25

I graduated college in December and in March I was hired for my first professional job, as a Project Coordinator at a company that builds commercial kitchens in Arizona. By all accounts, I'm doing pretty well- I've gotten good feedback, I haven't had any major issues, I've even somehow becoming the main person assisting my supervisor with training for new PCs. And for the most part, I know I'm pretty decent at my job.

But there are certain parts of my job that I just feel like I'm constantly messing up on. It tends to be on the things that aren't a standard "do it like this," but dealing with unusual, variable problems. I know I'm still new and mistakes are bound to happen, but I'm struggling with not letting these mistakes get to me and stress me out more than they should.

What are some good methods to stop internalizing work-related mistakes and stopping them from affecting your outside-of-work life?

1
  • When you run across a "unusual, variable problem", do you ask for help or advice?
    – JeffC
    Aug 10, 2021 at 5:11

5 Answers 5

40

dealing with unusual, variable problems.

This is normal enough for some people. It goes away with time. The novel problems are no longer novel once you have solved them. Eventually experience kicks in and you have solved most issues already and have proven strategies for how to deal with new ones.

What are some good methods to stop internalizing work-related mistakes and stopping them from affecting your outside-of-work life?

Try and relax and put things into perspective. If you're not endangering lives or health then it's just a mistake to be analysed and a lesson learnt from. There is nothing wrong with going over things in your mind outside work, it fixes them so the issue doesn't re-occur.

Take all mistakes as a lesson, work out why they happened, how to resolve them, and how to mitigate against them happening. Quite often I find a better solution after the drama has passed and simple mitigation strategies.

4
  • 4
    Exactly this. "A complicated formula becomes simple once it has been properly computed" ;)
    – iLuvLogix
    Aug 9, 2021 at 12:22
  • 3
    For the parts that ARE endangering lives/health, they should be heavily regulated and requires licensing/certification, like dealing with electricity. Those you CYA and tell your boss that you can't do them.
    – Nelson
    Aug 9, 2021 at 16:42
  • 2
    If I am making mistakes I have never made before, that must mean I am learning something new and expanding my horizons instead of staying in my comfort zone and stagnating. It’s when you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over that you should ask for help.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 9, 2021 at 20:09
  • Much of experience is the accumulation, recall and avoidance of mistakes you have made.
    – Yakk
    Aug 10, 2021 at 14:47
19

You are probably experiencing something that is called the Impostor Syndrome. This is pretty common for young professionals - and some people struggle with it for all their professional life.

There are several things that helps you deal with it: What helped me the most was, the acknowledgement that this is something common - from seasoned professionals. I talked with my mentor and they assured me, that even they struggle with this from time to time.

To stop this from affecting your private life, you could implement several things. You are on the right way with getting feedback from your superiours already. Make sure to do this regularly, so even if you make mistakes, you'll make sure that you'll be aware about them.

In addition to that, you need to assess, what the effects on your private life are and when they occur. For some folks, physical activities help. Go running, lift, some sort of team sport - all this will make sure your brain is occupied with something else. It's also healthy and will prevent your (long term) from burning out from work, if you have something else to devote your full capacity to it.

3
  • 2
    My impression was Imposter Syndrome is more of an overall thing -- you feel as if you're faking even the routine parts of your job. Aug 9, 2021 at 16:49
  • 1
    @OwenReynolds Curious as to how you formed that impression, as there's zero reference to number of occurrences in the formal definition. A single experience of imposterism is just as valid as multiple, although obviously more episodes are generally more debilitating.
    – Ian Kemp
    Aug 10, 2021 at 14:05
  • 1
    @IanKemp "Imposter Syndrome" has been a common term for at least 5 years. Many people, myself included, would have read dozens of 1st person articles and books relating to it. It's an overall feeling of being completely unqualified. I think "episodes" isn't helpful here: the OP is always fine with the routine parts, and always nervous about the non-routine (but not to the extent of feeling like a fraud). Aug 10, 2021 at 15:58
6

What worked for me:

constantly ask for the feedback of your supervisor. Push for weekly 1:1s if you don't already have them. Your self-assessment seems pretty good, but ideally your lead can verify that assessment for you.

If mistakes happen, learn from them. If you do something wrong ALWAYS take a step back to ask youself what you need to to differently in the future for this not to happen again. And "just think more" is no solution. For example if you forgot to order some stuff, don't just say: "oh, I shouldn't forget to order that stuff next time", but write it down somewhere, make a TODO-List, add the order to your project checklist, whatever. Make it foolproof.

1
  • 2
    Even better is to be sure to review the issues with your manager. "Hey boss, I hit this new situation, came up with a solution and it didn't go the way I envisioned. I've thought about it some more and I think this would work better should it come up again because of X, Y, Z. Do you think this is a better solution than what I came up with on the fly? Are there factors I may have missed?" i.e. prove to your boss you're learning, and learn from the boss' experience in the process.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 9, 2021 at 14:16
4

This answer isn't intended to "compete" with other answers provided as much to supplement them.

One method that I would recommend to help combat the confidence hit that occurs with these kinds of expected mistakes is to find "small successes". These are the basic and simple tasks that can be achieved each day to get you started in the right direction. There's a video online of Admiral McRaven encouraging people to make their beds. The ultimate point is to start the day with a success, and that makes adding to that success easier.

I really like the answer from @kilisi regarding what becomes normal over time as you learn. I also like the comments from @mhr that feed into that. This answer really just stacks onto the pair of them. When you get in the habit of starting your day with small successes, whether that's making your bed or just getting your emails under control first thing in the morning, that habits starts to build your new normal, and over time "Imposter Syndrome" will be replaced by actual confidence. That'll last until you get a promotion into something much harder, and then it's "lather-rinse-repeat", and your small success habits will help keep you pushing forward.

4

When I graduated college, I hated when people said that experience matters. Now that I have experience, I say the same thing: Experience matters.

As a recent graduate, you aren't supposed to be making calls on complex and variable problems. There's general business knowledge, and there's domain specific knowledge you haven't acquired either yet.

What you should be doing: Get all the facts of the problem, investigate as much as you can, develop several options, present these options to your manager.

You'll learn how to handle these things, don't worry. You'll learn how to deal with complex problems in different fields. It just takes time.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .