What to do when your new job is a nightmare

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One of my beta testers for my book “I’ve Landed My Dream Job — Now What???” loved all of the advice–but then had an incredibly difficult time implementing what was in the book because the dream job turned out to be a chaotic nightmare. Still a great job, but nothing you would expect out of a job was ready.

Her manager wasn’t ready with goals; he didn’t know what they were yet because the function was new in the company. She had a tough time figuring out who the real customers were of her work, much less identifying stakeholders. And the people in her work flow were also new and not much in regards to process was up and running.

And even though I suggest taking quite a long time for a review of what happened the first week (it can take up to four hours…), she was understandably totally wiped out after the first week to even think about doing a review.

In other words, work was chaos.

Chaos makes understanding what you know and not know more important

What does chaos really mean? Everything in motion, nothing nailed down, what you think you know isn’t really what you know and what you know changes all the time. There is nothing to anchor you or to ground you in your work.

Even if you enter this type of environment in your new job, you can still establish the structure you need to anchor you in your work despite the chaos around you. Eventually, you still need to nail down your goals from your manager, learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team, figure out who the stakeholders are and what you need to deliver to your customer.

Those needs don’t go away just because the place is nuts.

But you can take all of that swirling around you and start to put the information you get into the categories you need to complete that the book provides.

Eliminate chaos through identifying what you do and don’t know

The example I use in the book about what needs attention is this: you don’t pay any attention to electricity. Electricity is always on. Unless it isn’t. When it isn’t, your entire day is filled with what to do until the electricity comes back on. And until it comes back on, you can’t really move forward.

Your job is like that too. Until you nail down what you know and how to prioritize it in the new job, everything is important. If you don’t know enough about something presented to you — like everything on your new job — then you don’t know what lurks behind the request. You don’t know if you agree to something that it really means what you agreed to plus a whole lot more that the culture, which you don’t yet know, expects you to do.

Hidden expectations coupled with the inability to prioritize anything leads to one thing: stress. And over time, people will leave.

So the key to eliminating chaos and stress in your work is to nail down what you think you know about the job and turn that into electricity: this works, let’s move on to the next thing.

The importance of the weekly review

In a new job, the way you nail down what you know and what you still need to find out is done through reviewing your work. You may not have enough time or energy to do a complete review as outlined in the book, but any review time on the bigger topics or even using the same amount of time on a single topic will relieve a great amount of stress.

You start to build the blocks of what you are pretty sure you know about the job so you can put that into its proper place in your priorities and move on to the next.

Turn the dream job chaos into structure

All jobs have the common components outlined in the book. The rest is focus, timing and review. Just because your manager doesn’t know what goals to give you yet doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about your goals. You do, because they prioritize and focus your work.

Use the book to turn the chaos of your dream job into structure. Hey, you at least might as well start building the job out right. What’s that saying? If you can keep your head while others all around you are losing theirs…

  • Anonymous says:

    This post is valuable to any professional in any industry, work, or business. Great Job Scot. Your main point is a winner — In chaos, identify what you know and don’t know to ease the stress of the chaos.
    I would add the following:
    Remember that others are feeling stressed too. You can build great relationships during this time if you bond on the shared stress OR you can create morale nightmares if you let your stress spew to others. Lots of deep breaths before speaking!!

    *Most important: Remember during stressful times that people generally intensify their dominant personality trait. So interactions seem tougher. Counteract that by understanding the four basic types — driver, analytic, expressive, amiable. Here’s a funny and info packed video post on this:

    Keep the great posts coming Scot! I will RT your post on Twitter — many great points for others to read.
    Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

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