Maybe you’re moving to a role with better prospects, starting afresh at a new company, or maybe you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and change careers, so you can work in an industry you’re passionate about.
Whatever the change is in your career, starting something new can be stressful. Suddenly you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, with new colleagues, new bosses and a big dose of uncertainty about how things will pan out. Feeling anxious?
Here are seven ways to help you manage the stress that a change in your career can bring:
1. Get the rest of your life in balance. Even though you may feel as if you’re not in control in your new role as you learn the ropes, keeping other areas of your life in balance can help you deal with things on the work front.
Make sure you get enough sleep, that you eat healthily and that you still allow enough time for your friends and family. If you aren’t doing so already, make sure you exercise regularly to help stimulate the endorphins and get rid of stress hormones in your body.
2. Organise your finances. If you’re moving to something that’s better paid, chances are you’ll soon experience “lifestyle creep”, where the extra money you make quickly gets absorbed by new things you think you can afford with your higher salary.
Take the conservative route though, and use half of your increase to fund new expenses, while saving or investing the rest. If you’re moving companies, become familiar with any retirement plans, medical aid or other benefits you may be entitled to.
Fedhealth, for example, has a corporate offering for employees in some of South Africa’s larger companies.
3. Avoid the drama. Unless you’re working by yourself or for yourself as a sole proprietor, almost every workplace will usually have some sort of office politics that go along with it. Avoid getting involved with this wherever possible, including any personality conflicts that may arise: rather spend your energy on remaining professional and doing a good job, and keeping a positive attitude as a new employee.
4. Set realistic expectations. If you started a new job and you already knew how to do it all perfectly, you’d be bored in no time. Accept that when you start out, you’ll probably be quite out of your depth – and that’s fine. By setting realistic expectations that a new job involves a learning curve before you gain confidence and start performing to your potential, you’ll lessen your anxiety significantly.
5. Don’t overwork yourself. In the beginning of a new job, it can be tempting to work all hours, overtime and/or on weekends to prove yourself. But not allowing yourself proper time to relax can quickly lead to exhaustion and burnout, which can actually hinder your performance, or at best, leave you feeling stressed. Stick to regular work hours and be as productive as you can during those times – the net effect will be far better in the long run.
6. Ask for help. This could be your new boss, a team member, or even someone in a different department who could help show you the ropes and be the sounding board you need to stay calm during those first weeks. Alternatively, if you’re starting a new business, you could find someone who you look up to within your industry, who could help you navigate your new path. Don’t be afraid to lean on others’ experience and take the learnings they’ve already gathered along the way.
7. Some anxiety can actually be helpful. While too much anxiety is counter-productive – you lack self-confidence, you’re not able to think clearly and you can’t make effective decisions – a little bit of anxiety can actually help to kick-start good performance at work.
A recent study from the University of Toronto found that in small measures, anxiety can actually boost an employee’s performance by helping them focus and self-regulate their behaviour, which can help them fulfil a task more effectively.
Taking a fresh direction with a new career or business venture can be stressful – but if you take these basic steps and start with the right attitude, you’ll be able to manage the anxiety and thrive in your new role.
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