New Kid on the Block
In terms of work, nothing is harder than being unemployed. But starting a new job at a new company is a close second.
This is a good point to take a breath and really look behind me. Time to reflect upon my first ten weeks at my new job as office manager. I still work in the transportation industry, but it’s not the airline industry I am accustomed to.
First Things First
I am the opposite of my predecessor. Fred had been at the company forty years and held my job for five years. He was an institution and everyone’s smoking buddy. We had eight days together and then he was gone.
They sent me out to the Midwest for a one day orientation at national headquarters. An administrator from the regional headquarters came out for four days after that to try to undo the bad habits Fred had taught me. And then…I was alone.
Before beginning the actual work, I had a load of scrubbing and sorting to do. I inherited an administrative haz mat zone. Fred left drawers of stale tobacco from crushed cigarettes, three nail clippers and yellowed band-aids that had lost their stick a few decades prior. No notes and no filing system. The wooden desk had dark, gummy, ancient soup and coffee stains.
Disorientation is the New Normal
The first month was a stream of long days of staring at the screen, unsure of where to even start. Eventually though I started picking out the melody from the fog of white noise.
I knew nothing about anyone and they knew nothing about me. The vocabulary, the organizational charts and histories glided over me. I sat in meetings and the foreign words washed through me.
I am female number three in the building. Switching from the mostly female world of flight attendant management to a mostly male world is not as dramatic as you would think. There was more crying and hugging before, but the level of drama is the same. Folks are folks. The best thing is that I get my “own” bathroom because I’m the sole woman on the floor.
The concerns never change, no matter how old we get. Who will be the friend I can confide in? Who will I eat lunch with? Who is not to be trusted? These were vexing questions in first grade and they still are. The difference is that I’m a grown woman with thirty-four years of experience navigating life. I am confident, focused and have my priorities in order. I got this.
Pressure Makes Diamonds…and Causes Heart Attacks
There is one thing that I have never encountered, and that is knowing there were plenty of internal candidates vying for this position. I was the outsider. I wasn’t starting with a whole class of fellow newbies like I did in airline crew scheduling. Every time I had a question, there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “If they’d gone with someone already in the company, they’d know the answer. Everyone thinks you got this for being a minority and a female. They always think this. You have so much to prove. You are being scrutinized and judged.”
Not only was I trying to cram as much new knowledge in my brain as fast as I possibly could, there was a hefty helping of pressure, guilt and shame as well. If I had a hard day, which were most days in the beginning, I tried to keep it inside as much as possible. I couldn’t give anyone a hint that there might be a chink in my thick armor. I was making myself miserable.
In the end, I can’t control what people think or say about me. Why worry about it? I do my best, it’s all I can do. I have to separate the desire to perform well from how I judge my self. Just because I misdirect mail does not mean I’m a failure. It means I am new. Regardless of whether I receive patience and understanding from co-workers, I need to bestow it upon myself. Overall, my co-workers have been helpful but I am not Fred. Most people struggle with the loss of the familiar.
Maybe I don’t fully comprehend something today, but I might tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I want to get the most important things down first. Why live life any different?
My checklist: Breathe deep. Keep perspective. Be present in the moment, and then let it go.
Balance is the thing I need to seek, not perfection.