Tuesday 16 January 2018

The anxious girl’s first day of work

Niamh outlines methods she has found useful in coping with the anxiety of starting a new job and her first experiences working as a copywriter.
-Niamh Reed

Mental health is being talked about more today than ever before, but we still have a long way to go. It’s a hurdle, but it is scalable. You don’t have to let it hold you back. Living with a mental health disorder can be just as debilitating as a physical disability and people cannot see when you’re hurting. With depression and anxiety, facing the upheaval of your life when university ends can be a mountain too steep to believe you can climb. 

Congratulations - you did it! You finished your degree with the qualification you worked so hard for. To top it off, you’ve accepted a great job offer - except you know nothing about working full-time. You’ve spent your entire life in education and now everything is changing. You think about it and your chest tightens. Doubts, questions and worries circle in your mind. What if no one likes me? What if I’m not good enough? You start to hate, berate and bully yourself. I don’t deserve this opportunity. I’m worthless.

Sound familiar? The unfortunate truth is that for so many, part or all of the above is normal. Excitement is replaced with anxiety and the desire to run and hide. You catastrophise the situation until it becomes too much.

It's okay to be afraid

Leaving university is a time of uncertainty. Suddenly you have bills and responsibilities and you must be an adult. It’s big and unknown, but everyone is, has or will experience it, and they are scared too. You needn’t feel ashamed for being frightened, and things DO get easier.

I felt oddly calm on my first day (well, calm for someone with anxiety, at least). Despite being nervous about not knowing what to expect, I managed to keep my head up and my back straight as I entered the office. The people were very welcoming, even having ‘decorated’ my desk and meeting them wasn’t as scary as I had built it up to be. That’s the way it is- often, the things you build up to be super scary actually end up being fun. 

Imposter syndrome 

You don’t see your value in the workplace or recognise your accomplishments and the longer the imposter syndrome continues, the worse it gets, potentially leading to depression and anxiety. You must tackle it and try to recognise the good work that you’re doing. I’m learning to recognise that my writing is valuable to us – and it is ‘us’, not ‘them’ as I am part of the company now. Try to be open, it won’t hurt to ask how you’re doing; your desire to improve where possible will impress. 

If you don’t know what to do, ask

A symptom of anxiety is the worry that you’re a burden and the overwhelming need to avoid that at all costs. You want to impress, but you worry that you’ll annoy people by asking something. This is not the case. 

On my first day, I had to ask a lot about how to use the programs that I would need daily. My first day at a software company and I couldn’t make a computer work. If I didn’t ask, I wouldn’t be able to work. So, I approached my supervisor and it wasn’t a problem in the slightest. The tightness in my chest began to recede. She told me that she had struggled understanding the software and navigating new programs too. She helped me, and now I’m not as scared. 

Be brave and take the leap

Enjoy your first day of work. It might seem scary, but just be yourself – after all, that’s how you got the job in the first place. If my experiences are anything to go by (and to quote Bob Marley) - don’t worry, because every little thing is going to be alright.

Hi! I’m Niamh, a Keele University graduate, fox lover and budding copywriter at Parker Software. By day I write about technology and my experiences as an intern. By night I draw, play the violin, and hip-throw to my heart’s content in jiujitsu. 

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