New beginnings: Managing the transition
Are you starting a new job, business or academic degree? Do you feel nervous and excited at the same time? Any beginning is a time of many changes. We engage in new projects because we want to learn interesting things, develop our skills, improve our career prospects and feel accomplished.
Whenever we take on a new challenge, we consider it carefully, to make sure it will be worthwhile to invest time and effort into a particular project (work, business, degree), as it will require a significant commitment for a period of time.
So it is not a decision we take lightly. Although there will be new responsibilities and challenges, we also hope there will be new opportunities.
At the beginning, there will be a lot of information to process and a variety of tasks to do.
For example, learning how things are done in an organisation or educational institution, and getting to know new people.
In the case of setting up a new business, it will take time to create a team and develop ways of working.
As humans, we seek certainty and stability as these provide us with a sense of safety and confidence that we know what we are doing. However, to learn and grow, we need to step beyond our comfort zone to realise our potential (Dweck, 2006).
Moments of uncertainty, frustration, or disappointment are normal during the transition process (Bridges, 2004). We all experience some of these feelings during a period of change.
Although challenging to go through it, we make the effort to develop our skills and increase our experience and create new opportunities for the future.
In the first few weeks and months, we may feel apprehension as we are not sure how things will unfold. We are motivated and keen to do well. However, as soon as we notice we are unsure how to do something, we may have self-doubt and question our ability and capacity to do our work well.
In addition, after the initial excitement, we may notice that there are some things we do not like or find uncomfortable. It may be unsettling, and we may even wonder if we made the right decision. If so, it is understandable as most situations will have elements we were not expecting.
It is important to remember that whenever we make a decision, we make it based on the information we have at the time.
If things do not work out at first how we hoped they would, it does not mean we made the wrong decision (Heath & Heath, 2013).
At these times, it is best to reflect on how we interpret events and explore our assumptions. It is also helpful to discuss our concerns with trusted others to gain perspective.
We can look for some aspect of the situation that can provide us with useful information and decide what we can do to make progress.
Transitions are times of renewal and provide us with the opportunity to make changes that bring us positive feelings and experiences (Bridges, 2004). We are motivated to improve and to have a sense of achievement, and it is rewarding to have done something meaningful.
To maintain our motivation and determination to make progress, we can look at what works well and focus on what we are learning. If there were some disappointing or frustrating experiences we can take these as part of our learning process.
Strategies to manage transitions:
Develop healthy habits: It is important to maintain our energy level as we need it to process information and manage our emotions. It is essential to develop healthy routines such as eating well to nurture our body, exercise and sleep well to manage stress and maintain our wellbeing.
Focus on learning: It is likely that the workload will seem like a lot at first. When starting, we need to process a lot of information to understand how things are done and learn new skills and procedures.
It is also likely that we will feel under pressure to meet other people’s expectations of our role, as well as our own expectations of doing good work. We can manage these by being flexible and maintaining an open mind.
Take time to reflect: Reflecting on our work gives us a chance to clarify expectations and check our understanding. As we reflect, we can identify any errors and learn from them to improve our work.
View feedback as a learning tool: We may find it difficult to ask for feedback as we do not want to draw attention to ourselves, especially when feeling unsure.
However, the sooner we find out what we need to correct or do differently, the better we can do our work.
Seeking information from others also allows us to develop good working relationships. When we ask for clarification or advice, we are demonstrating that we want to do a good job and we are engaging others who are more familiar with the task or have expertise that can help us improve.
Develop self-awareness: Every project that we invest time and effort in will present us with challenges. So, we can prepare by acknowledging that experiencing some difficulties is part of the process.
Whenever we have a challenge that causes frustration, it is helpful to focus on the bigger picture to gain perspective. As we consider different ways of viewing the situation, we can be creative and use our problem-solving skills to find a way forward.
Learning to be aware of our thoughts and feelings is essential to managing our emotions and behaviours. It enables us to communicate effectively with others and establish good working relationships with colleagues and team members (David, 2017).
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.
Bridges, W. (2004) Transitions. Making sense of life´s changes. Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.
David, S. (2017) Emotional agility. Get unstuck embrace change and thrive in work and life. London: Penguin.
Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset. The new psychology of success. Howe we can learn to fulfil our potential. New York: Ballantine Books.
Gilbert, P., & Choden (2013) Mindful compassion. Using the power of mindfulness and compassion to transform our lives.
Great Britain: Robinson.
Harris, R. (2010) The confidence gap. From fear to freedom. London: Constable & Robinson, Ltd.
Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2013) Decisive. How to make better choices in life and work. London: Random House Books.
Joseph, S. (2016) Authentic. How to be yourself and why it matters. London: Piatkus.