Some days you're the bug, some days you're the windshield.

On being new

I am nearly three weeks in at my new job, and it’s been a crash course in being new. Again. It’s not like I’ve never done this before, but it always surprises me how demanding (yet thrilling) being new is. There is discomfort in the feeling of being adrift and un-moored in a place where you barely know where the bathroom is, much less how to DO YOUR WORK. The discomfort is good for you; I think it’s what opens up your mind to taking in all the new details of the cultural norms of a workplace and positions you for the learning and growth that should come with a new job.

But, oy. It’s exhausting.

I’ve been taking notes on what’s helped me to feel a bit more tethered in these first few weeks, what’s led me to think, “OH! I can totally do this!” instead of “WHAT. IS. HAPPENING??!?!” (note: I have about a dozen moments of each on a daily basis. I’ve been reminded more than a few times that this is totally normal.)

Organize your space

I think of the first few weeks on the job as a golden period, in which you are meeting a ton of people and learning everything you can about the organization, the industry, the people you work with, and the job you are there to do. But there’s usually a lull, where people are reluctant to just throw work at you like they will later. This is the time to organize your physical and digital space. Because on that day that you walk out of a meeting with the first big thing you are expected to deliver….you’ll have a deer in headlights look until you return to your desk, see the pictures of your goofy kids, and look at your neat and eagerly awaiting email file folders and you’ll think to yourself: “I’ve totally got this.”

The power of the pen

Before I started, I took a leisurely trip to the office supply store and bought myself some new pens. Good ones. The kind that make you feel like a serious bad ass when you pull them out to write down the 900th acronym that you don’t understand. Or to try to attempt to track the names and roles of the 15 people you’re meeting for the first time all at once but who will be incredibly important to your future life. I can’t explain why my Tul retractable gel pens make me feel better about myself as a human being, but they do. So does my new notebook and the page sleeves I use to organize my day. All new. All shiny.

Perhaps this is a hold-over from years of pulling fresh school supplies from my backpack on the first day of school. I don’t care. It’s a total ego boost and it’s opened the door to a few casual conversations now, as it did then. “Hey! Love your New Kids On The Block Trapper Keeper! I love them too!” (See below, on making friends.) Yes, you can grab a ball point and a legal pad from the supply closet, but they won’t have *quite* the same effect on your self-esteem.

Make a friend

This post is sounding more and more like “Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” But it’s true. This week I got back to my desk after a get-to-know-you meeting and realized I just met a new member of my tribe – someone who gets who I am and what I’m trying to do – I decided not to let the moment pass. I sent her an email and recognized the connection. I felt like the biggest dork on the planet, but she appreciated the note as she felt the connection too. Recognizing someone for actually liking being around them is never a bad thing.

Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.

Look, sometimes you’re going to walk out of a meeting thinking to yourself, “What the &%$# were they talking about? I don’t belong here. They made a mistake. I made a mistake.” And in the VERY NEXT MEETING you’re going to say something that makes everyone nod their heads and say, “That’s totally right, you’re so amazing.” (OK, maybe not that last part. But they will be thinking it.) Don’t get too hung up on either. Just remember that those reactions are two sides of the same coin, and you’re going to experience both with no rhyme or reason for a while. Just power through and sing the Mary Chapin Carpenter song a few times, and you’ll feel better. I promise.

Photo credit: Sometimes you’re the windshield sometimes you’re the bug, Heidi, used under creative commons license.

Jen S.

Jen Swanson (@jgswanson) a digitally curious designer of experiences, a mom, a wife, a reader, a gardener, a cook, and a little bit of a bad-ass. Professionally speaking, of course.

2 Responses

  1. Steph Fuerniss says:

    If anyone can do it, you can do it! Go get ’em, Jen!

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