Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Firstday on the Job - The Panic Attack

Justify FullFirstday on the Job - The Panic Attack

You just left your employer of five years to start a new job. At the old place, you knew everyone and everyone knew you. You were an ace at the job, and the in's and out's of the business never worried you. Now, you sit down at your new desk and realize everything is new.

Is this what you really wanted, or did you take the wrong job with the wrong company?

Then it hits. Panic: that jarring voice that shouts in your head. Don't ignore it. But, make sure you know how to keep it in check.

How do I get my nerves under control?

What you're feeling might be anything from butterflies in your stomach to a profound sense that you don't belong here. First, ground yourself by realizing you're going through a transition. Your fear will diminish as you get up on the learning curve and enjoy a few successes, no matter how trivial they might be

For example, forcing yourself to speak up at the first team meeting might be uncomfortable, but it will help you break the ice with your co-workers. And, quickly studying up on the products you'll be working on will build your confidence and make your interactions with other employees more satisfying. A little at a time, you will become part of the team. All this will help calm your nerves.

Second, grab onto your reasons for taking the job. There's always a bit (no more than that, if you're lucky) of disconnect between the interview process and the job itself. So, take a few minutes to re-map your expectations onto what you've learned about the job during your first few days. (I guarantee you this: the job is different from what you were told. This is normal, if not always fair.) Make a short list of the tasks you will have to perform during the first week. This will give you a very real sense of control. Then list the tools you'll need to do the work. Focus on getting those basics organized. As you set up your work area to suit you, you'll feel more at home and better able to tackle the work itself.

Finally, review the "payoffs" you reasonably expect from this new job. Draw up a simple timeline you can refer to from time to time when you need a reality check. If you can keep your expectations in line with your actions, you'll avoid real panic. There's little room for panic when you have a clear target and a plan.

I feel inadequate.

A sense of inadequacy is common when you're in a new environment. You may fear that you misjudged the job and your abilities. But unless you're a total dolt or the company outright lied to you (we aren't going to get into either of those possibilities here), you took this job based on judgments you made during your interviews. Your feelings of inadequacy need to be torpedoed quickly with logic and common sense. So, don't judge yourself until you've analyzed the situation.

Ask The Four Questions:

1. Do I understand the work that needs to be done? That is, is the goal clear enough that success can be measured objectively? Also, do I understand the tasks that comprise the job?

2. Can I do the work? Do I possess the ability and skills required? Will I have the tools and guidance I need? Can I quickly outline a plan of attack?

3. Can I do the work the way the employer needs it done? Do I fit in with these people? Am I willing to park my bike the way they do? Do I feel comfortable learning to do the job their way?

4. Can I do the work profitably? How does this job profit the company? How can I add to that?

As you consider these questions, assess and admit (to yourself) your level of ignorance about the industry, the company, the business, the department, your manager, you new co-workers, the work and the tools you'll be using. (Ignorance is normal when you're tackling a new job. Don't defend it, but don't let it stop you from learning new things, either.) Then take credit for what you do know. Quickly build your knowledge by talking to people around you, not by ruminating. (I call this "job training by wandering around.") Don't quit or give in to short-term, manageable ignorance.

Answer The Four Questions. If the answers are affirmative, or if you can quickly make them affirmative, you're armed for success. You don't have a lot to be worried about.

Uh-oh. I blew it.

If you took this job for the wrong reasons, deal with it. Then never do it again. The wrong reasons might include: flattery, money, boredom, wishful thinking. If you've tried the other steps above and you're still panicking because you believe the job is wrong for you, it's time to be brutally honest with yourself.

Is this job a potential disaster that you brought on yourself? Did you make the wrong decision? Are you incapable of delivering what you promised to the employer? Are you in over your head? If the answer is yes, the best course of action may be to quit. Make a judgment and take responsibility for it.

Be frank with your boss. Take his wrath early, apologize and move on. The saving grace in all this: There's no need to list a one-week job on your resume.

Somebody lied.

Did you take this job without looking carefully under the employer's rug? The company may have misrepresented itself, its finances, its prospects or the job itself. Of course, it's better to recognize and avoid such situations from the start. (Remember that due diligence is your responsibility. You've got to look under the rug before you accept the offer.) But sometimes, you'll find the wool has been pulled over your eyes.

If the company and the people are not what you were told they were, it's time to do a little judging by wandering around. Don't let your emotions take over. Spend some time calmly assessing the people, the company, the tools, the business, the job. Be as objective as you can. (Be careful: don' t blame your own inadequacies or mistakes on others.) Lay out the facts to a trusted friend and get his perspective. Then apply Henri Frederic Amiel's advice: "To be always ready, a man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied." (Needless to say, women need to know about cutting knots, too.)

Panic is your mind's way of telling you to take control.

Panic results from a lack of control. If you're panicking on the first day of your new job, take control. Marshal your considerable talents to successfully address the challenges before you, and you'll find the confidence you need to squelch the butterflies in your stomach.

If that doesn't work, it's time to quickly and critically reassess the job choice you've made, deal with it forthrightly and get on with your life.

Remember that butterflies are normal. Here's hoping your panic attack flutters away quietly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reinvent Your Career Today

Reinvent Your Career Today

Today new technologies, increased competition and downsizing have eliminated many jobs. Managed care has severely impacted the way medical and mental health services are provided. With fewer people to do the work and increased competition for jobs, we are putting in more hours than ever before. Besides burnout and depression, other job stresses come from doing work you are not suited for, or working in an environment that is not conducive to your temperament, values and the quality of life that you desire.

If you think you need to find another job or change the direction of your career, it is important to first go through a process of self-assessment, focusing on your options, and lastly, developing a specific action plan to get you where you want to be.

Assessment

What are the values, ideals and ethics that you hold near and dear? You need to display these in your work if you are to feel satisfied and fulfilled. Be clear about the compromises you can make without suffering. What are your special abilities and skills? What do you consider to be your best traits and characteristics? What are your areas of interest in your work and in school? How do you make decisions? Are you a "big picture" person or one who likes to focus on the details? Personality assessments often can help with this process.

Environment

What kind of environment do you want to work in? This includes geographic location and proximity to home, hours that you work as well as clothes that you wear to work and a description of the organizational culture. Do you want flex-time or would you like to work from home? Do you want to be self-employed? What does your office space look like? What kind of people do you want to work with? Do you prefer to work independently or within a team environment?

Focusing

After you have completed a thorough assessment of your values, skills, abilities and the environment that you want to work in, consider the content of the work itself. Do you like to counsel others? Do you like to teach? Do you like to write or conduct research? Is administration and policy-making your passion? Do you want to manage others or work independently? Make a list of the things you like about your work and the things you don't like. Be specific. The Strong Interest Inventory is a good instrument to help focus your interests.

Next you need to match your abilities and skills with the needs of the marketplace. The competition for jobs today is very stiff. Brainstorm the general career areas that fit your interests. Conduct informational interviews to determine what it is really like to work in those areas. What kind of skills and experiences do you need to have to secure a job in those fields? Are you willing to do what it takes to make that happen? What about salary requirements?

Perhaps after conducting the self-assessment and focusing, you decide you really like the work you do and only need to change the environment. If you leave a particular career and decide you don't like your new job, it will be more difficult to return to your former career. It is crucial to go through the self-assessment and focusing process before you make a move.

Action Plan

Once you know what you want to do, develop a specific plan to get there. If you decide to stay put, create a career development plan that includes acquiring the skills and experience you need to further your career. Write your goals and objectives. Update your resume. Network with those in positions to further your cause. A career consultant can help keep you motivated, focused and in pursuit of your goals.

Summary

If you want success in your career, you must have confidence in your ability to solve problems, practice independent thinking and decision-making and be determined to find the answers. Don't give up! Start with a thorough assessment of your values, skills, interests and abilities. Focus your efforts on your areas of interests and abilities, and develop an action plan by specifying goals and objectives. It is only by focusing on your strengths that you can truly obtain fulfillment and success in your career. A professional career consultant can provide objective feedback to help keep you motivated and on-track.