I’ve noticed a recurring theme. In recent months, I’ve had a number of conversations with truly incredible individuals —brilliant, charismatic, highly competent individuals— who are nevertheless a little worried (well maybe more than a little worried, some of them are wigg’n out) about their professional futures. Concurrently and coincidentally, this was also the theme of a panel I had recently organized, specifically around the topic of professional anxiety.
If you don’t have 90 seconds to read this article, here’s the 5-second summary: your fears are unfounded; you’ll be just fine, enjoy the ride; like really.
Yes, yes, easier said than done; so spend another 85 seconds with me and let’s debunk some of the most common fears I hear when people think about their professional future.
What if I pick the wrong job?
There’s quite a bit to say on this one. I always roll my eyes a bit when someone says they got their “dream job.” LOL. Sure, it’s your dream job right now, but we’ll see what you say once your organization reorgs or goes through a round of layoffs and all of sudden you have double the work, or a crap supervisor.
The best phrase I’ve ever heard a co-worker say is, “what is good now will change. What is bad now will change.” The one constant with jobs is that the circumstances will always change.
So what if the job turns out to not be ideal? There’s still things to learn, relationships to build. I can guarantee that no job will ever be perfect, so the phrase “wrong job” is highly subjective and really what you make of it.
And when the going gets really tough, remember that jobs are temporary. Most online articles, like this one at Zippia, will tell you that Millennials and Gen-Zers will change jobs every 2.75 years, with most starting thinking about their next position (whether internal or outside of company) after 12-18 months in their current position. Remember what is good now will change, what is bad now will change.
What if I don’t love my work?
This is actually different question than the previous; the nuance is around passion.
During our recent career anxiety panel one my panelists, Andrew Takahashi (also a writer for Yo!), talked about finding passion for your work. Learn about your industry, learn about your craft, explore the positions in your organzation. You might surprised at what you find. I never thought I would find Microbiology interesting, and yet, as a part of one of my positions, I learned to embrace the subject matter. Did you know that we’re constantly in danger of a breakout of ultra-resistant bacteria, and that without antibiotic stewardship, we actually become the architects of our own demise? I learned to find interest in one my early industries.
Also, don’t forget about extracurriculars.
While in college they were a critical part of your social life and identity, but now they can serve as important outlets for passion and and drive. Let’s look at Yo! as an organization. It’s a flexible, driven organization that provides a unique outlet for our leaders to invent new programs, share their stories, and platform their endeavors. That’s loving your work right there.
What if my friend gets a better job than me?
Well… you already know the answer to this one. Who cares? Stop comparing your individual, unique professional journey to those around you, it’s not apples to apples.
Now, if you’re still comparing, the next best thing you can do is think about context. They might have a great title, but you have no idea what their actual job duties entail, it might be a glorified title, or they might be a smaller company where titles are inflated. You also don’t know their satisfaction; you’ll never truly know how much they love or hate their job, nor will you know truly what level of satisfaction they have.
While the public variables of salary, title, and organization are usually readily available, what’s not are all the hidden intangibles, and you’ll arguably never know that information, so stop comparing.
What if I'm not good at my job?
Let's face it - no one starts a new job as an expert, but here’s what I see more often than not: most folks that I talk with are overly critical of themselves and don’t even recognize when they are doing a good job.
Try your best, ask questions, learn from your mistakes, and stop evaluating if you’re good at your job and instead evaluate if the job is good for you.
What if I don't fit in at my job?
I’ll take a different angle for this one. Beyond giving some trite advice on how to “find common ground with your colleagues” instead, I think most who are reading this article are in a unique position in that you’re culturally in-touch with your unique personal identity. Instead of just trying to fit into your job; let’s get our jobs & companies to fit us.
believe we’re in a renaissance period where companies are embracing (rather than tolerating) diversity, equity, and inclusion for the first time. The more you share about your community passions and the unique activities that comprise your culture the more we help to move the needle for a better, truly accepting workplace.
Normally there would be some cliche closing words like, “in conclusion, dear readers, the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing… but fear not!” But instead I’ll just say this, we’re all feeling it, it won’t 100% disappear for the rest of your professional life, but it can be mitigated. Every minute you worry is a minute taken away from satisfaction and gratitude that you should be having on this journey.
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