I was made redundant last year from a company I had been with for eight years. Now, six months on, I've got another job at the same level in a similar business. I'm apprehensive about starting work. How can I regain my lost confidence?
Congratulations on your new appointment. You've crossed the first major hurdle for anyone made redundant (and these days it's as many as seven employees out of every 1,000). Whatever your doubts about yourself, your new employers have decided that you're the person for the job, which is a good place to start.
One of the best things about starting a new job, whatever the circumstances of leaving the previous one, is the opportunity it gives you to recreate your working self on the basis of a fresh assessment of what you can bring to the new role and how you want it to contribute to your satisfaction with life.
In the months when you were away from work, you probably spent time thinking about the company you left and how things could have been better. Perhaps you succeeded in identifying things that you would want to be different next time around. This can be a very worthwhile exercise, provided you focus on the future and what you personally can do to make the difference.
And if you haven't thought about it in detail before, you can start now.
Make a list of the things you would like to change. For example, you may have previously exhibited workaholic tendencies and, having had the chance to spend more time at home or at leisure, you may now decide you'd like to change your work/life balance. Alternatively, you may have decided that work is so important to you that you want to pursue a more ambitious track. In either case, your actions in the first few weeks of your new role will be important in establishing expectations, for both yourself and your new colleagues.
It would be a shame if the emotional bruising your redundancy caused you became a reason not to risk change. The most successful transplants from one company to another are the ones who use their past knowledge as a way to be smarter at understanding the new organisation, so they can identify how and where they can add value. The least successful are those who fail to adapt and continue to operate in the way they always did, constantly invoking the glories of their former employer.
Of course, your previous experience is an advantage. It gives you points of comparison with another business, with a different culture and different processes. If you have specific knowledge to contribute, you could volunteer to help. Not with: 'We did this much better at X - let me show you how.' But rather: 'I have some experience of this. Would you like me to be part of the development team?' The worst that can happen is that you receive a polite 'No thanks', but your willingness to help will have been noted.
The best result would be that you have the opportunity to prove you are a highly useful member of the team, someone who brings a broader perspective to issues on which the company needs help.
If I haven't said much directly about confidence and how to build it, that's because one of the best ways to cut loose from the negative scenarios that can go on inside your head ('I won't be good enough'; 'they'll find out I was made redundant and think worse of me' etc) is to supplant them with positive ones. These are as likely to come true as the negative ones - and more so, if you invest a little energy in them.
One way to do this is to think about yourself and what you're like when you're really 'on song'. If you are still in contact with friendly ex-bosses and colleagues, try contacting them to ask for a few sentences on what you're like at your best. Their comments will remind you of what you are capable of achieving.
For your first day, make sure you have with you some of the things that make you feel good - a photo of someone, somewhere or something you love, for example. Wear clothes that others have complimented you on. Do the things you see other people do who seem confident: a firm, dry handshake, not a weedy, wet one; a straight look in the eye, rather than a downcast glance; a sense of outwardly directed energy, rather than inwardly focused concern. Putting emphasis on others will help establish good relations from the outset and will distract you from worrying about yourself.
Miranda Kennett is managing coach at The Coaching House (www.coachinghouse.com) and a founding partner of The Management Due Diligence Co. If you have an issue you'd like this column to cover, e-mail: email@example.com