Are you stressed about “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing At Work?”. You have been having a brain for quite some time at your office, and it was not always this way. You used to be the overachiever in the office, making your bosses, clients, colleagues, and even yourself proud. Then, one day, your boss calls you into his office and dumps a workload on you. You think you can handle it, up until you cannot. With your track record on the line, you do not know who and how to ask for help, and then you are thrown into a full-blown panic mode and you have no idea what you are doing.
Ever since childhood, there must have been a time in our lives when we have thought about the job which we would love to do. And why wouldn’t we? While growing up, not only do we get the chance to educate ourselves in different subjects but also it provides us with a large number of options in which we decide to specialize in in near future. That’s the first step we take in our lives to become what we call a “professional” in a certain field. However, it is no mere fantasy land where everything happens to go according to our plans. We as human beings would be lying if we say everything in our lives which we have planned till now has gone accordingly. Yes, education is one of the aspects of life which comes with its ups and downs. While studying, there are times when we feel confused, irritated, and even at times, we fail in certain subjects. We see a few people who are considered geniuses for their intellect and academic abilities. Even after feeling insecure at times and eventually, giving our best, we manage to reach a point where we discover our passion and learn about ourselves regarding where we can give our all. Almost all of us spend almost twenty years of our lives in schools and universities to certify a secure and maybe, enjoyable future for ourselves. Though, like I mentioned before and it is after all a fact, not everything goes according to plan.
We live in a world where completion decides our fate. Talent may give us a starting point but whatever happens further is up to our hard work and various other factors affecting it. After student life comes the time when we start searching for an occupation. And like we all know, nothing comes to us on a silver platter.
Looking for a job, especially something which you desire is no easy task. Some work for passion, some, out of desperation, and then some work for money. Well, money is an important factor for every person to keep working. Although, this reason is not enough for a person to continue working at a particular place. There are several factors to why a person should continue working. It is just not about the job but the various factors affecting it should also be taken into consideration. During childhood, it is usually the parents looking for a proper institution to provide fine education to their children. However, by the time we reach adulthood, the search for the “perfect job” becomes more of an individual task.
The quest for the “perfect job” is a long process. In some fortunate cases, the person might be able to get their desired job as soon as possible. However, such cannot be said for everyone. Some spend years to reach their goal and then some just give up. There can be many reasons behind their decision but meeting their basic needs and sometimes, even the “social standards” becomes an urgency. Though, looking for an alternate option is not a bad idea at all. It rather acts as a motivator for some people who find their interests in this different field.
But is it true though? That a person who can find a decent job for themselves will forever be content with it? Well, the answer sure is no. The whole concept of “waking up in the morning and feeling excited while looking forward to a new day” looks pretty fancy in movies. However such is not the case in real life. There is a possibility that a person can someday feel conflicted regarding their occupation. In an institution where a large number of people work and interact, there are chances that a person starts feeling down in that area. Questions like “what am I doing here” or “Do I even want this job” can be pretty frequent. For them, waking up in the morning is more of a burden as they may not feel any motivation or excitement regarding their jobs and most importantly, they are not looking forward to their day at the workplace. Lack of enthusiasm may lead to losing concentration which can affect their mental health. The workplace and the surrounding also affect a person’s mindset. And the major factor which affects an individual the most is the job itself. Such is not just the case with people who are not much interested in the field as there are also people who were once passionate about a certain field who start losing interest. A study suggests that 86% of today’s workforce are not engaged in their current job. There are various reasons for a person to not enjoy their job. A few common reasons are:
1. COMPANY CULTURE: In today’s time, it is becoming a major concern how company culture is not taking into consideration when a person is looking for a job. To define company culture refers to a set of shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices that characterize an organization. Most of us spend five days of the week at the same place and interact with the same people which affects the mind. If the values do not match our personality, we usually feel left out of the place. Sharing ideas and other aspects with your colleagues while exploring new subjects helps a person grow in every field. But if the vision itself remained concentrated in a single place, it can be difficult for some person to fit it. That is why company culture is a major factor for a person to continue working with enough motivation at a particular workplace.
2. NOT CHALLENGED ENOUGH: Living a peaceful life with not much ruckus is a miracle in itself. However, to continue living such a stagnant life at a workplace where one is supposed to explore their skill sets and experiment with various subjects while interacting and exchanging ideas with others would lead to a lazy mind. No matter how intriguing a subject is, if there are no challenges present, it would often appear to be boring. In a workplace where you are working, if not enough challenges are being presented in front of you, you would start losing interest no matter how much you loved your job at first. Challenges not only act as a booster for a person to work hard, but it also pushes a person to expand their thought or ideas. If at your workplace, you are not presented with enough challenges, it leads to a boring environment. Constantly getting the same work while no new projects are being assigned to you can lead to a boring professional life.
3. A BORING LIFESTYLE: Our social life plays an important role in constructing our personal life. The people we meet, the conversations we have, the ideas we exchange, all of these factors help in building an individual’s lifestyle. When we reach a stage of our lives when our job and workplace start influencing our life, we check the positive and negative impacts of it. Our job and particularly, the company culture, leave a huge impact. Like it is mentioned above, challenges at the workplace help a person expand their ideas and also influence their professional lifestyle. But if such challenges are not presented, there is a heavy chance that the person will soon find their job boring. This will not only affect their professional life but also their personal and social lives as well. If there are no new projects or subjects present if you are not being encouraged to do more research over an interesting matter, then what would be the point of the job? A boring lifestyle is a risk and it is surely one of the biggest reasons why many people start losing concentration in their jobs.
4. NOT HAVING A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES: As I said, company culture always plays an important role in structuring an individual’s professional life. On average, a study suggests that a worker spends 33.5 hours at their workplace per week. It ultimately suggests that during their working hours, a person gets to interact and communicate with a lot of people, especially their colleagues. It is after all human nature that a person likes to spend more time with those people with whom they are comfortable. In a social place, whether we are talking about schools, colleges, or any other gathering, we often join those groups where we feel like we can convey our ideas and have a proper discussion about certain subjects, a workplace being no exception. If at a workplace, one feels like they cannot connect with others because of its boring environment, then what would be the point? If you are unable to discuss certain subjects with your fellow workers and even they do not show any interest in it, it would lead to an unhealthy relationship which would eventually affect your job.
5. A BAD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR BOSS: Let’s say you have a great relationship with your colleagues at your workplace but when it comes to your boss, it is a completely different case. Support of your seniors often helps you grow. However, if your boss turns out to be a devil who keeps on draining your energy while making you work overtime, it would become a pain. A healthy relationship between the boss and yourself can be a tough task but if your relationship turns out to be so stressful and tiring, you will feel like giving up. Like any other place, when you are at your job when you feel like you need some sort of moral support from your boss. But if your boss continues to have such an ignorant attitude towards you, then genuinely, what option will be left? Not only will you feel anxious because of their lack of empathy towards your health but the lack of support and motivation will eventually start killing you from inside.
Losing interest and concentrating on your job would be one thing, but this constant state of mind can eventually lead to a situation where the person starts hating their job. According to a University of Manchester study, having a “poor quality” job — a job you hate — is worse for your mental health than having no job at all. If a person does not know what they are supposed to do and are slowly losing their concentration over important subjects at their workplace, it becomes a major issue. Not only does such an urgent issue affects the workplace but also leads to triggering the person’s mental problems. A survey done by Ohio State University on some workers between the ages of 25 to 39 suggests that most workers who are less satisfied with their career also suffer from issues like depression and sleep difficulty. Sometimes, a person can keep working even after undergoing such a stressful state because they feel like giving up would be a bad idea. However, this negligence could lead to several problems. Before your mind comprehends the entire situation, your body starts showing symptoms suggesting that your job is the reason behind your stress. A few of them are:
- LACK OF SLEEP: Sleep is necessary for leading a healthy lifestyle. But if your insomnia kicks in and starts to become more and more frequent because apparently “you have a lot of work to it”, it is a major red alert. Not only will your sleep-deprived routine drain your energy but you will eventually start losing concentration.
- EXTREME EXHAUSTION: Caffeine may help you wake up after a sleepless night and boost your energy a little, but it is never going to help you handle your exhausted mind and body. Your exhaustion will not let you work because the immense pressure you have taken upon yourself is now firing back. You will not be able to engage yourself in other activities except for your job which will highly start affecting your life.
- GETTING SICK FREQUENTLY: Lack of sleep and exhaustion will eventually lead to a poor immune system. If you see yourself falling ill frequently, it is a major sign that you are overworking yourself which is not a good sign for your physical health.
- CHANGE IN APPETITE: The extreme stress which you are gaining will also alter your appetite. Either you would start losing your appetite while skipping meals or you would go for a more unhealthy diet to “release” some of your stress. Whichever it will be, it is for certain that this unhealthy change will affect your physical health immensely, leading to various physical and mental problems.
The points mentioned above sure should be taken into consideration by people who are going through such a situation. However, completely focus on the negative issues while looking at a more positive side would be a bad choice. In our lifetime, there come a lot of ups and downs. We feel confused, stressed, lose our ways, and eventually feel like giving up on something which was once our passion. But what if we feel like there is still the fire burning within us? And that it is not the right time to give up? Such ideas can come to our minds. And if they do and we see the slightest chance of changing something in ourselves and everything around, then who knows, maybe we start liking our job which we once hated. It is always good to look at the brighter side instead of being a pessimist and if a few changes are brought, probably we will start looking at our jobs differently. These are the few suggestions that you may like to apply to yourself to bring a better change:
- BE CONFIDENT: Yes, I know it is easier said than done but I believe that if we alter a little bit of perspective about ourselves, we may be able to be more confident. Starting off with your own self, be more sure about what you are doing. Whatever you are preparing and presenting, be more confident. Psychology suggests that being insecure or nervous can actually affect your well-prepared performance. In such a situation, believe in what you have done and how much positive impact it can leave at your job. This small change in yourself will not only help you grow a lot but it will also present a new side of yours in front of your coworkers. Your coworkers will feel more secure to have while your boss may see you as a more “reliable” person. This attitude is a necessity in any place you are working in. And if you continue to believe that bringing changes in yourself won’t help, then, believe me, nothing will.
- NEGOTIATE CHANGES: Working on yourself is one thing but bringing a slight change in your environment is also compulsory. Your supervisor may not be kind enough to grant you a proper project. Or maybe he is just too ignorant and is constantly giving you extra work. Whatever the case is, whether you are overworked or underappreciated, talk to them about it. Set up a meeting and discuss these problems with them. If your skills are going to waste or it is not properly used by the company, then you will have to let them know at one point. No matter what the situation is, your boss or coworkers do not want their company to suffer because it affects the bottom line. And if you continue to believe that your boss is a tyrant and that you cannot discuss this matter with them, then nothing can change.
- DISCUSS DIFFERENT THINGS WITH YOUR COWORKERS OTHER THAN WORK: You are maybe working at a place where you feel like you cannot interact with people. There are even chances that your colleagues do not discuss work with you. But does that mean the end of your professional life? No, it definitely does not. You can still talk about other subject matters which can pique their interests. You may find someone with whom you share similar interests and values and it will give you an opportunity to expand your circle. To make your job more interesting, you will have to start working on the little things. Starting and having proper discussions and conversations over certain topics can definitely give you a startup.
- SET SMALL GOALS FOR YOURSELF: Are you done with work now but don’t know how you are going to spend the new few hours before sleeping? Then start looking for things which interest you. Hobbies which you used to have, nearby places you want to visit, books you want to read. It can be anything. Form a routine and try acting on it. Do what you enjoy the most. Maybe by doing so, you will be able to reach a place where you once wanted to be. Who knows, maybe you start rediscovering yourself.
- LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR WEEKENDS AND SOMETIMES, TAKE LEAVE: Usually, plans do not go as planned. But that does not mean we should just give up on hope. There are always chances that you get to have weekends with not much work left. You can always go for a small vacation. Whether it is with your family, friends, or just yourself, going somewhere and relaxing a little always freshen up the mind. And if weekends do not help then try taking a leave. Relax a little while doing things which you enjoy. It surely helps in releasing stress and even motivates you to work with you more enthusiastically.
- LEARN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: There is no questioning the fact that learning helps a person grow. If we form an absolute mindset and do not accept new ideas, how can we expect ourselves to grow? While interacting with your coworkers and supervisors, try to learn as much as possible from their skills and abilities. Try discussing new ideas while presenting your own and observing their working skills. This observant attitude will surely help you in the future.
- START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL: Keeping a journal is not for everyone. But can it be done and is it beneficial? Yes. Writing down your plans while mentioning what you have done throughout the week always helps you give decide what you can do later and how will you be doing it. Not only that but you can also appreciate the fact that you have a job which is helping you in shaping your future. Keeping a record of your positive memories will definitely boost you up, even if just a little.
- KNOW YOURSELF: The points mentioned above may help some people out by bringing certain changes in their lifestyle. But if they fail to work, then don’t lose hope. There is still a change for you look for a new beginning. And that can happen through knowing yourself a little better. Setting goals and learning new things may make you realize that you are better at a different field of work. You can always experiment and try to find where your skills lack and where your skills shine. By doing so, you will learn a new side of yourself and maybe even decide to bring a new change in your life.
While in any stage of our lives, we must know and believe in ourselves. It has always been like this ever since we have taken birth on this planet. Certain things intrigue us and certain things fail to do so. There are times when we find a new passion but there also comes a time when we feel bored. It is a fact that humans cannot continue to live in a constant state of emotion for a long period. A study states that humans spend one-third of their lives working. And of course, not everybody can feel content with their jobs for the rest of their lives. Looking for the perfect job and being happy with it for the rest of your life will be an overstatement. However, to say that you cannot find your interests in something else would also be a lie. That is why changes are sometimes necessary. Whether you feel like changing your job or just want to change yourself a little to do better, all these decisions are up to you. And believe me, taking a break once in a while and thinking it through is not such a bad idea.
Having the feeling of not knowing what you are doing or that you will eventually screw things up is not uncommon for a lot of people. Everyone has had a moment of self-doubt and uncertainty where they feel they are incapable of doing the task assigned to them. But having this feeling does not mean you need to let things go out of control, there are ways to tackle them.
Strategies to handle these feelings
- Know you are not alone
Everyone has good days and then some bad days. It often feels like you have no idea what you are doing, everything you are working on or investing in is going hay way, and you are the midfielder with all the attention on you, especially when all your colleagues are getting it right including Gary, who never gets it right.
Nobody ever has it all figured out and gets the job done all the time but if they did, that will be a bad sign professionally. Most times they tend to have a good poker face and are trying just like you to get through the day and get the job done.
- Do not be alarmed
When there is a thought or a realization that you may not know what you are doing, or how the job is supposed to be done, do not be alarmed. The only things that the fear would cause are you second-guessing yourself, taking out the time that you ought to use to get it done, and making any logical solutions.
When you feel a start of panic creeping in, it is important to acknowledge that feeling. Doing this would help you take a step back and work out how to resolve the problem rather than ignoring it.
- Recognize the challenge and deal with it
It is easy to lose sight of this being an obstacle that you can overcome, and not being the end of your career. This is a feeling and a scenario that you can turn around and eventually get the job done. You need to understand that an obstacle is only in your mind, and you can overcome it by acknowledging it, setting a plan to deal with it, and not hoping it goes away, because wishful thinking will not get the job done.
- Act like you know what you are doing until you do
While this may not be a long-term solution, it might be a good idea to stall. Add a few days to the deadline. This will give you time to take a breather, properly figure out things with yourself, and if you need to declutter or you have things you need to set straight, do that. Then, you can work on getting back in order professionally and quickly before others catch on to you. Acting like you know the job given to you helps keep prying eyes away from you and you get to learn on-the-job training, where you learn more about the job while you are carrying out the appropriate research about your task assigned.
- Admit when you do not know
You do not have to be worried about not knowing or admitting when you do not understand a task at hand. Nobody at work knows everything or has it all together. If they did, the manager would not have a place in the company. You are in charge of only a little portion out of the whole workload. Simply put you are only a small fish in a large pond.
In some cases, it may look unprofessional to say I have no idea what I am doing, but it is all in the presentation rather than outright saying you have no clue. You could say that whilst working on a project, you encountered some difficulties and you need assistance, and very much often than not, your boss will put you through.
- Find a support system
If you have one of those bosses that are difficult to approach or only want feedback from you, you could try finding someone else that could assist you, maybe a trusted friend or a group of friends that you trust and also face similar issues at work.
While finding people that share common grounds with you, it is important to not let your buddies feel like they are doing your job for you. Be considerate about their own needs and realize that they are going through the same thing that you are. And in some cases others may have it worse than you, so try to be understanding and respectful of their time and resources and do not always impose yourself on them, even when they offer.
- Ask Questions
Do not panic. Make your questions as specific, constructive, and direct as they need to be. Ensure you have identified the goal of the task and what you think is the measure to tackle it even if you still find it difficult to do. That is why you are asking questions to help put you through, but you need to have an idea of what needs to be achieved. You could always research to start you up and become your foundation.
When given the task, you could ask some specific questions to have a background and know what you are working with. Here are some questions you could ask:
a. Is this urgent work?
b. what is the deadline?
c. what is the result?
d. what would you need me to do next?
These questions help you to create a structure, an outline, and a timeline to work with and know how to bring in help and assistance from colleagues and someone qualified to get it done.
- Check in with colleagues
If you realize along the line of doing the job that the information was not properly passed across to you or there was a miscommunication along the chain of command, it will help in solving the issue if you called for a brief meeting with the involved parties and get things sorted out, so everyone can be on the same page. These meetings could last barely 10 minutes just to catch up on the plan and depending on the length of the project, it could be daily or even weekly.
These strategies when and if applied properly, can get you out of a panic mode, and then you can breathe again and be able to fill in the gaps that are lacking in your knowledge bank. You begin to work out your battle plan and the next steps to take and accomplish your goals.
If this is a constant feeling, it might help to think if you picked the right job or are in the right place because this could be another reason for the impostor feelings. This is in no way saying you cannot do the job, but maybe the skillset and demands are more than you can give and it does not align with your interest anymore, then it may be time to change jobs to get the satisfaction and thrill that comes with doing the things you love.
Your career life should be about overcoming the workplace challenges and not being overwhelmed or consumed by them or letting your confidence in getting your job done get thrown away. Even when things might not seem forthcoming, remember there are always tools that can help you bounce back and even become a better version of yourself than you have ever been. Note that you are not an impostor. You were just having a little moment of personal crisis and it will come to an end.