The Twenty-Something Series: The biggest challenges I faced in a new job and how I overcame them

Starting a new job is scary. In this post, I reflect on my three biggest challenges when I started a new job, and share how I overcame them.

Starting a new job is terrifying. 

It can be exciting too, of course, but it's still terrifying. I know because I've done this twice in the past two/three years. 

Although technically, because my current job is a rotational graduate scheme where I moved to a new office and new area of the business and new team every six months, I guess you could tally it up to four new jobs in the last few years - at least for the sake of this post.

1. What the hell do I wear?

I'm not saying this to be vain: I'm saying it because what you decide to wear for your first day at the office forms a big part of your first impression, and that first impression is something that feels very important in a new job. This was something that haunted me not just when I started a new job with a new company, but when I changed placement in my current job too, because each team and office have their own culture, even amongst the same company.

As a rule of thumb, it's better to dress that bit too smart when it comes to work: you don't want to be that one person in jeans, because you'll stick out like a sore thumb for the wrong reasons. I've got a pair of navy trousers that wear more like jeans, but because they're not, they've become my weekly staple and were a safe bet when I moved to the Solihull office for my current placement.

2. Remembering everything feels impossible

I am a copious note-taker at work. I'll write so. many. damn. notes - during meetings, or a casual catch-up, or for myself as I'm working through things. I'm so worried about forgetting something or losing track of what's going on, especially when it's a new role and things go over your head for the first few weeks before you get to grips with it, that I'm relieved I'm someone who takes so many notes. They've come in handy time and time again.

There's insane amounts to remember when you start a new job, and not just about the job itself: you have to remember how to get into the building, where different people/departments sit around the office, how to book a room or claim expenses. Do you have to fill in a timesheet? Where's the link to the structure chart? What was your password for that particular system log-in again?

It's overwhelming. There's so much to take in that's become second nature to everyone else, which makes it somehow more intimidating to try to learn.

I'll be honest: my second job was a bit less overwhelming because I was at least aware of some things enough to ask about them, but I was so green going into my first job I made so many silly mistakes - getting locked out of my laptop, not taking copies of my receipts before throwing them out and then trying to submit expenses, forgetting how to use the VPN to work from home, blah, blah, blah.

There's only so many notes you can take. Sometimes, you just have to admit that those first few weeks are going to be weird and overwhelming and do your best to chug along.

3. Finding out that it's okay to admit when you don't know things

This stressed me out far less at my second job after graduating than it did in my first. You're new. Of course you're learning the ropes. People aren't expecting you to know everything. 

t's very much okay to ask questions - especially the stupid ones ("Who should I talk to about X? Where's the bathroom? How do I book a meeting room? What's this project about that comes up all the damn time?"). People would rather you ask the stupid questions and learn than try to muddle through because you're too nervous to ask for help.

In my first job (the finance one) I felt like I should know so much more than I already did, even though there were about twelve of us in the same boat, fresh onto the grad scheme. In my next job, I embraced the learning curve so much more, and asked about things frequently. I still do now, admitting when I don't know a certain process or haven't heard of that team, what do they do? People are actually really willing to help, and it's much easier to feel comfortable asking about the silly things when you're new.

And people are so much more receptive to you when you admit you don't know, but you're willing to find out - whether because you asked them for help, or you say you'll go do some research by speaking to other people or simply by Googling. It's better than just saying you don't know, and sitting back to watch the world go by until someone else does it for you instead.

What kind of challenges have you faced when starting a new job? Is there any advice you'd give yourself for those first few weeks? Share in the comments below!

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