Reflections on the First Week at the New Job


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I started my new job last week, and it was a whirlwind of meetings, faces and exhaustion. 

It was an unusual week in that all of the “players” were in the office for the week, with meetings which happen monthly or even quarterly crammed into this one week, my first in a new environment.  Couple that with waking up early every day and taking the long drive into this office, and you have a very long week indeed – my first such week in a very long time.

Yes, I was tired by the time the week ended, but it was a good tired.  I felt that I had actually accomplished something by the time the week was through, that I had actually earned my weekend for the first time in a long time.

Let’s take a stroll through my first week:

Monday

  • Man, it’s early.”  It wasn’t too hard to actually wake up so early, rising at a time unseen by me for many years now, and adrenaline pumped through my body for most of the day.  Of course some well-placed caffeine and an energy drink did help me make it through without any real danger to myself or others.
  • So many faces.”  Those who know me personally know that I am not the most social of creatures.  One of the worst things for me in being a member of society is actually having to deal with other members of society.  I just don’t want to meet new people and then see them every day.  Worse than the commute, the shaving every day and the actual work is the social aspect of the daily grind.
  • So many rules.”  I knew, coming in, that working for the government would see a lot more red tape, a lot more rules than I saw in the fairly laid-back environment of the corporate world.  I have survived a stint in the Army, but that was a long time ago.  And it’s been a LONG time since I started a new job – that first half day, sitting down to listen to all of HR’s rules and regulations just took the wind out of me. 
  • Sink or swim.”  It was a busy day.  Just as I finished up with HR I was told I would be leaving for a meeting in a matter of minutes.  I got a fairly decent introduction to the relationship with the vendor, all the gossip and big-picture view I could hope for, but was given absolutely no indication what the meeting was actually for.  When I arrived and found it was for me to do some QA testing – putting a system completely unknown to me through its paces to double-check a vendor with other priorities – I was given a workstation and told to “go to it”.  Thankfully I did alright, especially given the lack of lunch, and even found a bug hiding in the system.  But I was thankful to be allowed to leave as soon as this meet was done – a whole ten minutes earlier than my actual schedule, hungry, tired and totally unsure of my decision to start working with these people.

Tuesday

  • Man, it’s still early!”  I again had to imbibe an energy drink first thing in the morning, but the adrenaline was still flowing enough that I could limit myself to one for the day. 
  • Meetings galore!”  This was a week full of meetings, and no day was more busy than Tuesday.  Starting at 9:00am, the meetings went through until 4:00.  I was able to eke out a lunch hour, and otherwise maintain my insanity – even offering at least one good implementation suggestion in each and every meeting – but it was a very busy day, replete with information for me to process.  Most of that was relegated to the short term memory, but even determining which facts should stay and which could go was enough of a challenge to this new employee.
  • Where can I park?”  There is a parking garage right next to the office, though on Monday I picked the wrong garage and had to walk a block or two.  I found the right garage this time, and as I had been able to secure an hour for myself to eat, I even wandered through the garage looking for the office, hoping to get a monthly space, thus saving a little bread.  I even waited in line between cars waiting to exit so I could talk to the cashier in the booth.  I was given an address, separate from the garage, and knew that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my mission during that very lunch hour, and was thus forced to pay for another single day of parking.  Oy.
  • Late to bed.”  Even though it was another long day, I just wasn’t ready to sleep at an hour conducive to waking up early the next morning.  My kids had been so anxious for me to get home, and by the time they went to bed and I got to sit in my chair staring at the TV, it was bedtime for me too.  I stubbornly tried to watch some more TV before heading upstairs, but I would pay for it in the morning.  To paraphrase Mr. Franklin, “Late to bed, and late to rise, gives a man red, swollen, bloodshot eyes.”

Wednesday

  • It’s just way too early.”  So I was tired on Wednesday morning.  Really tired.  Too tired to be driving.  But I was determined to make a go of it with just some caffeine – no energy drink this morning.  I came close to giving up on that – there’s no point trying to control my intake of energy drinks if the consequence is a car crash – but was able to pull into the parking lot safely, if barely, awake.
  • Let’s get organized.”  There were again a lot of meetings.  A lot.  But I got in more than an hour before they started up, and there were a couple of other free hours in the day between said meetings.  So I took the opportunity to get organized.  Starting with the few paper files I had already accumulated, along with the few dozen emails already clogging up my inbox, I created my Outlook categories, color coding them with the folders for the key paper files I would be needing.  I got my calendar all squared away, and found myself starting off on the right foot in terms of being able to find things again in the future.  Go ahead, call me a nerd.  It’s not news to me.
  • Parking a no-go.”  The temperature was in the 90’s (well over 30 degrees for those of you in the metric parts of the world) but I still walked the few blocks in jacket and tie to the parking authority, which was upstairs in the police station.  Of course, there were no signs which said as such – even the street address was not printed on the front of the building, so I wasn’t positive I was in the right place.  I did wait at the counter, ringing the bell a couple of times, but thankfully I wasn’t dying out there, as nobody ever came to see what all the ringing was about.  The card the parking attendant had given me provided me with a suite number, so eventually I just gave up and headed towards the elevators.  I was lucky enough to have finally located the right office, but unaware that I would need either cash or a personal check (no plastic accepted at the parking authority) I was again thwarted in my attempt to make paying for parking both cost and time effective.  Argh!
  • Working Late.”  Although I did find myself with time in between meetings, I hadn’t realized the meetings would be running so late in the day.  And although I certainly wasn’t crucial to the meetings, it was my first week – I couldn’t just stare at the clock and leave the moment my hours were up for the day, now could I?  So even though it was only my third day, I already had to call my wife and say I would be home late from work.  At least it enabled me to look ahead, see that the following day had meetings scheduled even later, so I could juggle my hours for Thursday to leave myself a more appropriate schedule for the day.
  • Unmarked police car?”  It’s a long drive home on the highway, but the trip is facilitated by the fact that drivers average 75mph (about 125kph, for the non-American majority of the world), with speeds of 85mph barely noticed.  Actually, I have never seen a more faithful observation of the “drive right, pass left” rule than on this road, but it still surprised me to see so many cars getting out of my way.  It was on the trip home that I realized my gray Ford sedan might have given some people the wrong impression – especially as I watched the other drivers eye me closely, driving past them with dark shades and a button-down shirt.  Hey, whatever works, right?

Thursday

  • The late bird gets to eat too.”  Thanks to the marathon day experienced on Wednesday, along with the repeat promised for Thursday, I was able to come to work at a much more reasonable hour.  I was wide awake as I drove in, and had no trouble finding space in the parking lot.  I still had half an hour at my desk before meetings were due to start, and I was beginning to tackle some of the items in my queue.  It was a very civilized way to go to work.
  • Best laid plans of mice and men.”  Well as it turns out, the majority of meetings were shortened or cancelled outright.  My day freed up incredibly quickly, and even after organizing all my work passwords and URLs (things like the different production and test environments for each of the systems) I found myself with actual time on my hands.  I sat through the majority of the suite of mandatory HR training films – things like a harassment seminar, drug abuse awareness and “confidential data filing rules and regulations”.  Let me tell you – it had all the excitement of a school film strip without the fun of turning off the lights and getting to pass notes to your friends.  But it had to be done.
  • People are strange, when you’re a stranger.”  You know how in every workplace, every social environment, there are those people who always have a smile on their face?  Those happy, chipper folks whose smiles spread past their mouths to their ears, their eyes, their whole bodies?  Well, do you also notice how there’s also an equally dour person, scowling at you, with a stare that could wither Medusa?  Yeah.  There are some of those.
  • Hot town, summer in the city.”  I was finally prepared to deal with parking, which I did, but that did entail another lunchtime walk in 90+ degree weather.  Shortly after lunchtime another walk was required – this time to get my official ID card.  It’s really a shame that these photo IDs need to be taken on such a sweaty, disheveled day as this, but what can you do?  Besides, this sweaty mess is what I look like on most days for six months out of the year.
  • When the going gets tough …”  The only key meeting not to be cancelled promised to be a tough one – expressing some negatives to our vendor.  Sure, I didn’t run that meeting this time – in fact, my boss offered me the option of skipping it altogether – but it was one of THOSE meetings.  While the criticism and confrontation was handled amicably and professionally all around, this meeting was an interesting way to end the day, and end my first shortened week of working.

Week’s End

Before I accepted the job I arranged to have Friday off – my six year-old was graduating from Kindergarten, alongside some kids he’s known since he was two.  It’s nice to be able to have a day off during that first week – don’t force the adjustments too much, work into things a little slowly.

There was already a meeting I would be missing on that day, and it also turns out there is work needing to be done next Saturday which I won’t be able to perform, but it seems nobody has a serious problem with my missing this time.  There is still a lot to do – my queue for this week includes all sorts of things I would normally have been doing last week, such as HR forms, introductory meetings, and the like.

So as I enter week #2 at the new job, I find that I have a little more understanding of what is expected of me, whom I will be working with (and for), and how my days will proceed (at least in general terms) going forward.

I can’t say I love it yet – or even like it much – but I can say that it’s not nearly as bad as I had dreaded.  I think the negatives that I thought and felt throughout the week would have been present in almost any job I might have accepted – except for the commute and the new “industry”, the majority of challenges I faced would have been there anywhere.  And I know that with some more time, I will definitely get into the swing of things.

So, I continue to try to stay positive.  And to find the time to write to you all.  And to keep my head above water as best as I can.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Reflections on the First Week at the New Job”
  1. Hey Doug

    Congrats on the new job! What a horrible week to start weather-wise. Especially when you are running around trying to figure out parking.

    I had to laugh about the always happy and always grumpy people you find in all offices. I think I prefer the grumpy ones as I just can’t figure out how someone can be SO happy all the time. As long as there isn’t anyone who whistles Jingle Bells in July you should be ok.

    And congrats to the kid – I always worry that they will pass and be able to graduate from K 😉

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