Starting a New Job, Hanging onto Old Fears?

Experts Offer Five Tips on How to Shake Post-Layoff Insecurities and Make a Fresh Start at a New Job

Starting a New Job, Hanging onto Old Fears?

A layoff humbled you and unemployment terrified you. So now that you’ve finally landed a new job, shouldn’t you be unequivocally thrilled?    

Not quite. If your life was turned upside down by a layoff, you're probably dealing with mixed emotions upon reentering the workplace. Although you’re relieved and excited, you may also suffer lingering effects from your ordeal, such as fear that you won’t be successful again, anxiety about another layoff or bitterness that your career path has been altered.

Three career experts offer advice on how to overcome your lingering negativity and send your emotional baggage packing so you can start a new job successfully.

Remember Why You’re Great

Uncertainty throws people off balance and is the root of anxiety for those starting new jobs, says Deborah Brown-Volkman, an East Moriches, New York, career coach and author of How to Feel Great at Work Every Day, Coach Yourself to a New Career and other titles. “What freaks people out is the unknown,” she says. “If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you may worry, ‘Can I do the job? Will I be successful? Will I have the endurance to get up and go back to work? Will I get along with my boss and coworkers?’” To combat these insecurities, spend some time looking at your own resume and reminding yourself of your past accomplishments, Brown-Volkman recommends.

Take One Day at a Time

Barbara Witkow, a psychotherapist from Bellevue, Washington, advises clients who are returning to work after a layoff to take one day at a time. “The whole idea is to make it through the first day, and then the first week,” she says. “Soon you'll be feeling a sense of rhythm and familiarity, and a lot of the anxiety will be eased.”

Remember the Big Picture

Taking a less-than-perfect job after a period of unemployment may be a bitter pill to swallow, but your sanity demands that you get over it and think positively. “If you look at [your new job] as a step down, it will be,” says Jay Block, author of 101 Best Ways to Land a Job in Troubled Times. “But if you look at it instead as a springboard for getting back to where you used to be, it will be.”

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re earning less or have a lower title. “You have to tell yourself that it’s OK and that you needed to do it for your family,” Brown-Volkman says. Then take action by creating a big-picture vision statement for your career that describes what is important to you, and map out the concrete steps you need to take to get where you want to be, she says.

And remember, your job does not have to define you. Psychotherapist Witkow recommends that people in career transitions ask themselves questions like, "Am I my job? Am I my paycheck?”

Channel Your Emotions

Thankfully, much of your negativity will probably evaporate once you're sitting at your new desk. "I always say that you don't get over an ex-boyfriend until you have a new boyfriend, and the same is true with jobs,” Brown-Volkman says. ”Healing takes place when you get a new job."

But if you can’t shake a “why me?” attitude about your layoff, you harbor ongoing ill-will toward the organization that fired you or you mistrust the corporate world in general, discuss your feelings with trusted loved ones, write out your thoughts in a journal, or seek the help of a career counselor or coach. Carrying around such negative feelings -- especially an all-consuming fear of getting laid off again -- could sabotage your success in your new position. "If you're afraid, then you won't give it your all and you could end up getting fired again," Brown-Volkman says.

Revel in Your New Beginning

You'll feel great about yourself if you hit the ground running at your new job. Create job security for yourself (as much as it is possible to do so these days) by “giving way more value to the company than you ever get back in compensation,” Block says. “Spend your first 90 to 120 days going way, way beyond the call of duty. Get in early. Exceed expectations. Build relationships.”

Make sure you and your employer are clear on your objectives, Brown-Volkman adds. “Sit down with your boss and say, ‘What are my goals?’” she says. “As long as you’re clear on what you need to accomplish, and you underpromise and overdeliver, you’ll be fine.”

Remember that whatever happened in the past is the past, and today is a new day, she adds. “You can go in and be any type of person you want,” she says. “It’s a do-over. It’s a chance to shine if you haven’t been, or if you [shined at your last job], it’s an opportunity to shine again.”