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The Advice My New Boss Gave Me When I Was Struggling

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I just started a new job — my first “real” job out of college. Exciting, right? That’s how most people would probably describe it, and I’ve received a lot of positive reactions:

“How exciting! This is a whole new start to your life!”

“Wow, you’ve graduated college and now you’re moving on, that’s wonderful!”

“You’re at the prime of your life — enjoy it while you can!” 

And I want to preface this by saying: I am so thankful to have a job, I do not take that for granted. Landing a job in this economy right now is very difficult, and I got extremely lucky to end up being hired at this company. That being said: starting a job in the middle of a global pandemic still comes with its challenges.

Let me set the stage with what was going on the first week of this new job. We’re two-plus months into a stay-at-home order, it’s finals week and I am trapped in a trauma-filled house where I am triggered anywhere I go. My suicidal thoughts and depression are worse than they’ve been in forever. I feel like I’m fighting for my life every day I wake up… and it’s not a fight I want to fight anymore. A week ago, I was triggered by a TV show in which a woman was raped in one of the episodes. I haven’t been able to sleep, concentrate or think clearly at all since. I finally talked about my assault for the first time out loud with my therapist, and while that was definitely needed, it just made it all the more real. Something I buried so far down, had surfaced — and it couldn’t be at a worse time.

Not really the best environment for starting a new job.

But alas, I started, and thankfully everyone at the company is incredibly welcoming and kind — it’s definitely a good culture, even if we all are remote right now. But I am the youngest and by far the least experienced employee there. Top that with debilitating social anxiety and terrible self-esteem, and you can imagine just how small I felt. I sat in meetings and tried my best to do the work I was assigned (while also trying to push away suicidal thoughts and memories of the assault that kept popping in), but I felt completely out of my league. People were constantly talking in acronyms I didn’t know with words I didn’t understand. Every day I logged on, I was convinced they were going to fire me then and there. I was so stressed and ended up having multiple panic attacks in the middle of the day, just feeling so unqualified.

But the next morning, we had a team check-in and my supervisor said something that made all the difference. It was almost like she looked in my brain and just saw how much I was struggling. She acknowledged how this fast-paced environment can be difficult and stressful, and then shared something one of her bosses had told her at her first job. She said:

“The thing we have to remember is, in our industry and field, there’s no one on the table. No one’s dying. Nothing we do is life or death. So, if an email or release goes out the next morning instead of by 5 p.m. that day, it’s OK. It’s not the end of the world. No one’s dying on the table. It’s not worth getting stressed to no end over.”

It may sound silly, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. I took her advice, wrote down what she said on a sticky note and stuck it on my computer. I know there’s a learning curve that comes with any new job, and everyone at the company understands the current circumstances call for a little extra grace and help. Her advice has helped me to breathe a little easier, take some of the pressure off myself and look at the facts. People are happy I am there, no one except myself is telling me I’m doing an awful job and I’m continuing to show up and learn.

Deep breaths.

No one’s dying on the table.

It’s going to be just fine.

Getty image by NKTN

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