Dream Jobs and Chaos-How to Cope

One my beta testers for the book loved all of the advice in the book–but then had an incredibly difficult time to implement what was in the book because the dream job turned out to be a chaotic nightmare (http://www NULL.curemyanxiety NULL.com/Job-Anxiety-and-Work-Stress NULL.htm). Still a great job, but nothing you would expect out of a job was ready.

Her manager wasn’t ready with goals; he didn’t know what they were yet because the function was new in the company. She had a tough time figuring out who the real customers were of her work, much less identifying stakeholders. And the people in her work flow were also new and not much in regards to process was up and running.

And even though I suggest taking quite a long time for a review after the first week (it can take up to six hours…), she was understandably totally wiped out after the first week to even think about doing a review.

In other words, work was chaos.

Chaos makes the book even more important

What does chaos really mean? Everything in motion, nothing nailed down, what you think you know isn’t really what you know and what you know changes all the time. There is nothing to anchor you (http://ask NULL.metafilter NULL.com/150182/New-job-anxiety) or to ground you in your work.

Even if you enter this type of environment in your new job, you can still establish the structure you need to anchor you in your work despite the chaos around you. Eventually, you need to nail down your goals from your manager, learn the strengths and weaknesses of your team, figure out who the stakeholders are and what you need to deliver to your customer.

Those needs don’t go away just because the place is nuts (http://www NULL.trumpuniversity NULL.com/blog/post/2005/12/do-you-work-for-a-difficult-boss NULL.cfm).

But you can take all of that swirling around you and start to put the information you get into the categories you need to complete that the book provides.

Eliminate chaos through identifying what you do and don’t know

The example I use in the book about what you need to pay attention to is this: you don’t pay any attention to electricity. Unless when you go use something that needs power, the electricity doesn’t work. Now your entire day is filled with what to do until the electricity comes back on. And until it comes back on, you can’t really move forward.

Your job is like that too. Until you nail down what you know and how to prioritize it in the new job, everything is important. If you don’t know enough about something presented to you — like everything on your new job — then you don’t know what lurks behind the request. You don’t know if you agree to something that it really means what you agreed to plus a whole lot more that the culture, which you don’t yet know, expects you to do.

Hidden expectations coupled with the inability to prioritize anything leads to one thing: stress. And over time, people will leave (http://findarticles NULL.com/p/articles/mi_m3495/is_5_50/ai_n13721406/).

So the key to eliminating chaos and stress in your work is to nail down what you think you know about the job and turn that into electricity: this works, let’s move on to the next thing.

The importance of the weekly review

In a new job, the way you nail down what you know and what you still need to find out is done through reviewing your work. You may not have enough time or energy to do a complete review as outlined in the book, but any review time on the bigger topics or even using the same amount of time on a single topic will relieve a great amount of stress.

Your start to build the blocks of what you are pretty sure you know about the job so you can put that into its proper place in your priorities and move on to the next.

Turn the dream job chaos into structure

All jobs have the common components outlined in the book. The rest is focus, timing and review. Just because your manager doesn’t know what goals to give you yet doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about your goals. You do, because the prioritize and focus your work.

Use the book to turn the chaos of your dream job into structure. Hey, you at least might as well start building the job out right. What’s that saying? If you can keep your head while others all around you are losing theirs…

Overwhelmed and out of control in your dream job

Yippie! (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/3469233785/)

Yippie! (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/3469233785/) by M.V. Jantzen (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/mvjantzen/)

Want a little bit of out of control in your life? How about some information overload?

You get that in spades when you first start out in your dream job. It makes sense, of course. You are in a new job, often a new company, a new manager, new coworkers and different route to work and a different cubicle to make your own.

Yeah, information overload. The keys to containing information overload and feeling overwhelmed are these: control and perspective. These are the two principles of David Allen (http://davidco NULL.com)‘s Getting Things Done (http://www NULL.davidco NULL.com/what_is_gtd NULL.php)methodology. And while I don’t endorse any methodology, I use his.

In your new job, then, how do you get control and perspective?

Control means knowing your full inventory of work and tasks

The deal in a new job is this: you don’t know what is important and what isn’t. You don’t necessarily know what has a high priority and what doesn’t. So you need to write down every task you think you need to do based on your work and interviews with your new coworkers. Only when all of this is out of your head and on to your task management system will you not have that overwhelming feeling that you are missing something important.

The other advantage of this full inventory is that you will start to know what you know and what you still don’t know. This is like electricity; you only worry about it nowadays when it is off and needs to get back on. You don’t normally focus all your daily activities around whether or not the electricity is on. You know it will be on, so you move on to something else.

The same here. Once you know X is always priority one (http://www NULL.gaebler NULL.com/How-to-Prioritize-Tasks NULL.htm), you check if X happens and if it hasn’t, you move on. Getting a bigger and bigger list of what you know shows your advancement and helps you focus on learning more about what you don’t know.

Getting perspective

The keys to perspective on a new job are reviewing your notes to consolidate knowledge and tasks. Plus doing a complete review of everything away from the work. In the book, I call this the weekly review of your objectives for the week.

Reviewing your notes (http://www NULL.cse NULL.buffalo NULL.edu/~rapaport/howtostudy NULL.html#takenotesinclass) helps you find conclusions from them. Your tasks, your organization, your goals. When you go through your notes, you find if you fully (for now) understand what was in your notes or whether or not you need to find out more about what you wrote. This helps you get to know what you know faster and focus on understanding what you don’t know.

Then, doing the weekly review against objectives for the week helps you see where you made progress and where you need to ask more questions. If you go through your goals with your manager, can you describe the goal and know how it will be measured? If so, great. If not, you have now identified through the review that you need to find out more.

Three times is a charm

This process helps you see your work three times: when you take your notes, when you review your notes, and when you do the weekly review. This repetition is key to learning (http://honolulu NULL.hawaii NULL.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/adults-2 NULL.htm) about your dream job faster than others. It is about getting to success quicker and also learning if your dream job is really right for you.

Dream Jobs Require Leadership

Wonderful Dublin, fine impression of the capital of Ireland, taken in early 2010, with love and so much more...:) (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/uggboy/4405805408/)

Wonderful Dublin, fine impression of the capital of Ireland, taken in early 2010, with love and so much more…:) (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/uggboy/4405805408/) by UggBoy ( have fun doing it ) (http://www NULL.flickr NULL.com/photos/uggboy/)

How long has it been since you started a dream job?

If you are a grizzly old veteran of the work force, you probably don’t think too much about the person starting their first day on their dream job. Been there, done that.

But remember the feelings you had when you started that first day (http://leadertalk NULL.mountainstate NULL.edu/2010/02/think-about-your-first-job NULL.html), long ago? Maybe it wasn’t your dream job, but it was new. Exciting. Nerve-racking. Sweaty palms stuff.

Praying you hadn’t just made a huge mistake by taking this dream job. Thankful that you finally were able to get a dream job.

Most of all, you were hopeful. Hopeful that you’d like the work. Like the manager. Like your coworkers — and they would like you. Hopeful that all those horrible stories about managers and companies wouldn’t come true at this gig. Hopeful that you could focus on your work and not on the politics. Hopeful that what you thought was a dream job would actually be your dream job.

Do you remember hopeful? I do. And so does the person starting their new dream job.

Leaders encourage newcomers on their dream job

Everyone can be a leader. There is nothing more helpful to a new person starting their dream job than giving encouragement that he or she made the right decision. That he or she is welcomed into the group.

Starting a new dream job means everything is new. Everything is different — even if it is a different job in the same company.

Leaders reassure people and are curious about newcomers lives. They are interested in people as people. They look for ways to find common ground (http://humanresources NULL.about NULL.com/od/involvementteams/a/team_culture NULL.htm).

Leaders offer hope.

Leaders help find value

In the book, ‘I’ve Landed My Dream Job — Now What???’ I talk through the need for individuals starting out in their dream job to start determining their unique value to the team.

Left unsaid is that everyone should try and help the new employee determine their unique value to the team. It makes the team stronger and able to handle higher levels of work (http://www NULL.brianmac NULL.co NULL.uk/articles/scni13a2 NULL.htm). Managers should have some idea of how the new employee can help the team — the manager should start to determine if what he or she thought was accurate.

While companies can think employees are a commodity to use to achieve their goals, managers and coworkers should know that the strongest teams will survive the longest — and thrive in good conditions.

But instead of helping an individual figure out their unique value to the team, too often we just keep doing what we do and let the new person figure it all out. Much better to help determine the unique value to the team — it makes the team stronger. Sure, the new person has to prove his or her value to the team, but encouragement and support will go a long way to help.

Being on a team is a two-way street

Business is social, of course. Meeting new people, getting to know them and helping them figure out what needs figuring out is tough for some people. If you are on a team, you can help yourself and your team by offering encouragement and help (http://www NULL.aetc NULL.af NULL.mil/news/story NULL.asp?id=123192675) to someone just starting their dream job.

It will help confirm their best hopes for the job.