CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 11, 2015
version 16, draft 16

Why Moving Sideways in Your Career is a Good Thing

You did it! You’ve started the first steps on your great career path and you’re now on your third job in the same position. However it occurred, you’re now starting to wonder how many jobs it takes before you stop getting those first-job jitters.

See Also: 5 Ways to Avoid "First Day" Nerves when Starting a New Job

The bad news is that you won’t. Sure, you gain confidence and new skills, and different workplaces might make you feel differently, but you could be going into your tenth same-position job and you still wouldn’t feel any better. The good news is that it happens to everyone, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

More Experience – Less Stress

What exactly does a first job feel like? You’re nervous because it might be your first office experience, you’re nervous because you want to impress the boss, you’re nervous because you have so much conflicting information about how to behave on your new job. Basically, you’re nervous because everything is new and you feel like your first day at school.

Now, think about it. Whether you’ve had one previous job or six previous jobs, the only thing that’s changed is that you’ve (hopefully) gained new confidence in your abilities and you now have a new understanding of office environments and have your own tips and tricks on how to assimilate. You still have to meet all your new coworkers, you still have to try and impress the boss, and you still need to discover exactly how this company’s definition of your job title differs from the last place you worked; it’s important to remember that it probably will be different, so don’t feel that you’re going to be expected to jump in and be brilliant on your first day.

Despite the fact that new coworkers can make us feel uneasy, the fact that you’ve worked in a similar position before means that you also know how to go about breaking the ice with your new coworkers. Remember that they aren’t really judging you for this being your third job (they don’t know, honestly!) and put all your effort into letting them know how friendly you are and how much you’re going to contribute to their company.

You Have a Deep Understanding of How Things Work

You have, for whatever reason, moved sideways rather than forwards. Once again, you need to succeed at proving yourself capable of all the things you proved you could do the last time you were in this position; a form of deja vu, if you like.

Unlike when you get a promotion, staying in the same position but moving to a new company means that you won’t get the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and prove yourself on new challenges. When we get our first job, we set our sights on moving onwards and upwards. Making a lateral move because we’ve had to change employer rather than position can feel like we’ve gone back to square one, even if we actually haven’t; the title might not have changed, and the way to impress the boss might not have changed, but it’s still a new job.

You need to look at this opportunity as a clean slate to wipe away all your mistakes and use all your experiences and newfound knowledge to do even better this time. Think of your old job as a well-paid internship. You are lucky because you carry all the things you learnt in your previous position with you. This means that you know how things work, you’ll have less dilemmas on how to proceed with everything. Moving sideways basically means that your life will be easier when it comes to understanding your work tasks.

It’s an Opportunity to Rise

As long as you don’t take too many side steps and do eventually start moving forwards, then all of those sideways jobs will only serve to benefit you. Think of the other jobs as practice runs that helped you know exactly what to expect when you’re in exactly the right place and you’re ready to make your next move; the bad news being that your first job in a new position can be even scarier as you settle in to doing things you’ve never done before. 

Before you panic and decide to never change jobs again, don’t. It’s a good thing! No one likes to feel nervous or unsure of themselves, but there are two reasons it’s good to feel that way; one, you never come across as arrogant and hurt your chances of getting along with your coworkers, and two it keeps you on your toes. The same way we can start to slack off a little when we get "too comfortable" in a job, the more you treat each new job like a first job the less your chances that you’ll start to slack and be fired rather than leave of your own accord.

You Should Treat Every Job Like a First Job

Whether it’s the same position or a new one, there are some benefits to pretending it’s a first job; you now have the knowledge and courage to do all the things you wish you had done in your actual first job, you’ve boosted your confidence, and you won’t stop continuing to improve yourself and to prove to everyone that you are the best at what you do. Never stop worrying about making a good impression, and just as you would never walk into an interview unprepared, don’t roll up at 8:58 on your first day unprepared.

People who climb the ladder, especially those who climb it quickly, start to lose their humility and think they’re the best thing ever. While confidence is great, it also needs to be handled wisely to avoid becoming hated and losing the support of the people you leave behind. Someone still treating a job like their first job will still be treating others with respect and doing what they can to make new connections and help others.

See Also: 4 Facts that Prove Starting a New Job is Easier than you Think

Just because your third job is your third job doesn’t mean that you should feel at ease -especially if you’ve been moving around quickly. The same way waving a list of exes in the face of your new partner isn’t going to impress them, and having a list of exes isn’t going to make you any more prepared for dealing with this relationship, it doesn’t matter how many previous jobs you’ve had until you start using them to move on to the next job.

Stay humble, stay cautious, and embrace the fact that your new job still feels like your first job; it improves your chances that it will go even better this time now that you can avoid all the mistakes you made before. There’s always something new you can learn, and you should always learn from your mistakes; only that way will your next job be in a new position and you might finally start to feel like you’re moving away from that person you were at the start of your career.

How many jobs have you had in the same position? Give us your advice in the comments section below.

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