Growth is Uncomfortable: Surviving a New Job

Originally published via LinkedIn Aug 26, 2016

You know that lonely, overwhelming, what-in-the-actual-hell-am-I-doing, part of a new job? I’m there now and holy mother is it uncomfortable.

This happens to most of us when we get a new job. It’s rough to go from running your business like a boss with an amazing team to asking where your red stapler is while trying to remember people’s names. Dealing with a new job or role can be painful, but it’s exciting, too. New starts always are.

Recently, Veeam made a big announcement. We’ve reached a critical inflection point as a company and we wanted to share it with the world. Like any strategic directional change or launch of a new product, things were batshit crazy tense in the days and weeks leading up to big event.

Conveniently, these days and weeks overlapped with the first few weeks in my new gig. (Yay!) It was nearly enough to lead me to drink. Tito’s of course. But growth is uncomfortable. Learning can be uncomfortable. So I’m dealing with it in the best ways I know how.

Exercise. I love working out. Pfffftssssss! Sorry, that is a complete lie. I cannot even say that with a straight face. Now I do love the way I feel after working out. Sometimes I like to run. And by run, I mean propel myself forward in a sporadic lurching motion that is somewhere between a seizure and a reaction to a sudden onset of explosive diarrhea. Similar to the way I dance. But whatever, I have a great time.

Typically during my run-lurch, I listen to music. It distracts me from the feeling that death is standing there waiting for me to keel over on the treadmill. Lately though, I put on my headphones, tuck my phone into my super cool arm band thing that makes me look like I know what I am doing, and take off without hitting play. Quickly my breathing becomes labored, my heart practically beats through my chest and without “Pillow Talk” to take my mind off how out of shape I am, all I hear is me. My tortured breath, my pounding heart, my slapping feet. It grounds me, all that noise, rather than distracts me. It places me in the moment in an intensely poignant way because the only thing I can think about is not dying.

Believe the good. Right before I got this new role, I was told these things: You’re not technical enough. You’re not smart enough. You’re not what their looking for. I was also told these things: You’ve got this. You’re talented. You’re exactly what we’re looking for. Believe the good things people say about you. The truth is, they are always right.

Stay quiet the first 30 days. This advice was actually given to me by an executive as I was moving from one company to another. It’s much harder to do this when you move from one role to another in the same company (oddly, people expect you to talk!), but the root of the advice is the same: listen and learn. Understand who thinks they make decisions and who really does. Get to know team members’ personalities, the dynamics of how they work together, who to align yourself with and who to avoid like pumpkin spice anything in August. Determine whose opinion matters and what those opinions are before sharing your own. All of these things are part of a company’s culture and knowing that culture (before you open your mouth) can make or break your time there.

When responding to a question, start with, “I would say…” When I do talk, sometimes I find I need a minute to get my thoughts together especially when my thoughts are about to introduce something new or different. I’ve noticed some people, mostly women, doing this so I’ve been trying this out and I can’t believe how well it works. The first thing this does is give you a second to think about what you are going to say without having that I’m-thinking-for-a-second pause. It also prepares your audience to shut it and actually listen. Helpful if you’re a chick sitting at a table or on a WebEx with a bunch of dudes. Secondly, it automatically legitimizes what you’re about to say. Who would say that? I would! BOOM.

Wear lots of clothes. Jackets, long pants, tall boots, sweater vests, long sleeve shirts, scarfs….I’m a fan of all those things. Especially scarfs. The scarf situation in my closet borders on a state of ridiculousness. I get made fun for my scarfs. The more covered I am, the more confident, comfortable, and put together I feel. When I was packing for my first formal trip to meet my new team, my husband asked, “Is it cold up there or something?” Potentially I have some self-conscious issues that I’ll work out in my next therapy session, but really I think it’s just because I look way better with lots of clothes on! All my flaws are covered and I feel fierce in a crisp suit jacket and my nerd girl glasses because I’m a fierce nerd girl. There’s also this mystery of “What is she hiding under two shirts, a jacket, AND a scarf?” Could be a rocking body. Could be a mess of cellulite and spider veins. Ain’t nobody gotta know.

Be yourself. The older I get, the more my concern over the opinions of others diminishes. This is a beautiful bonus of growing older and wiser. You are the most brilliant when you are yourself. No one likes a fake and it’s exhausting maintaining that façade. I feel lucky to have found opportunities that appreciate and respect who I am. But I walked into them with a “this is who I am” attitude and expected nothing less.

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