There's something distinctly uncomfortable about starting a new job, even in the best of circumstances. There are new people, new office dynamics, new routines and expectations, and of course, a new job to do. There's a lot to figure out and a lot of ways that things could go wrong. It can be frustrating. It can be intimidating. It can be downright weird.
And I truly hope you get to experience it someday.
In the midst of all that discomfort, there's an incredible opportunity to grow, professionally and personally. It's a chance to lean in to God's provision, to learn about God's creation (including you!), and to reflect his peace to those around you. It's also a time to think critically about your professional goals, strengths, and weaknesses, and to take measures to establish good working relationships with the people around you. I've changed jobs a number of times throughout my working career, and every time was scary, but also exciting and invigorating, and I look back on them now as times of great growth.
If you're looking at changing jobs or careers, here's what you need to know.
It's okay to be scared, but don't let fear rule your heart or mind
Remember that God is with you, and he is actively working in your fear and discomfort. I love the verse, "Be still and know that I am God," from Psalms 46:10. It has special meaning for me ever since I learned that the phrase "be still" is translated from the Hebrew word rapha, meaning to be weak or to let go. The way it's written, it's active, not passive, meaning that we are literally commanded to be weak, to let go of our weapons, to stop relying on our own strength and instead acknowledge God's sufficiency.
It doesn't always feel good at the time, but as I look back at my life, I can see clearly that it was during those times when I was pushed out of my own comfort zone and into my weakness that I learned the most about myself and about God.
In 2009 I transitioned out of a pretty traditional full-time corporate job that included impressive business cards and a big office complete with executive assistant and support staff. My new role included part-time corporate strategy, serving on corporate boards, and launching my non-profit, 4word. I was coordinating all of these roles myself, from my home office, without a lot of help.
And I didn't like it. At least, not at first: "Dear God," I prayed, "are you sure? I know you are with me, I know that your plans are good. But are you sure this is the plan for me? I really don't know if I'm cut out for this."
Despite my discomfort, I felt certain that God was calling me to stay the course. I had to look closely at my strengths and weaknesses, at how and when I work best, and at how I manage stress. I restructured my days, so that I could do my critical thinking when I was most naturally energized (from about 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and schedule meetings and brainstorming sessions for later in the afternoon when I could use the energy boost I get from interacting with people. It took about nine months to really find a rhythm, but now that I have, I honestly can't imagine going back to a traditional corporate office job.
God knew what I was capable of, even when I didn't. He knows what you're capable of too. And he is with you every step of the way.
Your may be new, but you don't have to be alone
Make it a priority to build and maintain at least a few solid friendships with trustworthy women who truly "get you." This one isn't so much "new job" advice as it is life advice. I couldn't help but bring it up here, though, because it's important. When I think about the tough career transitions I've been through, it's clear to me what a difference it made to have good friends around me.
Believe me, I know this friendship stuff isn't as easy as it might sound. It takes time and energy to build the kind of authentic relationships I'm talking about, especially if you're starting from scratch. But it's worth it. Whether or not you realize it yet, you're going to need those friends. You need some safe, supportive people in your life that you feel the freedom to share all your stuff with, knowing that you will be loved and understood.
If you're reading this and thinking, I don't have any relationships that feel like that, then it's time to take some action. It might be as simple as reaching out to a group of acquaintances, or you might need to go a little further in looking for fellowship. Pray. Trust that women just like you are out there, and they're looking for fellowship too. Your church is a good place to start, even if they don't currently offer a group for working women. You can also check to see if 4word has an active mentoring group in your area. Whatever you do, please invest in these relationships. Yes, it can be awkward at first, especially with people you don't know all that well. Stick with it. Keep trying. Keep putting the time in. It's so worth it.
Deep, faithful friendships will help sustain you through everything life brings, including new jobs and professional transitions. Friends can keep you grounded, provide a sounding board, help you manage stress, and speak God's truth into your life.
Any time you take on a new job or role, it's a good idea to step back a bit to try to identify the critical success factors for your boss and your team as a whole. By that I mean you need to figure out how your boss's success will be measured (same goes for the team overall), and then think critically about what role you will play. If you can focus your attention and efforts on producing results that will help move your boss and the team toward their goals, you will quickly become a critical and appreciated team member.
Learn (or establish) expectations for communication
You need to figure out how (and how often) your boss and team members expect to communicate with you. Do they want daily, weekly, or monthly status reports? How should you handle unexpected situations that your boss would like to be apprised of before you move forward? Should updates and questions be e-mailed, given face-to-face, or over the phone? It's a good idea to at least have a conversation with your boss about communication, but you don't necessarily have to ask every person you work with about their communication style. You can learn a lot just by paying attention to how people reach out when they have information or a question for you. By establishing these standards up front, you can avoid miscommunications later.
Get to know people you work with, and help them to know you
You don't have to be best friends with everyone in the office, but do take the time to try to get a sense of them as people. Understand their priorities in life, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests outside of work.
Share some of your own priorities, strengths and weaknesses. Let people know up front how to best communicate with you. Share any boundaries that you need to share. (Do you need to leave by 5 p.m. every day to pick up your kids? Do you set limits around travel?) If you have recently taken part in a personality or work style assessment like a 360 Review or Myers & Briggs test, it may be appropriate to share the results with your boss.
It will take some time and effort to build strong working relationships. Be patient, and know that your investment will pay off. Whatever your job is, it's just plain better to go to work with people you understand and respect (and maybe even like). Be mindful about building relationships at work and you'll be a better worker, a better communicator, and better able to serve Christ.
Diane Paddison is a featured contributor to Today's Christian Woman, a business professional, and founder of 4wordwomen. org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.