Sometimes those initial feelings of discomfort in a new job aren't just down to nerves, writes Jenny Darmody
Moving jobs can be a major life change to deal with, and there’s a lot of feelings and experiences that come with it that may make you feel out of sorts for a while. In fact, business advisor William G Bliss estimates that it can take up to five months for new employees to reach their full productivity levels, so it’s safe to say those employees can expect to feel quite new for roughly the same amount of time.
So, what can you do to settle in more easily? How do you know when those initial feelings of discomfort are down to new-job nerves as opposed to your gut telling you it’s a bad fit? What’s the difference between temporary feelings of newness and genuine red flags?
If you feel like you can’t do the job…
Imposter syndrome can crop up at any time in your career, but it’s often at its strongest when you start a new job. After spending a long time getting to grips with your previous job and feeling like you know what you’re doing, suddenly you’re right back to being the newbie wondering if you really deserved to get this job. This is completely normal and will pass in time. Your new boss is a smart person who is unlikely to have been ‘tricked’ by you. Remember, you deserve to be there, you’re just learning.
However, if time passes and you feel like you’re getting further away from knowing what you’re doing, analyse the situation. Is it because the job is different from the original brief? Do you need additional training? Talk to your manager about the specific struggles you’re having so that you can both come to a resolution. If this doesn’t work, you may be looking at a red flag.
If you feel lonely…
Feeling lonely is totally normal in a new job, even if all your new colleagues are perfectly nice and doing their best to help you fit in. In the first few weeks and even months in a new job you can feel almost homesick for old work relationships because you’re getting to know a completely new set of people, most of which will already know each other really well, inadvertently making you feel like the outsider. Relationships with colleagues take a long time to develop naturally and if you feel a little lonely and detached at the start, it’s completely normal.
However, if you feel like there is a nasty undercurrent, people are particularly unfriendly or your colleagues aren’t making an effort with you, it might be time to talk to your manager about it. When these situations occur, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault for simply being new. But maybe the culture isn’t as nice as you thought it would be.
If you’re feeling stressed and exhausted…
Even when you’re not instantly thrown in the deep end, the simple transition of moving jobs can be extremely exhausting and can often leave people feeling quite stressed. You’re spending weeks and sometimes months taking in a lot of information, learning a lot of new systems, understanding stakeholder relationships and possibly in the throes of training. Being stressed and tired in those initial months doesn’t mean you’re not fitting in well or that you picked the wrong job, it just means that you’re taking a little time to settle in.
However, it’s important to identify what’s making you stressed and exhausted, especially as the months begin to pass. Are you six months into the job and feeling stressed because you have too much on your plate? Are expectations on you too high? While some stress in the early days can be excused as normal ‘settling in’ feelings, it’s important not to ignore them completely because they could be trying to tell you there’s a bigger problem here.
If you miss your old job…
This one is completely natural, especially if you left a job you love. There may be a balancing act with this one. If you’re still in contact with your old colleagues, it can be a lovely way to stop yourself from missing them and feeling out of the loop. But it’s also important to throw yourself into your new job and not continuously compare it to your old one. Remember, there was a reason you left in the first place so it’s important to avoid putting on rose-tinted glasses.
However, if these feelings show no sign of going away, you should think about why you miss your old workplace so much. Do you miss your old role or is it your old colleagues that you miss? Is there a way you can bring things you loved from your old job into your new job? Or are there things about your new job that you genuinely don’t like? Has this switched from an innocent pang of nostalgia into a big, bright red flag about what you really want (and don’t want) from your career?
What if there really are red flags?
OK, so for the most part you know that these feelings are likely to settle down once given enough time, and if they don’t settle down on their own, it’s important to talk to your manager, no matter how daunting that might be. If you’re not happy or settled in your role, make sure you’ve taken the time to analyse the reason as to why that may be so that you can have a constructive conversation about it, whether it’s an aspect of the job, additional training or socialising.
However, if the natural feelings have trickled into toxic areas and red flags, your gut might be telling you this is not the best fit. Whether that’s because you made a move you thought was right at the time but turned out not to be, or whether the new employer had painted a bright shiny mask over it and the job is not at all what you’d hoped, there is absolutely no shame in leaving if it’s not the right fit for you.
Whether you choose to look for a job yourself, speak to your previous employer or talk to a recruitment consultant who will be able to help you find what’s best, it’s important that you’re in a job that makes you happy.
Jenny Darmody is the growth editor at RECRUITERS.ie, Ireland’s most trusted recruitment partner. Jenny is also a former journalist, specialising in all things career-related and work-life balance.
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