Please calm my job-related anxieties
January 14, 2012 12:14 PM   Subscribe

In a flurry of self-doubt, excitement, apprehension regarding my career, boss. and social life. What should I do?

I just recently took a relocation opportunity and a small part of my office team will be transitioning to a new satellite office. It's a brand new office and our Head Boss promoted a lower-performer manager to take the position in the new office. Very few people took the offer or even considered it due to family and whatnot and the only reason why this New Boss took the position was because he was getting promoted.

He is not respected by my colleagues and I'm afraid of his ability to get stuff done for us. Now, I'm already staffed on a project with him and I'm seeing his incompetencies. He's gregarious. Speaks before thinking (he made this mistake of telling a joke too far early in his career here and this hindered his promotion cycle; he didn't get promoted for a long time and hence the reason why he took this relo opportunity so he could finally be promoted).

This New Boss is very much so an extrovert to the extreme, whereas I'm an introvert. I can already tell we don't really click all that well. He's huge into sports and football whereas I'm not. I dread making small talk with him.

I don't have much respect for him, professionally, and I'm worried about being 'stuck' with him for the near future. I haven't even relocated yet and I'm already thinking about my next career moves. There are several bonus incentives I'm getting for relocating and the stipulation is if you leave the group before a year is up, you have to pay back all the bonuses. I'm already dreading how long this year is going to feel and I'm already thinking about potential exit opportunities.

I'm worried I made a mistake of taking this relo opportunity. Some of the senior people in my office advised me not to take it and at the end of the day, I did take it due to personal reasons as well as professional reasons. Now I'm also worried that these senior people are disappointed that I took this offer. I think they think I only took it for the money. And don't get me wrong, the money was a good incentive, but the potential for a great business school story/essay, faster promotion track, and just adding 'change' to life were huge compelling reasons.

Long story short: I'm moving to a new office and have a new boss whom no one respects and is relatively incompetent. I obviously can't and won't renege on the relo offer as that would destroy my career.

What should I do? Do I just need to suck it up and do this for a year before I leave? Maybe it'll all work out? The job also entails travel every week, Mon-Thurs and while this is great in that I can comp meals and eat well and save money and whatnot, it also kills my social life. I'm also moving away from friends and starting anew in this new city (although, part of the reason why I took the offer was to 'change' up life).

I'm excited about moving but I'm also scared. I'm an entry-level analyst and I know 5 years down the line I'll look at this and laugh at how short of a time period it was, but it's a time period I'll be facing in the next year.

My mind is all over the place, and hence why this post is so disorganized.

I'm scared of moving to a new city. I'm scared of not having my good friends. I'm scared that I'm going to hate this new opportunity. I'm scared that my New Boss' incompetencies will negatively affect my promotion schedule somehow (another big reason why I took the relo opp. was to be considered for promotion sooner). I'm scared I'm going to dread working every day. I'm scared I'm going to burn out from all the constant travel. I'm scared of what's next in life for me. Half a year ago I was in college with buddies living in a bubble of safety and comfort. Now I'm moving to a new city where I don't know anyone.

Have I made a mistake? Has anyone moved across the country to a new city only to think it was the best thing they've ever done?

What should I be thinking right now? What do I need to do? What's next? I'm scared.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You may know how this manager did in his last position, but you don't know how he's going to be now that he'll be running his own office. And you're the first one on his "team," so to speak, so you have the opportunity to define this role and how successful you'll be.

Anytime someone moves, there's a period of fear when you don't know if things will work out. Since you say that money was not the only incentive to take this job, concentrate on the things that led you to take it.

It could be a nightmare. It could be the best thing in your life. Most likely, it'll be somewhere in-between, and if you don't count down the hours until this ordeal is over, you'll probably get through it okay.
posted by xingcat at 12:41 PM on January 14, 2012

Not really sure how to help anony other than state that I think you have a fear of the unknown right now that none of us can really address or tell you how things will turn out. Not from your industry, but I've had my share of horrible/incompetent bosses and I've moved across the country to a new city several times. So just some ideas for you...

First, if you really see warning signs and don't want to do this, talk to management now and don't go (So you don't want to move have a friend, sick relative, significant other, whatever..but changing your mind should not = career failure.Really? Career failure?).

Let's say you do go, however. From what you state, your goal is to move up the career ladder. I actually think that in this case, even with incompetent boss, you will be in a great position to succeed at that goal. Make a list of the skills that you want to learn/things that you want to do and see on your CV. As part of a small, new office tell your boss you absolutely want to do projects X...the likelihood is very high you can do these things. What about the coworkers? With horrible incompetent boss, it tends to bring coworkers together, which is great because is that most of you are on career tracks to move up the career ladder within a few years (and if they are unhappy they will be more likely to scatter all over the place) -- this will be great down the line for connections and to get an "in" for other companies and even promotions into new companies. Now if the boss is truly incompetent-- this is probably useful too. You will see what it is like to mismanage projects (all companies do this as it is).Can it be saved? You will get to learn by fire. Keep your eyes on position X and build up your own CV regardless as to what direction the boss is steering. Probably in a year or so you will be in a great position to get that promotion if not at your company, then another. You will have shown all the things you put on your CV plus you can work 5X/week on the road...and you can wait it out until you get paid X or title X, whatever it is you want.

It sounds like you want to change your life even in regards to where you live. I would bet that it will be easier to go out and explore and do new things in a new city vs wherever you currently live. You can visit and keep in contact with your other friends so if you want to go back that door can still open back up a year from now.

If I were in your shoes, I would start making to senior people, what would they suggest you do/learn given this new position?

Look at the new city online. Google places to visit. Look up meetups. Throw together a list of things that you really want to learn. Tell a few of your friends about it and plan a trip now where they come visit you and check out new city with you.

Remember you selected this and my guess is...there are things that you want out of this. Go get those things.
posted by Wolfster at 1:45 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are lots of good things going on with you - first of all congrats for having the courage to stick your neck out for the new opportunity.
The pluses: small group with potentially higher impact and visibility, new geography to 'mix things up' as you mentioned, extensive travel giving you the ground level customer-view, which is a Huge advantage to any one of your office-bound peers, and the chance for you to make the needed adjustment(s) to succeed in a new environment.

The big red flag, though, is the flawed-but-trying-to-compensate manager, which will be your big challenge. Do whatever you need to do to change your communication style for this person, and reach out to other leaders in the organization to coach you through both the organizational transition along with all the other stuff that goes along with it. (This is networking at its finest, with allies in higher positions who know a lot of what is going on, and know what can happen, and share invaluable guidance.)

Remember a cardinal rule of being managed: your primary 'job' is to make your manager look good, to make him or her look like a genius for hiring you (and promoting you too!) Having second thoughts about your decision is completely natural too, and remember that the instinctive gut reaction is usually correct, so you don't need to worry that much about the "am I making a huge mistake" part.

In my work experience I've experienced that those who are willing to relocate for new assignments, plus willing to take on the rigors of travel for customer interactions, are two of the most career-accelerating things that can be done (and I've done both).

Best of luck and be to report back!
posted by scooterdog at 5:50 PM on January 14, 2012

This is a lot of change at once, and it's normal to be freaked out.

Jitters about moving to a new town and being away from your support network are to be expected. I moved across the country at twenty, then back across to another city at 30. Then back again at 32, and back back again at 37. I hate moving, but I love the adventure. Exploring a new place can be really exciting and I've always found that I have an openness to new people and experiences in the first months after moving that I don't have at any other time.

Having a new job is also stressful. But again, this kind of challenge can be really invigorating. Learning new things, getting jazzed up about a new office, etc.

The only thing about this that really gives me pause is the new boss. A new city and a new job, either one of those is a big deal. Together, they're a really big deal. Those two plus a boss that sucks? I couldn't do it. Or, more to the point, I have done it, recently, and it was hell on earth. Note: my boss is not your boss. (Actually, there were two, one after the other.) But the aftermath in my case has been huge and I've been off on stress leave for almost a year and still have panic attacks when I think about work. My boss(es) were very charismatic, but neither was very competent. They didn't have my department's back, and would happily step aside to let one of their staff take the hit for anything that went wrong. With one of the bosses, I had no respect for him personally or professionally, and because I'm basically an open book, he knew it. That didn't play well, as you can imagine.

Things I think you need to evaluate--and some of it will be guessing, but you can also always talk to the senior people who refused the relocation to get their opinion:

- are you going to be able to hack a crummy boss when you are working and travelling long hours and far away from family and friends?

- if he starts to screw up, or if the team he leads is underperforming, is Head Boss going to blame him or you? Will bad boss take the blame, or pass the buck on to his staff? If he does have to take the blame, will he take it out on you?

- can you conceal your contempt for him well enough to have a pleasant, professional working relationship?

- if he turns out to be totally incompetent, what impact will that have on your career? if they have to shut down the satellite office because it crashes and burns on his watch, will you be screwed? (Of course, I have no idea whether this is something that would even happen...)

- which will have the worst impact on your career: backing out now; going and working for someone who is terrible, failing to finish the year and paying the money back; or going, staying the year, but being forever associated with the office where the dumb boss is?

Taking a new job with a new boss is always a bit of a gamble. I personally, wouldn't take a job where I already knew the boss was going to suck. Not anymore, anyway.
posted by looli at 7:04 PM on January 14, 2012

Moving when you're young is the best time! I did shortly after college and it was great. Now in my 30s I feel being older new friends might be harder. So, you're already at an advantage!

A few friend meeting ideas:
-Friend network: ask your whole Facebook friend list if they have any awesome friends/family in your new city that you should meet. I met one of my very best friends because a former coworker knew she was new in town and thought we'd hit it off. We did :)
-Explore town, or at least do happy hour, with your new coworkers. You will bond 100% times sooner with a crap boss.
-Even though you'll be traveling, try to do volunteer work for a few hours on the weekend. Great place to meet people who already care about something you care about.
-Are you traveling to the same places over and over? Be so so so nice and genuine and friendly to the people who work at the hotels you're staying at. Especially the front desk and bartenders. Their jobs mean you can get the most face time with them. Ask them where they hang out, see if you can tag along one night. You can have a social life in multiple cities, which is awesome! You'll also be setting yourself up for perks and upgrades when you get to know them well and stay lots of times. People like to help out their friends.
-Hang out in coffee shops wherever you are, home or travel. As non-starbucksy as you can find. People at indie coffee shops love to chat.
-Are you single? Try OkCupid for some low-pressure dates. I think you can also say you're looking for friends on there, right? So try some friend hangouts too!
-If you like anything niche, find that group. Whether it is pottery, comic books, bdsm, whatever, everyone has a "niche" hobby and you should be able to find a group in your new town that likes it. Often easy way to find those people is going to the store that sells the supplies or items of the hobby and getting chatty. Again the less chain-y the store, the better.
-Be chatty with your servers, baristas, whomever. Even though you said you're less extroverted, a simple "how is your day going?" and a smile is great. Go back to the same places, tip well, and be genuine.
-Join professional networking groups. There are often young people's chapters of these groups. Investigate online and through professional associations.
-Go to block parties or apartment building meetings or whatever happens in your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors on weekends. If you love animals, find the ones with dogs, compliment their dogs to get a conversation started. Or even go puppy stare at the dog park :) pet owners love to talk about their pets.

I also travel often for work. A few no-burnout travel ideas:
-Drink tons of water. Carry the emergen-c packets or airborn in your bag for pick-me-ups. When you travel tons you need to take extra good care of your body.
-Explore hotel gyms, even if it's only a 15 min treadmill run. Or take walks if it feels safe.
-Like I said earlier, make friends with hotel staff. Do the same with rental car staff, and if you're flying the same flights, airline folks too.
-Yelp the cities in advance if you have any dietary concerns (ie vegetarian, gluten free) and even if you don't, just to find healthy food near your office. Sometimes Subway is going to be the best you can do for lunch.
-Take full advantage of per diem. That is why it is there. Use it.
-Buy luggage you like, that is sturdy, in appropriate sizes.
-Learn to always look up the weather for multiple cities on Sundays to make packing easier.
-Be aware of time zones and if your Outlook and stuff will automatically change or not.
-See if you can be reimbursed for a GPS.
-Sign up for points and brand loyalty cards everywhere you can. You will probably earn the equivalent of a few free vacations in the year. Ie vacations to see your old friends, or family, or trips back to work cities to hang with your newfound pals there!

I feel like others above addressed the work part of your question. Bottom line, you don't know if it's going to suck, 100%, and attitude can help a lot. Find the good things and focus there when you can. Don't make any decisions right now about "sticking out the whole year." take it one day or week at a time. And try to get mentored as much as you can by folks you meet in travel or folks from the old office. Your direct supervisor doesn't have to be your "coach." Get support and advice from wherever is best!
posted by manicure12 at 10:37 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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