You just started a new job and you’re so excited. There’s just one catch: You’re clearly the least experienced person on the team.
Maybe you’re the youngest, or maybe you’ve changed careers, or maybe you just made an internal transfer.
Whatever the scenario, everyone around you knows their work like the back of their hand, leaving you feeling like you’re lagging behind. While that’s not the most comforting or enjoyable feeling, the fact is you’ll face challenges specific to having less experience. But since you know that, you can be prepared for—and address—the four most common issues.
1. Challenge: You Have Imposter Syndrome
When you learn co-workers have a lot more experience than you, your first thought might be, “OMG they made a huge mistake hiring me.”
But, unless you lied on your resume (in which case, yes, it was a huge mistake), your new employer knows you’re new to this kind of work. And they decided to hire you anyways.
That means they see great potential in you and believe you can do this. (It’s true: They’re not going to put their neck on the line for someone they think will fail.)
The first step is for you to believe in yourself, too. You’re here because you threw your hat in the ring—and probably put in a lot of legwork applying. So, reconnect with the ambitious self that thought you should go out and apply for this role. What did you argue made you qualified? Lean on those traits!
Second, if you notice anything you feel especially nervous about, see if you can’t bolster those skills. Take a class or reach out to a new colleague or a networking contact and ask how to develop the skill you feel you’re lacking.
2. Challenge: You Think You Know it All
Some people fall on the other side of the spectrum, and this challenge threatens to derail you even more because it’s harder to self-diagnose. Maybe you know you’re the least experienced, but you think “I got this!” and therefore have zero interest in listening to others, learning from their prior experiences, or asking for help.
As you can imagine, this can hurt you in many ways.
First, you don’t have the benefit of institutional knowledge. Maybe your idea is brilliant—and that’s why someone pitched it six months ago, only to see it fall flat for an unforeseen reason. But you won’t be able to learn from that if you steamroll their feedback.
Second, it’s not going to gain you many friends. Often, there’s a degree of paying your dues when you’re new. While it’s not always the most stimulating work, it can go a long way to garnering respect among your colleagues and making you look like a team player.
By all means, be confident and share your ideas—but don’t confuse that with acting like you’re the smartest person in the room.
One of the best things you can do is work on your listening skills. During a brainstorming session, don’t aim to be the first one to speak. Instead, listen to what your colleagues have to say and see if you can support, build on, or ask to learn more about their ideas.
Additionally, ask for help and feedback, instead of going it alone and guessing. Admitting you don’t have all the answers not only makes you more approachable, but it makes people more likely to trust you when you say you know what you’re talking about.
3. Challenge: You Catch All the Low-Level Tasks
Some grunt work is par for the course. It may even be useful—giving you a foundation so you’ll understand higher-level tasks that you’re going to be assigned in the near future.
However, you don’t want to be taken advantage of, and some people can tend to “dump” meaningless tasks on less-experienced colleagues. While you want to be seen as someone with a good attitude, you don’t want these tasks to distract from your actual job.
The best way to handle this challenge is to use open communication. Talk to your boss about the reality of balancing these annoying to-do with your other work. Ask her to help you prioritize your task list, and if she can share how these tasks add value to the team or your future work.
If you have colleagues who keep asking you to pitch in, see if you can use these assignments as an entry point to more engaging work. Say, “I’m happy to help with [x], and I’m also able to [y] and would love to make a larger contribution to the project…”
4. Challenge: You Need More Time
Phrases like “get up to speed” and “catch up” are time-related for a reason. As you know, you’ll be more efficient at a task the 10th time you do it—and even more so the 100th time.
But your co-workers may forget that the database isn’t intuitive, or that, before all of the shortcuts are committed to memory, you’ll have to keep clicking in and out and cross-referencing. If you aren’t allowed enough time, you’re in a perpetual state of scrambling.
This challenge has an easy fix, because there’s no shame in wanting to get things right—or being new. So, often all you need is to give a simple reminder: Say, “I’m new to [whatever’s taking you a while]. Do you have any suggestions for how I could do [process] faster?”
Then, ask if, in the meantime, you could have extra time for that task—stressing that you want to do it correctly. This’ll also give them a chance to tell you if time’s a factor and they’d rather have it done than perfect.
You’ve leaped to the next level and now are feeling a little out of your league. Take heart that’s how it feels at the beginning. But soon enough, time will pass, someone new will be hired, and they’ll be coming to you with questions.
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