By Dr Eugene Brink
You might be landing your first job in 2019 or move to a new one. Either way, you’ll be doing something you haven’t done before in a new setting.
It is also likely that you will not have a well-considered and clear job description and set of duties. Your boss probably expects you to evolve with the job and “make it yours”, so to speak.
Even if you’re not a complete rookie and more seasoned in your job, there are always new and unfamiliar challenges coming your way each year. If not, odds are that you’re already bored and hunting for a new job. After all, it is these unknowns that keep our lives and jobs exciting.
However, becoming better at your job will take time and effort and the intervening period between starting and running with your new job could be daunting and leave you confused and grabbing at answers.
Fear not and take heart: this happens to millions of people right across the globe every year. There are ways to successfully adapt to your new situation with your dignity intact.
- Stop thinking everybody else knows what they’re doing
Confidence coach Steve Errey assures us that this is certainly not the case. “Sitting at work and feeling like everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing can be rough. There’s the person who always seems to run great meetings, the colleague who’s always ready to make a decision and rally people around it, and the co-worker who always seems to find a way through a thorny situation and land on a great end result.
“Yeah, sometimes it feels like everyone is better at what they do than you are. But, guess what? They’re not.”
Errey says comparing yourself to others and worrying about not measuring up merely serve to sap your confidence and hold you back at work. To dispel this unease, he says, try to ask how this is serving you. Remind yourself immediately that you don’t have to compare yourself to others and that everyone is doing the best with what they have.
- See it as a challenge and enjoy the freedom
The nature of work and workplaces are changing rapidly, so too are job descriptions. Companies are becoming less hierarchical and more streamlined and it is expected of employees to perform multiple, wide-ranging tasks simultaneously.
Kate Lopaze, contributor to The Job Network, says while you’re focussed on the “I have no idea what I’m doing” mantra, it is easy to forget that this is an obstacle, not the end of your career. “An obstacle is something you can get around. No one will die because you are unsure of what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Unless your boss is a complete autocrat with unrealistic expectations (in which case you should resign anyway), everyone around you realises that you need time to find your feet. Feel free to follow this well-worn corporate adage with aplomb: Fake it ’til you make it!
Enjoy the freedom that you are offered initially or even in the longer term. But, as the next section will show, you should use this nebulous responsibility-free phase to good effect.
- Get educated, recruit allies and ask questions
An amorphous phase at work shouldn’t be idle time. It should still be a period of empowerment. Helena Lazaro, contributor at the career website General Assembly, says if you are lacking the know-how to do your work, arm yourself with knowledge.
This can be done by reading relevant material developed by your company or experts in the field. Simply Googling topics relevant to your job is also edifying. If you are new, recruit some allies in your department with whom you can soundboard. Ask question, lots of questions. And admit to yourself and others that you’re lost, but don’t overdo it.
Also, check whether something might have gotten lost in communication. “Either things weren’t communicated fully to you, or you didn’t make it clear that you didn’t understand everything that needed to happen. Either way, there’s no point in dwelling on mistakes or bad communication. All you can do is make sure that, moving forward, everyone’s on the same page,” says Lopaze.
Lastly, just start! Even if it’s doing something completely trivial. It is likely to eventually lead you to where you have to be.
Helena Lazaro, 2018, “Help! I don’t know how to do my job!”, https://generalassemb.ly/blog/help-dont-know-job/.
Kate Lopaze, 2018, “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing: 8 Strategies for When You’re Completely Lost at Work”, https://www.thejobnetwork.com/i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing-112016/.
Steve Errey, n.d., “How to get over ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’ syndrome”, https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-get-over-i-have-no-idea-what-im-doing-syndrome.