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Emotions: The Trajectory Project

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We’ve all been there when starting something new or when faced with a challenge: Heart racing, unsure but eager, smiling but also a bit scared, overwhelmed but ready to dive in. This is our emotions at play. And emotions are evident in the workplace in both good and bad ways.

But here’s the great thing–when you learn to recognize your emotions, you can leverage them in ways that will positively influence your career trajectory!

I’ll start with what we’ve learned from people we’ve talked to about emotions at work during the early-career phase and then offer some action items that you can implement TODAY.

What we know about emotions at work during the early career phase

  • You’re not alone: Everyone experiences a range of emotions in the workplace. One of the women we interviewed said that these emotions were complex; she experienced “every human emotion that you could think of.”

  • Emotions are unique during the early career phase: You’re not only transitioning into a new job, you’re basically transitioning into a new life! From getting the hang of your tasks at work to navigating a new routine and schedule to figuring out a new living situation or city–there’s a LOT going on! It’s ok to recognize that and give yourself grace while you’re figuring everything out.

  • Excited, intimidated, worried, and overwhelmed: These are the most common emotions our research participants named when describing what they felt when acclimating to professional life.

  • Professional identity: People also told us that figuring out their professional identity was also an emotional experience. Our research participants tried to find a balance between fitting in with their new colleagues and preserving their character. For example, “I feel I’ve started to finally find my way… [at first] I was like, who am I? I don’t even know any more because you have to adapt to all of these personalities to work with other people.”


  • Find a kindred spirit. Seek out someone in your workplace that you feel safe being emotional around. Just like Katie discussed in the newsletter about mentorship, identifying someone you can be open and honest with who understands your career goals is so important! Having someone you trust who can help you think rationally will benefit you in more ways than one because when our emotions take hold, it’s so hard to be level-headed. For example, we have a few people we call during times like this, and our ask might be as simple as, “I just need to talk through this” or “Can you offer some perspective?” or “Can you help me see this situation from a different angle?”

  • Know who you are through self-reflection. This relates to what was mentioned earlier about professional identity. The truth is, we are all products of our environment. It’s common to want to fit in and adjust to others in the workplace. This puts unnecessary pressure on yourself to try to be someone you’re not. You can still kill it at work while staying true to who you are! We really encourage you to take some quiet time for self-reflection by journaling about what matters to you in work and in life. Writing allows your mind to slow down and helps you reason through those emotions experienced.

  • You don’t have to have everything figured out. Remember that your career trajectory is a process. There will be no point in time where you’ll know exactly what you’re doing or exactly where you’re meant to be or exactly where you’ll go from here. No one knows these things! Stay present in the process, trust your intuition (that “gut” feeling) and explore opened doors and opportunities. You won’t regret it!

Finally, I’ll leave you with another resource I love and a great Instagram follow: @lizandmollie. They share some hard truths (and very relatable) content about emotions at work. My personal favorite post right now is this one:

Learn more about The Trajectory Project on LinkedIn and Instagram (@trajectory_project) as we continue to share small steps you can take along your journey that will lead to big impact.

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