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Confidence crisis about going back to working in a paid job. How to overcome this and go forward in this new job?

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Question - (2 June 2014) 3 Answers - (Newest, 7 June 2014)
A male United Kingdom age 36-40, anonymous writes:

Hello,

Im having a confidence crisis that I would like some advice on please. My GF asked me to ask on here, so I guess its sort of relationship related as I dont want to let my GF down.

I used to work as an administrator and had a pretty good career, albeit not spectacular. Ive been unemployed for three years and will shortly be starting work again but I feel overwhelmed and depressed by it.

I worked in Admin for around 17 years and took voluntary redundancy three years ago when I moved house and also to look after a family member.

I got a good package (!) and financially im doing okay despite the lack of paid work. I've been looking for a job seriously for a while now and decided that voluntary work would be a good start to get me back in the swing.

Trouble is, my previous job was a civil service position and is quite different to the "real world" of private industry so, although I have had a long career, I do feel a bit like my skills and experience are a bit "pretend" if that makes sense? I worked for a very different organisation for the timed toilet breaks and major target led private industry.

In my previous position I was confident, well respected and knew my job backwards and knew everyone in the office and other sites. However I recently started quite a basic admin position for a local charity as a volunteer.

Nothing too demanding and as a volunteer I shouldn't need to take it too seriously of course. It was just to ease myself back into going to work and to meet new people, and also to do my bit for charity. There are a handful of us in the office, its friendly and the work, for a man of my experience, should be simple.

Trouble is, I already feel out of my depth and like a school leaver bumbling through his first job! Last time I was like this was as an office junior nearly 20 years back! My manager is lovely but a bit intense at times and can be a bit sharp. I don't have an issue with her in anyway, but I find I get flustered and make mistakes or fail to explain things correctly in her presence. If a manager comes into her room I feel awkward. I also find that I fail to spot simple things that anyone with any real experience should have spotted or have brain freeze if someone asks me a question.

I also do photography for this particular organisation, separate from my admin role. In that job I am confident, know my stuff and on the ball. In the Admin role I feel like my confidence is letting me down. I guess I feel too timid to say "What's next?" when I have completed a task or get flustered explaining I dont understand something. Now I have been offered a paid job in Admin but its going to be a big, busy, stressful open plan office.

My GF is already saying I should just man up and get on with it, which is true, but I am struggling to not panic over this. Does anyone please have any suggestions to help? Sorry this is really long.

Part of the problem is that I look young for my age. Its something im self conscious of and has given me problems in the past with a lack of respect, people assuming im much less experienced or of a lower level of authority, etc.

I also have a high voice that makes me sound young and have no authority. In my voluntary work I have already had lots of people asking if im a student or if this is to give me "an insight into the world of work?" and I find it hard to give off the body language and manner of a confident man if that makes sense? I come across as timid and too eager to be friendly and not upset anyone and then people walk over me. I hate using phones as I sound AWFUL on the phone.

I had got quite good in my last job but now, in this voluntary work, I answer the phone with dread and make a right mess of answering calls. If im like this NOW with a VOLUNTARY job, what will I be like in a paid, stressful position? HELP!!!

View related questions: confidence, depressed, my ex

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A reader, anonymous, writes (7 June 2014):

This is verified as being by the original poster of the question

Thanks for the advice, much appreciated. I didn't take the new job and, in my voluntary position had a man go beserk at me - effing and blinding and I dealt with it very well which has given me back a bit of confidence. I served behind the bar last night too, only a few customer when it was quiet and the first pint I pulled was cider not the lager the punter asked for. I laughed it off. So I am getting a bit better.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (3 June 2014):

Don't take the job. If you're experiencing that much anxiety over a volunteer position then I wouldn't recommend putting more stress onto yourself by returning to work in a paid position for an even bigger company. If you're still financially ok, now is the time to have your fresh start. Do a job that you actually enjoy! One where you wake up and want to be there. Take a part time course if qualifications are needed, but having been in a job that completely beat me down it wouldn't recommend to anyone being where they don't want to be. Does your gf understand how you feel? I think you should explain in detail how stressful you are finding it and ask for her support, rather than being told to man up. I'm sure if you said you want to try something new and that you can be confident at she would be pleased for you and support you.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (3 June 2014):

Confidence builds as you get used to your surroundings and overcome obstacles.

You've been out of work for a long-time; so you're feeling a bit shaky being around new people, and you're too sensitive about opinion. You being too hard on yourself. It will help if you just focus on the task at hand, and try to do your best. Practice at it. Keep notes of your weaknesses and work on them.

Remind yourself you are good at whatever you do. This is just something different, and you've got to get back into the swing of working in a structured work environment. The reward, you're getting paid! Earning your keep.

Your skills get a little rusty being out of work for awhile. You're older now and you are over-thinking everything; fearing being judged one way or another.

Finding fault in every little detail about your skills.

That is breaking your concentration and distracting you from paying attention to the details. Keep your mind on what you're doing, and start each day from a clean slate. Whatever you didn't do right yesterday, decide you will do better today. Everyone makes mistakes starting out. You built your way up on the old job; now you will reclaim your confidence over time and practice. That's all it takes.

Being out of work makes people lose their sense of self-worth; and weakens their confidence in their abilities. Your skills do suffer when you don't use them. Your self-confidence gets shaken; if you've been rejected for jobs, or you if you didn't get responses to your applications. You can walk-in self-defeated; or you won't try to do your best.

The fear of failure will overwhelm you. You'll even doubt that you can do the job. Even something simple. Most people out of work for extended periods of time, do become depressed. They measure their value by their past achievements. Sir, those are your qualifications. That's what got you the job in the first place. When we start a new job, we always worry if we'll ever be able to perform at the level we used to. That is not unique to your situation; but pretty much the norm. That's your motivation.

To reach that level of success, maybe surpass it.

Remember, you didn't just walk-in and perform at the peak of your talents. You worked your way up to that performance-level. It will take time to regain your "legs." So don't let your mistakes cripple you. Supervisors are there to push you to optimum production, and to critique your job-performance. Don't take it personally. It's about the job, not about you.

It has nothing to do with your age or ability. You have the ability. It's all about your confidence. That has suffered due to being away from the workforce for so long. You can do it. You know you have it in you.

Depression robs the mind of focus; and the capacity to believe you can, and will, progress and improve. Don't show too much pride to ask for help, that's better than making mistakes and excuses. It might be time for a physical examination to rule out any underlying medical issues. Just to be sure you're not suffering from depression. Starting a new job is scary for everyone. You just forgot what it feels like.

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