I have been wanting to write this post for a while. After we graduated Hackbright and we started to land jobs, a common fear that popped up was fear of failure.
I found myself regularly talking to new alum unfortunately on a one-on-one basis since we were all spread to the wind in our unique job search experiences. Many were and are thrilled about landing the new job, but that excitement typically included and/or was replaced by the realization of “Oh god, I really have to do this now.”
Seriously, almost everyone expressed that same sentiment and granted its easier to express doubt like this in one-on-one conversations. Still I wanted to pull everyone in a room to have this conversation (like a self-help group), and I regularly told people how they were not alone and this is normal.
This fear at its heart is being found out to be a fraud. That the person who hired you will regret it and heaven forbid, fire you. That you won’t fit in, never be good enough and/or you’ll do something so badly that it will destroy your career. I can go on but fraud and failure definitely covers most of it.
These fears are understandable and as mentioned, normal and it’s just important to remember for anyone starting a new job, you are not alone and you can survive this. And when I say you are not alone, I’m not just talking to the new Hackbright grads, I’m talking to anyone starting a job.
From my experience in consulting, I remember the first several projects that I started and how much fear I had as well as others when taking on a new client and project. The good thing (if you can call it that) about consulting is it makes you go through that enough to help push you past or at least numb those fears. But don’t get me wrong, I still get butterflies (or worse sometimes) and I had many successful and not so successful projects.
Most managers are focused on all the stuff they need to get done and what will go a long way is someone who lands in the new role with the drive and enthusiasm to help make the work burden eventually easier. Managers typically understand there is a ramp up period for someone new starting a job (especially someone new to the field) and ideally, s/he should give you room for that.
What can help is to talk with your manager about her/his priorities and try to establish goals/metrics for your work. Something to work towards helps give focus and show progress. Also, ask for regular check-ins with your manager to discuss your questions and project status. It’s important for your boss to see you regularly and hear what you’ve been up to. It’s also important when you are just getting started to have these check-ins to make sure you are staying focused on the right things and avoid being stuck on a problem for too long.
You may not get these check-ins or goals and if not then try to set your own. At the heart of this, I definitely recommend getting an understanding of what are your manager’s priorities and biggest challenges and thinking about what you can do to help.
It can take a couple of months for anyone new to feel like they are fitting in and successful. Many of the Hackbright alum into the first couple months or so of the job expressed feeling overwhelmed and uncertain that they were able to have an impact. Those fears have been dissipating. It’s seeing your contribution to something at work get recognition and/or show value that will usually help alleviate the pressure. With enough practice and experience in the field the turnaround time on accomplishing this can and should be reduced.
Now for the reality check (aka where I destroy the tooth fairy). It’s healthy to have your fears and typically you will be fine in the new job. Still not all jobs are created equal and there are worse case scenarios out there that totally make the fears warranted. There are jobs where you won’t fit in, where you hate your boss, where you won’t feel like you can make any impact or where you could even get fired. This is also normal and again, survivable.
What you need to realize and remember is that those jobs were not right for you anyway and that they won’t destroy you unless you let them. Life is short and really you don’t want to waste time in toxic job that is stunting your career if you can help it.
Sure some jobs are hard to get and not everyone has the luxury of finding a replacement job easily. It is important to know that in the face of any of these worse case scenarios, you can find an alternative if you are willing to work for it. You may have to work harder than others but it will be worth it to find a job where you have support and are successful.
Just remember you are not alone in these fears and you can survive them.