Give Me a Minute, I’m New

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claire colvin -give me a minute, i’m new-3

It’s hard work being the new kid. Almost exactly one month ago I started a new job in an industry I have never worked in before. Everything is different. In my previous jobs I was always in front of a computer, usually working alone. Now I deal with people all day.

I’ve gone from a completely digital environment to an entirely practical one—it’s all hands on. After a decade working on Macbooks I’m using a PC and it feels like up is down and down is up. My fingers, usually nimble on a keyboard, feel clumsy. I’m slow as I search for menus that are no longer there and try to use shortcuts that do not apply. It’s harder than I expected to stare at the screen wondering where to go next.  

This is uncharted territory.

The last job I had, I was with the company for three years. The one before that, I was there 14 years. There’s depth of institutional knowledge that comes with being in one organization for more than a decade and I miss it.

I miss knowing who everyone is and how the departments fit together. I miss understanding the ins and out of every system. I miss speaking the organizational language and being able to navigate the subtleties of the politics. There’s a lot of comfort in knowing the system. You can move quickly when you’re running down familiar roads. But when you’re new, everything takes more time.

It’s been an adjustment learning names, and systems, and figuring out why two terms that sounded similar to me actually refer to two very different things. I had forgotten just how much there is to learn at the beginning. Thank goodness for a kind team and patient teachers.

No one has ever made me feel like I wasn’t measuring up, but I’ve surprised myself with how little patience I have for my own learning journey. The other day a coworker asked why I had stayed late and I lamented that I was getting things done so slowly and I wanted to catch up. He looked at me at me with confusion.

“You’re new,” he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “We don’t expect you to be up to speed yet. Go home.”

As he spoke, I realized I did expect to be up to speed. I thought there would be a week or so of learning and then I’d be up and running just like before.

How ridiculous.

If I were learning a new language or a new skill, if I was teaching someone else the same things I was learning, I would not expect mastery at this point. Somehow I expected it of myself. Where on earth did that come from?

The truth is this expectation of perfection comes from a sore and wounded place. This new job—this good, good job—has come at the end of three challenging years of having no idea where I was going career-wise. I thought I had it figured out a couple of years ago. I tried an industry that was adjacent to what I’d done before, but I had to admit that I didn’t love it. It was good work, interesting work, and I learned a lot. I thought I would love working from home; instead I found it isolating and lonely. I battle with depression and on my dark days, working alone was not emotionally healthy at all.

I felt adrift. I had skills, experience, references, education and connections but I had no idea what the next step was or how to find it. I worried that I missed the obvious turn. I feared that I wasn’t working hard enough, or I wasn’t paying attention. I started to wonder if I was simply a failure and the weight of that shame was almost unbearable.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that such an incorrect view of myself leads to an impossible vision for how this new venture would go. I was the only one who expected me to be perfect out of the gate. Of course there was going to be a learning curve. Of course it was going to be an adjustment.

It’s only pride that pushes me to strive instead of being satisfied with working at a good pace. Pride rarely leads to progress. I’m learning to take a kinder and more realistic view of this stage of the journey. I have never enjoyed uncertainty. But I’m starting to see that this situation isn’t uncertain, it’s unfamiliar, and that’s not the same thing.

One month into this new venture I am trying to extend grace to myself. I cannot wait to see all the places this new role will take me but first I need to take a breath and let myself both feel and let go of all of the fear and worry. I have to pry my fingers off of the fear of not having it all figured out and just let this be new and a little awkward for a while.

SheLovelys, how do you deal with new situations? Do you find it hard or easy to patient with yourself?

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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