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Katherine Craig Interview, Canadian HR Reporter - June 30, 2017
Katherine Craig Interview, North of 49 - Episode 9
Katherine Craig Interview, North of 49 - Episode 7
Work Coach Eases New-Job Jitters, Postmedia News - September 2010

Katherine Craig Interview
Canadian HR Reporter - June 30, 2017

Work Coach Eases New-Job Jitters
By Kim Covert, September 2010
Postmedia News (Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal)

It happens to all of us: That excited "Woo hoo! I got the job!" is closely followed by the frightening thought, "What do I do now?"

It's like the first day of high school all over again: the same old fear that you won't be liked, that you won't fit in, that you won't be wearing the right clothes, says Katherine Craig, a former human resources executive and founder of Spearhead Executive Coaching. Imposter syndrome -- that worry that you're really not qualified -- sets in early, and things go downhill from there.

"Your anxiety is greatest before action actually starts, because you're not even there, so you're imagining all the worst things," says Craig. "Nature abhors a vacuum, so we make up the story, it gets uglier and uglier. By the (time you start the job), you've lost 10 pounds or you've gained 30, one or the other."

There are some important differences between high school and the workplace, however: Unless you were starting at a new school, you usually had a support network of friends facing the situation with you.

And there's more to lose if things go badly at a new job.

"Anxiety is equal to the perceived threat, and what you have at stake as an adult is your livelihood," says Craig.

But so what? Everyone gets anxious -- that's what your friends will tell you, if you dare let on that you're having nightmares about the new gig. Get over it.

The problem from the perspective of the company is that new employees don't get over it soon enough.

"Anxiety decreases performance," says Craig. "You are distracted. You're not thinking with your whole head about the program, your deliverables. In those first weeks, all you're trying to do is survive, to fit in."

Companies invest a lot of time and money putting a new hire's bum in a seat. It takes about six months to reach the point where the new employee's contribution meets the employer's contribution.

"Not because the new hire necessarily doesn't have the skills -- you hired the person with the skills, they have the skills to do that job -- it's the anxiety," Craig says. "They're distracted."

No matter how good their orientation programs are at teaching new computer programs and directing new employees to the supply cupboard, what they don't tend to address is the first-day -- or first-six-months -- jitters.

Craig remembers one new hire from her HR days who had been a "superstar" at her previous company, "I was something in the room. I counted," the woman told Craig. "I come here, no one knows me. I've lost my sense of identity."

It took four or five months for that woman to start feeling comfortable in her new workplace. Experiences like that told Craig that orientation programs not only don't start early enough, but also don't address the right issues.

Craig's company is rolling out a program specifically geared toward helping ease newly hired employees into the workplace. She says the program has received positive feedback from companies such as executive search firm Ian Martin, whose Ottawa office has tried it.

Companies signing on with the program essentially give their new hires a coach who will see them through their first few months -- including those anxiety-ridden days before they start. Over the 12 weeks of the program, new employees have several opportunities to talk confidentially to a career coach about their fears about the new job -- whether they're fitting in, whether they've made a mistake.

Craig doesn't give up any of her program's secrets. What she does say is that it's important to do something.

"What we do is we address (the anxiety), we normalize it ... get some action going because as soon as you get action, as soon as you start to address it, the anxiety diminishes. So what we want to do is make the employee who's just hired happy, the employer happy, and when they get happy it's going to be a great thing because ... (employees) get to showcase their performance, not their anxiety."

Katherine Craig Interview
North of 49, Episode 7

Katherine Craig Interview
North of 49, Episode 9