Gaining a position as a management or business trainee is an exciting time for a new graduate trainee, full of anticipation for the opportunities that lie ahead. Working for a Merchant Bank, Investment Bank or large institution can feel like an important first step on the ladder to success. This opportunity often generates a desire to justify the faith shown in appointing them, plus a determination to demonstrate their competency.
Gradually the reality of their new life dawns as they discover that they often have to work long stressful hours, sometimes six or seven days a week, often being thrown in at the deep end, required to find solutions to problems on their own and demonstrate a high degree of resourcefulness. The stress of these situations can at times become overwhelming.
When a person lives in a permanent state of stress they often lose their enthusiasm and motivation, become irritable, unable to relax, sleep or enjoy life. Their general health can deteriorate as their immune system becomes depleted. Stress and stress related illnesses are a major factor in sick leave from work as people become more vulnerable to germs, infection and general malaise.
Let's look at the most effective ways for the graduate trainee to learn to manage stress and stay well:
- Have a positive attitude and regard being a trainee as a short-term apprenticeship. The sacrifices can be viewed as part of the learning process, the foundation stone of an exciting career and as such an invaluable opportunity to learn a lot quickly.
- Take opportunities to cultivate allies, a mentor, an advisor. If help is offered be gracious and accept it. If help is needed be sensible and ask for it. Be honest in admitting if a mistake has been made. It demonstrates integrity whilst allowing for things to be quickly rectified.
- Make notes when being given information. They can serve as an invaluable aide memoir when performing tasks for the first time. Lists are a great way of ensuring that outstanding items are not forgotten. Making a list is a useful way of ensuring that important things don't need to be stored in one's head.
- Pick work friends wisely. Avoid gossip or being negative of others. Remember that each person is there to further their own career, so be circumspect in your use of critical or loose chatter.
- Take care to look after yourself. Organise food shopping and meals in advance so that healthy food is readily available. Try to keep fresh fruit and vegetable options handy rather than snacking on junk food and sugary treats. Minimise coffee and other stimulants whilst in the midst of intensive periods of work. They provide artificial highs and accentuate stress on the body.
- Organise clothes in advance. Some people find it helpful to plan their wardrobe the night before to ensure that getting up in the morning is straightforward and free from stress. Keeping one's wardrobe simple can be a help; so for example, regularly wearing black may be a way to make life simpler.
- Try to exercise as often as possible. Yoga and stretching before bed can be a useful part of a wind down routine. Try to schedule in pleasant exercise if possible; a walk in the park, a few lengths of the swimming pool, a body conditioning or zumba class are all fun ways to take a healthy break from the stress of work. Plan some fun use of time on days off.
- Sleep is especially important during periods of intensive work and stress. Keep the bedroom clear of clutter and work related material. Quality sleep provides the best way to recharge batteries and return to work feeling refreshed. Try to wind down each night before bed. Listen to pleasant music, read something light-hearted, switch off for a while.
- It's a fact that people perform better after taking a break from their work; a water break, a little healthy food or a walk outside can provide time to detach, clear one's mind and consequently manage stress.
- Practise self-hypnosis and power napping. Self hypnosis techniques, positive affirmations and scheduled breaks from work can help to raise your mood, keep better focus and minimise stressful responses.
And if at some point it becomes apparent that this is not the life for you there is no shame in moving onto another career. Be positive about having had a go whilst looking for something that suits you better.