When we moved to the south, I left the best job I ever had. I was there for seven years, from being a student worker to managing student workers. That job taught me so many things, aside from the basic how to do my job. It was my first ‘adult job’, I had a boss that wasn’t in high school, a regular paycheck, and benefits, and on top of that, I had responsibilities. I learned how to work in an office, and learned that is was nothing like ‘the office’ (OK, some days it was), how to be the low person on the totem pole, and I gained the skills I would need to be successful as I moved on with my career.
It was so hard to leave that job, mainly because I knew I was going to have to start somewhere from scratch. I was going to be the new person. I hated being new. I’d have to go through the ‘Welcome Phase’, that dreaded first week or so when everyone is just feeling you out and you’re deciding each night when you leave if you’re going back the next day. Your poor brain is about to explode with bits of confetti that contain the names of every team member you’ve met, and each unique password that you had to create for the sixty different accounts you have to log into on the daily.
As I prepared to start at my new job, I felt vulnerable. In a panic the night before my first day on the job, I reached out to a friend for advice for how to survive. She forwarded me an email I had sent her a few years back when she started a new job. Seven pieces of transferable advice I laid out for her about starting a new job.
1) Swallow your pride. I started as an Administrative Assistant, sometimes referred to as a ‘thankless job’. Your job is to make those above you look good. As in any role, it’s not always about being right, or proving you’re right – sometimes you have to step back, swallow your pride, and admit defeat. Whether you’re wrong or not. You may have a reason out of your control as to why you missed a deadline, it doesn’t matter, the deadline has passed. Own it.
2) Understand the hierarchy. Plain and simple, know your place and the place of those around you.
3) Friendly doesn’t mean friends. Be nice to everyone, whether they’re nice to you or not. Kill them with kindness if you have to. Bribe with cookies, I’ve done that here and there to get a meeting on a calendar. Hey – you gotta do what you gotta do. Just make sure you deliver. You don’t have to like the people to be nice to them.
4) Make a friend or two. Find people you have similarities with. Be social. The day goes much faster when you have someone to have lunch with. Or on the rough days someone to walk away with, complain about Sally and grab a coffee. Every office has a Sally.
5) Don’t work with your mom. Been there, done that (love you mom). This generally isn’t a good idea. It’s hard to turn ‘mama bear’ off. Plus you don’t want to be forever introduced as so and so’s daughter/mother – I mean hello I have a name.
6) Bring your own supplies. Any good employer will provide these for you, but showing up the first day ready to go, you’ll look like the most prepared and driven person (because you are – go you!), which will in turn confirm their decision for hiring you. Also, you’re going to have so much to write down and it’s better to do it with your favorite pen and on your favorite (college ruled) note pad, instead of the 5X7 freebie pad from some retail supplier and kid sized pencil they offer you.
7) Love it or leave. Love some part of the job you’re doing, or leave. Whether it’s the people, the work you do or the people your serve, you have to love some part of it. Don’t be miserable.