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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Changing Jobs

3 Things You’re Overthinking at Your New Job (and 3 Things You’re Not Thinking About Enough)

nervous worker

The excitement of starting a new job’s undeniable, even for experienced professionals. But I probably don’t need to tell you that with that level of excitement often comes a lot of anxiety. Every time I start at a new company, I think to myself, “I really hope I don’t break this fancy coffee machine and make a huge mess.”

And then after I figure out the coffee machine, I often switch into “How did I even get this job?” mode.

Navigating a new gig can be tricky, so to help make sense of all of those nerves, here are a few things you’re probably overthinking, plus the areas you should be focusing on instead.

You’re Overthinking How Late You Need to Stay at Night

I used to believe that I should never leave work until my boss heads out for the night. And while I’m not telling you that it’s cool to leave your desk at 3 PM every day, I also think it’s fair to say that you don’t need to be the last person to take off just for the sake of being the last person to take off.

In the past, I’ve been so paranoid about leaving “too early” that I’ve walked up to supervisors and said, “Hey, is it OK if I head home now?” Even in the strictest work environments I’ve been in, my boss looked at me like I was a crazy person. After all, I’m an adult. So, as long as you’re not leaving anything urgent unfinished, you probably won’t lose brownie points for leaving your desk once your work’s set for the day.

However, if you’re truly concerned, you’re allowed to ask your manager about the team’s typical hours. While it’s highly unlikely everyone will be on the same schedule, you’ll get an idea of when it’s “OK” to come in and head out.

But You’re Not Thinking Enough About What Makes Sense for You and Your Team

It’s natural to take work habits from previous jobs and assume they’ll work at this new place. I’ve made this assumption more than I’d like to admit. However, whenever you start a new job, it’s always a good idea to spend time thinking about what habits actually make sense for the team you’re on.

Does your boss actually start her day at 10? Is half your team on the West Coast? Does everyone else come in early before heavy meeting days? Rather than fixating on how you think everyone should work, pay attention to how your colleagues currently operate to figure out when you should be at your desk. Of course, over time, you can probably switch it up—but in the early days, it’s best to be around when others are also around.

You’re Overthinking How Many Questions You Ask

Earlier in my career, I used to think that by asking too many questions, I was wasting my colleagues’ time and making myself look incompetent. What I eventually learned was that I actually made a better impression by asking more questions because I was able to get up to speed more quickly than I would’ve if I had just stared at my welcome packet for days. So, if you’re unsure about what you’re working on, don’t be afraid to speak up. It’s really that simple

But, You’re Not Thinking Enough About The Types of Questions You’re Asking

When it comes to questions about your role, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask for some help. However, there are some questions that you shouldn’t bring up because the truth is that you don’t need the answers right now.

From obscure company history, to summer Fridays policies, to harmless gossip, there’s information that you don’t need to be worrying about at the moment because it doesn’t impact your first few weeks. And you should be saving all your brain power to get a handle on your new responsibilities. Not to mention, if you don’t have the warmest and most patient team, you don’t want to waste their time with irrelevant concerns.

With that said, there will be non-job related questions you do need answers to—and when those come up, it’s important to make sure you’re bringing them up to the right person. Perhaps your HR team’s better equipped to speak about vacation policies, or the IT team’s the more sensible choice when it comes to printer connectivity issues.

You’re Overthinking What You Say in Front of Your Colleagues

Sure, it might not be an outstanding idea to show up at your new gig and start telling anyone who will listen about how you ate 50 chicken nuggets over the weekend. However, if you happen to let a minor detail about a weird quirk slip, remember this: You’re not interviewing for the job anymore. You’ve actually gotten it. So even though some of your new colleagues might think you have some questionable culinary preferences, you don’t need to worry quite as much about whether or not they’ll keep you around.

But You’re Not Thinking Enough About What You Want Your New Role to Be in This Office

OK, so you shouldn’t worry too much if you happen to overshare about your love for chicken nuggets. But when you start a new job, you have a fresh slate to work from, so it’s a great opportunity to take some control over how you’re seen around the office. Ask yourself: How do you want your colleagues to see you?

Maybe you’ve always been a helper, and now you’d like to be seen as a leader. Or perhaps you’ve always worn all the hats, and this time around, you’d like to be a specialist. Even though you’re still new, there’s nothing stopping you from establishing yourself as smart, thoughtful, or whatever it is you know you are—and want other people to know you’re capable of.

New jobs are awkward, especially at first. And it’s normal to overthink everything. While it might feel like you’ll never be truly comfortable in your new surroundings, the fact that you’re reading this article means you’re willing to do what it takes to get there. So, take a breather, stop beating yourself up over the small things, and get back to work.