Being New Ain’t So Bad

Not sure you understand the ropes of your new job? Feel like you’re in over your head? That’s okay. Actually, that’s good. Possibly even great. Don’t believe me? Check out what Sallie Crawcheck has to say over on LinkedIn. Yes, she’s talking about a much higher-up position than a first job out of college, and yes, there’s a lot of jargon tossed around, too. But the point remains: being an inexperienced newb may not be a bad thing. In fact, your fresh eyes might see things that everyone else missed or were lulled into an unresponsive state of consciousness.

Fresh IdeasTake my first job, for example. I oversaw a group of online educators for an online university. I had to make sure they got their grading done by the promised time, that they responded to all discussion posts they needed to, and that they’re feedback was helpful and encouraging. The process for doing all of these checks was pretty loose when I started. The guidelines were essentially, “get it done, and deal with the issues as they arise.” You opened tabs, kept notes on a Word Doc maybe, did things however you wanted, really, because that was how it had always been done. Everyone had been doing it for so long that they considered being a little scattered to be a necessary evil. But I don’t work well like that. I need some structure or I lose track of everything. So I built a sortable spreadsheet. I used it to keep track of where everyone was in their classes, made notes, highlighted instructors I needed to email, etc.

Soon enough we hired some new team members and my boss asked me to present on my spreadsheet during a special training session. By the time I left, many of my coworkers used a variation on my spreadsheet, and I’m sure some made innovations of their own that only improved its effectiveness. This was what I brought to the table as a new employee. The people in the position before me were satisfied with the process being free-form. I was not. But I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t wallow in the “Man, I’ll never be as good as these guys working like this” feeling. Instead, I let my understanding of the job guide me towards introducing that bit of structure I needed in order to do a good job. And it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who benefited from it either.

When you do something for a while, it becomes automatic. This is good and bad. The good: you can work quickly without needing to stop and think much about what comes next. The bad: when you don’t think about what’s next, you don’t analyze your process, and when you don’t analyze your process, you miss opportunities for innovation that might save you and your team time or raise productivity. That’s where being the newb comes in handy. To the new employee, there’s little  solace in “this is how it’s always been done.” The standard operating procedures might seem clunky or awkward. Some of that could be the learning curve but usually not all of it. It is worth taking the time to review your situation and consider what changes can be made to improve your performance which, in turn, might lead to everyone’s benefit..

No, not as intense as what Sallie brought to her position because I was way lower on the food chain and also my issue was the lack of structure not, as she dealt with, a structure that could be improved. But still, I was effective in bringing on change. So don’t be afraid of being new. Embrace it.

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