Conquering the Anxiety of Transition By Pepper de Callier

Over the years, in working with people who were in a certain type of transition—starting a new job—much of our time, initially, was spent on dealing with the angst of making the transition or change.  Knowing how to successfully deal with this particular type of career transition is becoming more and more important to professionals in the Czech Republic for two key reasons: As our economy continues to expand here in the Czech Republic, and in Central and Eastern Europe in general, our local companies will prosper and expand operations, and more globally oriented companies will locate facilities here meaning more opportunities for Czech professionals. The other reason is that Czech professionals are becoming highly desirable abroad, especially as economies further east continue their expansion.  All of this means that if you are a professional in the Czech Republic the chances that you will be approached to consider a new job are more and more likely.

Now, it’s pretty common knowledge that most of us, on one level or another, are uncomfortable with change, even if we think it’s going to be a good one.  Why?  Because we become comfortable in routines and being around people and situations we are familiar with and from which we know what to expect.  That’s not to say that we won’t go ahead with the change.  It’s just that a change of this type, especially for those who are in the beginning of their careers or who are moving into new industry sectors, can create a certain amount of anxiety, which can affect  performance, self-confidence, and the general sense of enjoyment with a new job.   

Your emotional energy is high when you accept a new position. Your new boss has high hopes that he made the right decision in hiring you, your peers are anxious and interested in seeing how good you are, you want to make a good impression on your new clients, colleagues, and you want to live up to your own expectations—the list goes on and on.  It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed at a time like this and understandably so.  However, this is a challenge that is necessary to master if you expect to prosper in an expanding and increasingly dynamic economy like ours.

The people who I have seen fare the worst in situations like this are those who allow themselves to be overtaken by a non-specific anxiety which comes from focusing on the seeming enormity of the task ahead and on their skill or knowledge deficits, which in turn creates a lot of “static” and “background noise” in their thinking and makes the transition twice as hard to make.

The people I have known who were the most successful at making these transitions were those who, like the people above, were excited and a bit nervous at the magnitude of the change and expectations, but did not allow themselves to be immobilized by it.  They knew how to channel their anxiety into positive action.  How?  Simple, by creating order from chaos.  The most successful professionals at making a transition like this know that they have to immediately get grounded in the basics, and they do this before they show up for work that first day by creating structure—a plan of attack.  Or, as a mentor of mine many years ago used to say, “Pepper, you have to plan your work and then work your plan.” 

The plan needed to master this particular challenge would include things like: re-clarifying with your new boss your understanding of the three most important things for you to focus on from the first day;  clarification of his expectations from you for the first 90 and 180 days; identifying the key issues and challenges facing this position and determining what data you need to collect in order to more fully understand them; who are the key people internally and externally that you must meet; what are the key things about the new organization, its products and services, its customers, and your new competition that you need to know?  The trick is to keep the list concise, focused and in front of you.  At the end of each day you revisit your list to add data, revise questions, cross off things you have accomplished and just as important, if not more, to plan tomorrow’s activities as they relate to your action plan. 

I have seen this approach succeed time and time again over the years, and because of its simplicity, directness, and professionalism, it sends a powerful message to your new boss and colleagues about you.   

Plan your work and work your plan.  Sound like a plan?

Good luck on your way up!

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at

*These are reprints from Pepper de Callier‘s newspaper column in Hospodarske noviny.

Follow Pepper on YouTube: A new inspirational video message is posted every Monday - Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By. 

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