When I took my first job out of college a few years ago, I remember spending my first day mostly feeling overwhelmed, anxious and insecure. It felt like I was the new mid-semester transfer kid in high school who had no friends yet, didn’t know where anything was, and had to eat alone in the cafeteria (which I actually did for several months when I started at my first job). I recall being frustrated because I didn’t know when or how to set the security alarm or enter through the back door instead of walking half a block around the street to the front.
While I eventually got over all of these minor hurdles, I do remember it took several months before I felt truly comfortable with the quality of my work and my relationships with my co-workers. When I recently decided to move to a new company, I mentally prepared myself for the “new kid on the block” feeling. However, after just a few days on the job I was surprised to feel nothing but calm and assured with almost no anxiety at all.
What made starting my second job so much easier than the first?
Even though I had completed several internships while in school, I still felt ill-prepared for the rigors of working in a corporate environment. It was my first opportunity to do “meaningful” work and, being the perfectionist that I am, I felt immense pressure to be perfect in every way.
Unfortunately for me, it’s common and expected for new employees to make lots of mistakes and their work is far from perfect. It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but I eventually accepted that I could only do my best, even if it wasn’t up to my expectations, and as I got better at doing the work, my confidence in myself and my abilities increased greatly.
I think the major difference between starting my first job and starting my second, is that this time around, I’m much more confident in my capabilities, especially now that I have a proven track record of performance to fall back on. I felt like when I was hired the first time after graduation, I was hired for my potential. The second time, and every subsequent time, I will be hired for my expertise, making me feel like I earned the job rather than having just lucked into it, which is a great boost to my self-esteem.
Lots of career literature deals with getting people to identify their “transferable skills” or basic knowledge that is applicable across a multitude of jobs and industry, things such as writing or computer skills. When I graduated from college, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of MS Office applications such as Word and Excel. But I quickly discovered that there was a whole other world of advanced functions and options that you never learn about in school.
Since MS Office and Windows are popular programs in most corporate offices, upon starting my new job I was able to change around my email settings and internet preferences on the first day of my new job with no help at all. It sounds like a little thing, but it was rather empowering to be able to do it myself without suffering the embarrassment of having to ask someone how to change my calendar color from yellow to green.
*I also want to note that I’ve seen many an interview candidate claim to know how to use Excel and Word only to have their incompetence revealed after being asked only a few simple questions. I urge everyone to take an MS Office training course even if you think you know how the program works. Listing an Office certification on your résumé will make you look impressive and you’ll be more productive in the long run because you’ll know the secrets and shortcuts that a normal user won’t.
When I entered the workforce for the first time, I really had no idea how a business worked, who the major players were, how decisions got made, or how to execute a project. After three years of sitting through endless meetings, dealing with office politics and navigating the murky world of interdepartmental co-operation, I have obtained a basic map of any corporate structure and a strategy to integrate myself into it.
Through months of observation I learned how to relate to executives and managers, identify the “go-to” people in each department that will help me get what I need, how to deal with different types of people and more. While no business is exactly the same, most companies will have an accounting and IT department as well as upper-level and mid-level managers.
Even though the people and titles might be different, the types of people drawn to these positions are usually the same. Recognizing the various worker personalities (the micromanager, the procrastinator, the super-star, etc.) and having experience dealing with each lends me a feeling of familiarity in a new situation so I feel less like a fish-out-of-water in my new company.
The moral of this story is that each job you have, no matter how miserable or seemingly pointless, allows you to learn and grow both personally and professionally. Each job forms the building blocks that lay the foundation for the rest of your career. And I can only hope that as I move on to my third, fourth and fifth jobs that the transitions will only continue to get easier.