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Adulting 101: I dived into a new career 3 years ago. It was a bumpy start but I’ve finally found my footing

SINGAPORE — Within my first year working at TODAY, my boss pulled me aside for a chat. I had been struggling to get up to speed in my new role and felt anxious about not performing up to expectations.

TODAY senior journalist Navene Elangovan examines the challenges of making a career transition.

TODAY senior journalist Navene Elangovan examines the challenges of making a career transition.

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Adulthood is an invigorating stage of life as young people join the workforce, take on more responsibilities and set their sights on the future. But its many facets — from managing finances and buying a home to achieving work-life balance — can be overwhelming.

In this series, TODAY’s journalists help young Singaporeans navigate this stage of their lives and learn something themselves in the process.


SINGAPORE — Within my first year working at TODAY, my boss pulled me aside for a chat. I had been struggling to get up to speed in my new role and felt anxious about not performing up to expectations.

I was making mistakes at work and my boss told me in no uncertain terms that I had to get my act together.

I was fresh into the job, having made the switch to journalism after a stint as a research analyst in a government ministry following my graduation.

While my previous job also involved writing, those were mostly long-form reports with longer deadlines. In contrast, my new job required me to talk to people regularly and write relatively short reports to tight deadlines.

I read up online about how to prepare for the role, attended a writing workshop and spoke to journalists, including some of those at TODAY, on what to expect on the job.

Yet, I had underestimated how drastic the change to a new job would be, especially one that was in a new field of work.

One key change was a new working environment. While my previous department in a ministry was larger with at least three levels of reporting, TODAY had a smaller team with a flatter hierarchy.

TODAY senior journalist Navene Elangovan at work in the newsroom. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

While this was not necessarily a bad change, the less formal nature of the work environment, such as being able to walk up directly to the boss at any time, took some getting used to on my part.


The bigger issue I had to deal with, however, was coping with the pressure to excel in a new job.

Although I had several internship stints in the media before, it was still intimidating to work alongside accomplished journalists who either had the academic qualifications for their position or years of experience under their belt.

That, coupled with the anxiety and mistakes in my initial months, left me wondering for a while if I had overestimated my ability for the new job.

Career counsellors that I spoke to for this article said that it is normal for people to feel anxious or doubt their capabilities in a new job.

“Imposter syndrome”, where people doubt their capabilities despite evidence of their past achievements, is more prevalent than we think, Dr Wang Jiunwen said. Dr Wang is a senior lecturer from the Singapore University of Social Sciences’ human resource management programme.

If you do not feel nervous about a new job, that could also mean that the job is too easy for you, career coach Adrian Choo said.

Mr Choo, who is the chief executive officer and founder of human resources consultancy Career Agility International, added: “Fear and excitement should be part of the growth process… Do your best and ask for feedback from your bosses. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” 

Dr Wang said that it is important to listen to feedback and objectively evaluate evidence of your achievements so as to identify if these feelings are due to your own insecurities.

“If there is good feedback, we should recognise that our insecurities are unfounded and find ways to affirm ourselves and be confident,” she added.

If people at work are uncomfortable giving feedback, try framing it as asking for advice instead, Dr Wang said. The advice they provide can give new hires more information about how they can improve in their work.

Feelings of negativity should be harnessed to drive people to improve their work, Mr Choo said.

"If you've been given a huge task you're unsure of doing, instead of worrying if you'll be successful (and doing nothing), make sure you cover all ground and do all that is necessary to ensure you'll succeed," he explained.

Ms Linda Teo, the country manager of recruitment agency ManpowerGroup Singapore, said that new hires who doubt their capabilities must keep in mind that their employers must have seen something in them to have recruited them, so they may speak to their hiring managers to find out what skills they found noteworthy.


There is no handbook that tells you how to do your job. Despite all the preparation I had done before joining the new team, a large part of learning the ropes eventually took place on the job.

This included grasping the day-to-day processes of writing and publishing articles, and picking up practical tips from other journalists on how to do the job.

For instance, other reporters suggested that I use the mobile application Otter to transcribe interviews quickly or set up an Excel sheet to keep track of my contacts.

I have also been fortunate enough to learn from my editors.

In one incident that left a lasting impression on me, an editor whom I was accompanying at a media lunch whipped out her recorder after spotting a newsmaker.

She then proceeded to ask him several questions on a recent news incident. Although the newsmaker declined to provide comments, that episode made me realise that I had to be savvy enough to spot and respond to news opportunities as a journalist.

On top of my day-to-day work processes, our editors also sat the team down to explain the areas that we needed to develop to become better journalists.

For someone outside of the field, this proved to be immensely useful as it gave me a clear understanding of the different skills I needed to develop.

For example, after the rough patch in my early days, I focused on being more meticulous in my writing and developing a “newsier” style. Once I had a handle on that, I turned to deepening my knowledge in the beats I covered.

Setting such goals helped to take some pressure off me and made me feel that I was working towards concrete improvements.

When I asked career counsellors how new hires may flatten their learning curve, they said that it is important for new employees to chat with their bosses to set expectations of the job.

During this conversation, an employee has to find out their boss’ goals and find out how to help their bosses achieve them, Mr Choo said.

With the boss’ guidance, the new employee should also identify key stakeholders whom they will be working with and actively reach out to them to find out what they need, and how the employee may help them.

Mr Choo acknowledged that this may be harder to do during this period with most people working from home. This makes it all the more important for new employees to introduce themselves and join their teammates for lunch on the rare occasions they return to the office.

In any other moment of doubt, go back to your boss with questions, Mr Choo advised.

I recalled that in my first few months, I had directed most of my questions to colleagues as I was concerned that my bosses might think of me as less capable with my many questions.

Mr Choo said that newbies in an office should not be afraid to ask questions, and any “stupid” question that they pose in their first few months of work will only come across as even more stupid if asked several months down the road.

Dr Wang said that new employees should also take care to observe their managers’ preferred communication style, such as through email or phone chats.

They can do this by observing how other colleagues interact with the manager and build a personal relationship with the manager by finding common hobbies.


Three years on, I have settled into my role as a journalist despite the bumpy start.

I have accepted that no one can master their jobs overnight and it is more important to identify your strengths and work on them instead.

For example, I discovered that I enjoyed writing commentaries and now contribute regularly to TODAY’s Gen Y Speaks section. I also recognise any accomplishment, even throwaway compliments from a reader, as affirmation that I am moving in the right direction.

At the same time, I have also learnt to take criticism or mistakes in my stride and see them as learning points instead.

I do not know when my next job transition will take place but hopefully, the experience with my first transition will make the next one easier to navigate.



Navene Elangovan is a senior journalist at TODAY, covering environment and education.

Related topics

Adulting 101 career switch journalism human resources career coach communication

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