When the job offer is signed and your start date is set, you can finally relax. You made it through the resumes, cover letters, interviews, and negotiations—the hard part is over!
Until your first day.
Whether it’s your first job or your fifth, the first few weeks of a new job can be completely overwhelming. Not only do you have to get used to a new team and boss, but you’re suddenly inundated with a whole slew of projects and assignments—and sometimes, with little to no training or guidance.
I recently made a big switch in my career—from management to marketing—and that feeling came sweeping over me like a tidal wave. All of a sudden, I had a list full of more projects than I thought I could possibly handle, with absolutely no on-the-job training. It was simply do or die. And I was bent on proving myself in my new role. As the hours become longer and the pressure more intense, I was on the verge of quitting.
A new job—whether it’s your very first out of college or a mid-career switch—can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn and an undeniable pressure to perform. As I learned to navigate my new role, there were a few pieces of advice I had to tell myself again and again. And you know what? They helped—and they might help you, too.
1. That Uncomfortable Feeling? It’s a Good Thing
You know what was really easy? My last job. I knew exactly what would happen each day, how to complete each assignment, and how to work with my boss and team. I sat down in my cube at 8:30 AM and left exactly at 5:30. It was a breeze. And I hated it.
Fast forward to my new job. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was lost in a cloud of unfamiliar marketing jargon and processes. I’d get one assignment that was due in an hour, then immediately get two more that were due in 30 minutes—and had no idea how to start any of them. And, well, I hated it—in a different way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like my new job responsibilities—I actually did. But I hadn’t struggled like this in a long time. My complacency had gotten me stuck in a rut where I wasn’t growing or feeling challenged.
According to career coach Steve Errey, “Discomfort means that you’re out there exploring. It means you’re in a place you haven’t been before; maybe you’re learning a skill for the first time that makes you feel clumsy or incompetent.”
It was true. No matter how much I was struggling in my new role, I knew I was growing infinitely more than I had been in my previous position. And I knew that, in the long run, that was a good thing.
2. It’s OK to Accept Help
My first few days at my new job, I got plenty of offers of help from my new teammates: “Hey, I love brainstorming, so if you ever want to talk over your ideas, let me know,” or “I was actually in charge of the newsletter a few months ago, so I can help you come up with story ideas if you want.”
But I tossed the offers aside, assuming they were probably too busy to actually follow through—or that they’d see me as incompetent if I actually took them up on them. I didn’t want to be the new girl who couldn’t handle herself in her new role.
As I become more overwhelmed though, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was ignoring the help that was so obviously at my fingertips.
So, eventually, I did go to my co-worker for a brainstorming session. And I asked the other teammate if she’d mind going over my newsletter stories. Not only did it give me a chance to bond with my new team, but it was the exact help that I needed. Why did I let my pride get in the way of that?
It’s tempting to want to prove that you can do it all on your own. But that overwhelmed feeling will go away much quicker when you take advantage of the resources around you.
3. It’ll Get Easier
As I struggled in my new job, I asked myself the same question over and over again: Is it too soon to quit?
However you look at it, the first few days (or weeks, if you’re like me) are probably going to be rough. You’re going to be unsure of your abilities, uncomfortable speaking up in meetings, and at a loss for how to handle your new boss. The days will be long as you try to get into a new routine, and you’ll stress every time you get an email from your boss about an assignment you just turned in.
And then—just like that—it’ll get easier. Just like it did at your last job, and the job before that. You’ll start to know the processes, you’ll learn what’s expected of you, and you’ll feel more confident in your deliverables—and that’s when you’ll really start to thrive.
Of course, you shouldn’t let yourself get so comfortable that you’re no longer growing (see section #1)—but know that you won’t feel so completely lost forever.