Adjusting to a new environment brings a host of new challenges and opportunities. As a career counselor and assistant director for Career Services, I am well aware of the issues that come with adjusting to a new job or internship. I am constantly walking clients and students through this new period, soothing fears, and supporting clients through their first 30 days of employment. Like starting a new job, joining a new community can bring up a lot of the same fears and feelings of anxiety.
Let’s take a look at the stages of change – denial, acceptance, grief, acknowledgment, adjusting and looking forward. With adjusting to a move, it is very likely that we will go through these same stages as we transition. When analyzing transitions, it is often believed that we go through three stages as well, resisting/reacting, adjusting/exploring, and living well in the old or the old new (Dr. Tamar Chansky). These stages often intersect with each other, and don’t necessarily have to fall in a specific order.
When thinking about the first stage of change – denial – it may appear as resistance to accepting how this new move will affect your relationships and daily routine. Resistance/reacting is also the first stage in Chansky’s stages of transition model. How I often see it manifest in people who are transitioning into a new job is a tendency to drag their feet to pack up their office, not properly preparing for their new role prior to starting, including figuring out how to navigate their new route to work.
Your reaction to moving to a new community can appear in similar and different ways. After the move, you may hit the third stage of change – grief. Initially, you may mourn the loss of the familiar, such as your former colleagues, neighbors, or community. It’s common to experience unexplained moments of sadness for what is being lost. This is perfectly normal and, in fact, you should embrace this time. Generally, when you are leaving a job where you have good personal relationships, a lunch, happy hour, party is planned in your honor, this practice can also be used when moving. Spend time to honor your old living space and neighbors.
The first thing to accept when moving into your new home/neighborhood is that there will be a learning curve and it is expected. In addition to all that comes with the physical move, you may also have to get used to new rules and community policies, your new neighbors and their personalities, and adapting to your new surroundings in general. This may be a big adjustment if you have never lived within a community that had a homeowner’s association. You may be feeling anxiety towards all of these changes, which is normal. Even though the change can be an exciting time, pay attention to any tension that may be happening in your body. Identifying the thoughts that led to your tension will assist you in discovering the areas where you might be feeling resistance.
Most of us have had to attend new hire orientations where we sit with someone from Human Resources to learn about the company policies and culture. This experience should be recreated when moving into a new community. Schedule time to meet with your community board members to get a feel for the culture and policies in your new community. This meeting will serve to help you adjust, but will also introduce you to key members of the community. Find out from them how you can be involved and see if they have a calendar of upcoming events. Also, make sure to ask if there are any pertinent rules that you should know about such as trash pickup, noise compliance, and rules regarding moving.
Getting involved with community association events from the beginning will help you meet your new neighbors and feel a part of the community. Just like when starting a new job, you may have met with the team or your supervisor during the interview process, but you have yet to learn how everyone works together and how they interact on a daily basis.
When I lived in a 10-story co-op, the culture was for people to speak to each other in the elevators, even if it was a simple exchange of pleasantries, such as “have a good evening” when exiting. Former neighbors of mine would complain about new neighbors not speaking to them and coming off as rude.
There is no way going into a new situation that you will automatically know the cultural norms of a community. Commit to going into the situation with an observant eye. Pay attention to how people interact; in an office setting, you would have to learn whether team members prefer communicating through emails, phone calls, or walking over to someone’s office or cube. You will also have to adjust to how people interact in your new community and it may be totally different than what you are used to. As a native New Yorker, I had to adjust to strangers saying good morning on the street. You may have to adjust to an overly friendly community or you may feel as though your community is more standoffish than your last. Either way, getting involved with community activities will allow you to meet and interact with more people and the more relationships you make, the more a part of the community you will feel.
That said, when meeting and interacting with new people, it is important not to join cliques in the very beginning. You want to stay open to meeting as many people as possible and not succumb to gossip. Every community, just like every office, has its own politics, in the very beginning, you don’t know enough to take sides. Make an effort to get to know as many people as possible. By being an active part of your community you ensure that your interests are being taken care of and help to shape your environment.
This brings us to the second stage of transition – adjusting and exploring. A great support for yourself is to set goals. Start simple by setting a goal of meeting with your community board members, any office staff, and your neighbors. From them, you can learn what the successes and challenges are within the community. From this perspective, you can see where you can assist. Make sure to write your goals down, people are 50 percent more likely to achieve their goals when they write them down versus people who do not write them down. Also, try sharing your goals with someone that you are close with – this also increases the chances that you will accomplish them. (18 Facts)
In the beginning of your transition/change, you should focus on learning, rather than comparing or initially trying to make changes. Early in my career, I remember training a new co-worker how to perform several functions of his new job. Before he even learned the company’s current system and understanding the procedures, he was trying to change how things were done.
People can often find this annoying and off-putting. Take some time to learn why certain rules or policies are in place before making suggestions on how to change them. People who constantly talking about how their last neighborhood or place of employment “did it better” can rub people the wrong way.
Those individuals who keep an open mind when transitioning into a new role, job, or community will typically have a more positive and informed experience. When starting a new chapter in your life, whether personally or professionally, it is important to acknowledge and focus on the opportunities. Within all periods of transition, you have the opportunity to learn something new about yourself. When you leave a job, you often walk away with new skills and perspectives on how to deal with different situations; when leaving one community for the next, these same principles will apply in knowing how to deal with people, and the kind of neighbors that best serve the community.
Under Chansky’s model, we reach the third stage of transition – living well in the old and the new. This stage can be seen as utilizing the knowledge gained from prior experience, be it from your former neighborhood or job, and using it to improve your new environment. Yes, it is important to learn the new culture of your neighborhood, and to pay attention and gather information before rushing to make suggestions, but you must also bring your authentic self to your new area. This is your chance to vision and dream, and have a lasting impact on your community. Set goals that inspire you to live and be that kind of community participant. This can also be seen as the looking forward stage on the change model.
Most importantly, when adjusting to any kind of transition, whether it be a new job or moving into a new community, is that you honor all of your emotions regarding that transition. Allowing yourself the time and space to adjust will assist with a smooth transition and help build a bond with your new community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t shy away from the opportunity to form a new routine. Also be prepared for surprises; everything may not turn out exactly as expected, but try and see this time for all of its opportunities, such as the chance to meet new people, learn new skills, and have a positive impact on the people around you.
By Jasmine Briggs
Jasmine is a career coach in New York City. Jasmine started her career in the legal recruiting field, before moving on to workforce development, assisting people with barriers such as a history of drug abuse or homelessness. She is also currently assisting at a business school assisting college students with finding a career path.
Chansky, Tamar, “Mastering Transitions: Trust that You’ll Adjust to the Changes in Your Life,“ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-chansky/transition-tips_b_1851793.html
Green, Alison, “How to Adjust to a New Job” http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2013/07/10/how-to-ad-just-to-a-new-job
“18 Facts About Goals and Their Achievement” www.goalband.co.uk/goal-achievement-facts.html