Unlearning: When Old Habits Are Holding You Back

August 11, 2011 | By Georgie Carpenter

Hiring Managers and Recruiters are always harping on about what a person can learn at a new company. They tout the benefits of expanding knowledge, of professional development, of new cultures and new projects. But I guess in the last few months, enough has happened to make me wonder about what one needs to unlearn when they move jobs.

Yes, unlearn.

The process of growing in a new role or a new company is not just about heaping more shit on top of your intellectual slag pile. In fact, it rather seems that a process of shedding also needs to occur. Shedding of old habits, shedding of old protocols and processes, shedding of old attitudes. Not all of them – after all, you are hired on what you already know – but I think it’s fairly important to sit down and work out what needs to go and what should stay when you move jobs.


Consider unlearning these things for starters:

1. ‘Back in my day…’

One of my biggest frustrations is hearing an individual compare their old job to their new job. I’m telling you, NOTHING is more irritating than hearing about how you used to do something. Even if you feel it was better. Until you learn the new processes, how will you know that the old way was better? If you absolutely HAVE to assert that your old way is better than the new way you need to learn, then put it forward in any other way than this; “At my old company we used to do blah blah blah like this…” Do not compare your old job to your new job. Apart from the fact that you are being really annoying, you were hired for your aptitude and ability to mould to the new role, so do that.

2. Your preconceptions

A lot of the reason why people approach recruiters to find them jobs is because they are unhappy with their current lot. They hate the atmosphere, the projects suck, the Manager is a psycho beast from hell, there’s no future, you are underpaid etc. OK, so we find these people other jobs. And then, guess what? The same stuff occurs. Is it at all possible that the same stuff has happened because of, ummm, you? Always keep in mind that you could be the lowest common denominator. So your old company’s receptionist hated your guts and greeted you every morning with, “Hello Shithead,” but is the new receptionist going to do that in your next job? Unlikely. If you bring the expectation that this is how receptionists treat you to your new job, then you are certainly going to recreate that monster.

Unlearn your old attitudinal gripes and preconceptions and start at your new job with fresh eyes and thoughts. When you move jobs, give the new company the benefit of the doubt that they are actually going to be nice to you. It’s fairly obvious to me that if you move companies, you have consciously chosen to act on your need for pastures green. Well, it’s simple: let them be green.

Photo by Jonas Bengtsson.