“Feel as if you’ve been thrown in at the deep end?’” asks Dr Deborah Lee, a sexual and reproductive healthcare specialist. She knows the feeling. Recalling the start of her own very stressful – but rewarding – career, she remembers being surprised by the difference between learning theoretical and applying practical skills.
“There’s no better example than the first day at work of a junior doctor. Undergraduate medical training – regimented and rubber-stamped as it may be – no doubt ticks all the boxes on paper, but how can this prepare you for life working on a hospital ward, confronted with real-life, sick and dying patients? One day you’re just a medical student and an observer; the next you’re a real doctor, with your own stethoscope and prescription pad. Having been through this myself, there is no other word for it other than frightening.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do if you’re feeling this bewildered – in particular, seeking out and following advice, whether from your colleagues or others who are prominent in your industry. For instance, Dr Lee started following a blog by Dr Anna Rose, a contemporary, who argued it was important to “be organised, think ahead, and take pride in your role.” It offered concrete steps in each regard.
One particularly helpful bit of advice was to write lists. “When I was a junior doctor, I had a notepad in my pocket,” says Dr Lee. “On every ward round, I wrote lists of what was needed for each patient. Then after the ward round, I went down the list ticking off the jobs.” In any profession, she adds, keeping detailed notes and working through your targets is “really the only way to be efficient”. It also means that if you’re finding gaps in your knowledge, you have notes to refer to when researching skills and courses.
In such a context, professional bodies can provide a wealth of support; Dr Lee looked to the BMJ website, and there are thousands of resources offered by CMI – particularly when it comes to issues such as learning on the go, building mental resilience and continuing professional development (CPD), freely available for members on ManagementDirect.
Other tips to consider when immersing yourself in a new role are:
- Taking the initiative in asking for training from your manager on specific issues to help you thrive in your new role.
- If you’re nervous about your work, keep track of what you’ve done. For instance, if you’re editing a document, use track changes before referring it for review. Then ask your supervisor if you can go through your amendments together, so you can learn what you’ve got right and what you could improve.
- Use your company’s intranet or HR portal and make use of any resources such as training guides and employee contacts. Likewise, CMI members can access ManagementDirect for skills-based webinars, practical checklists for documents, and other general workplace advice.
- Reach out to other new employees to build a peer network for support.
- Double-check your work – Google is one of the greatest innovations of the 21st century so use it if you’re not sure about something!
- Above all, Dr Lee concludes, "Always ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ask. You’re not required to know everything yourself, but you do need to be able to find the person that does."
Are you looking to upskill or learn new skills? ManagementDirect is the place for you. Whether you want to know how to master Excel, prepare for a presentation, or ace a job interview, CMI has the know-how.
Dr Deborah Lee works for Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.
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