Friday, March 23, 2012

My first week at work

Phew. What a week.

It's been very up and down I must say, but on the whole, ok. I accomplised things easily, got a lot done, and at no point have I felt obliged to worry about things that are not my responsibility. Ok, I lie about the last point - it's a very complex organisation that everyone seems to think is a highly challenging and stressful environment and keep giving my lots of extraneous information that has no relation to my job. But for me, my new workplace doesn't hold a candle to the nuances of academia. So far at least (I think they are breaking me in gently...).

Perhaps the wierdest part of the whole experience has been that I don't know what my professional identity is any more. Sure, I know what my job is, and that's all fine. But when I had to fill out a form outside of work that wanted my 'occupation', I had no idea what to put. So I left it blank.

Then there is the whole business of staff development. Not that anyone has broached that topic with me yet, but I was idly wondering what the hell I want the next step to be. Week 1 and I am all over my job already. Perfectly straightforward. I am just worried that it is actually too easy for me. I know the really hard parts are yet to come, but I don't think they will be as complex as everyone is making them out to be. I think it's just what they perceive to be the hard parts of the job are actually where all those years in academia will have given me far more patience and resilience for certain aspects of the job than my colleagues who can do amazing things in other areas.

And you know what else? all those surveys and studies of gender at work and women's careers etc etc etc etc etc etc ad nasuem (although I do find them interesting) are TRUE! (I don't know why the data didn't sink in, I guess I felt I was lucky that my workplaces had never been like that). I had no idea just how true until this week. Same goes for race and ethnicity. I can't remember the last time I saw so many white people in one place! Scary. Let this be a note to myself to actually be myself at interviews instead of the conservative persona that you are advised to be in advice books and columns.

Flexible hours is a myth too. Everyone is in there at sparrow's fart. Except me. I saunter in and everyone is frantically typing away. I do my requisite hours of course, but it still seems like everyone else is doing more than that. Oh, and they weren't happy with me doing any volunteer work either, even though I explained how I would still do my requisite hours and they don't actually have any rules about core hourse. Another myth dispelled there.

Speaking of typing, what's with emailing a meeting request when the person concerned is sitting next to you in an open plan office? Is this some special office thing? Is there a no speaking rule? I am used to far more informality about these things. If you want to meet someone, then you go and find them or ring them up. If they are right next to you then you ask them if they have a minute at a mutually conveninent time. I am not used to this frantic emailing.

So anyway, how did I get to this point in my life? I attended seminars, I networked, I read blogs (and reflected on feedback from mine), I thought about my values in life, I volunteered and I went to the library. And here is what I did:
1. I wrote a list of my skill set and thought about what I really liked best.
2. I reflected on whether a new role in the same industry or a similar role in a different industry was what I wanted to do.
3. I started to improve my skill set (writing resumes and interview practice)
4. I started volunteering in the sector that I was most interested in.
5. I cranked out those applications.

And what did these exercises show?
1. That my values were not aligned with being in academia
2. That I have an excellent skill set around education/research
3. That I could improve my resume and interview techniques
4. That I needed my volunteering activities to reflect my values
5. That it is hard work getting a new job

And how did I get a job?
1. My skill set, my values, my non-academic background and my committment to volunteering were what got me across the line. Once I honed down how I was transitioning from one role in one sector, to a similar role in another sector, the interview requests started stacking up. I did three in two weeks before accepting my job and have been offered three this week after starting.

As James from Sell Out Your Soul frequently writes, wishing and applying for jobs you think you can do are not going to get you a job. You need to have a plan of action.


  1. Yep, agreed. Well, more accurately - applying for jobs you think you can get will probably get you a job, but it probably won't be a job you want to do long-term. Kind of like mine now. So I'm trying to get what I can from this job while making a plan of action.

    I will say, your description of your office doesn't match any office I've ever worked in. We all arrive on time, but no one here is working away 24/7 with no break - and we are given a lot of flexibility with our schedules (come in late? Just make up the time later that week. Need a day off? Others will cover for you). We're not overly diverse, but that's more a reflection of the town we live in. And we certainly talk to each other a lot!

    Anyway, just two cents that this doesn't sound like where I work. All offices aren't the same. But mine is a small office (~10 people total), so maybe that's the difference?

  2. I'm curious--how many applications would you say you "cranked out"? I'm sure numbers vary, and it's to some degree a matter of luck, but I was interested in getting a general number.

    And another curiosity question--were they all sent out while you were unemployed and able to start ASAP? I think having a start date sometime in the slightly distant future could be harming me when being considered for jobs that are available/being advertised right now.

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