to feel wonky for a minute, and just put your head down and GO!

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