Some new hires are what they call a “water walker”. I was more of a “water drowner”. As a new hire, four main symptoms plagued me during my first year… but I was lucky enough to get the coaching I needed to not only recover but also become a top performer and secure a promotion.
1. Symptom: I had NO life
As I pushed through that revolving door into corporate America, everything that was not work related went out the other way. As my project list got longer and longer, so did my hair (Chewbacca, anyone?). My gym routine was reduced to telling myself that running to catch the bus was a sort of cardio. Some keys on my computer keyboard actually stopped working a few weeks into the job, blocked by the many crumbs falling from my sandwich after daily lunches eaten at my desk. Work came before anything else, and I loved it! I was in a sadomasochistic relationship with work.
The truth? I was suffering from working so much but I was working on all the wrong things, while my big projects were lagging behind.
The cure: I realised I didn’t have to work on every single project that came my way. I talked to my manager to identify the two or three biggest projects that would make a significant difference to the business, so that I could focus on where it really counted.
2. Symptom: delivering my projects was taking me forever
Even after identifying my biggest projects, I had the feeling that I was climbing Mount Everest while my colleagues were taking a fast cable car to the top that only they knew how to access. Delivering my projects was taking me ages and my manager didn’t understand why. What I was missing was experience (knowing how to shortcut processes) and connections (favours deliver faster than long emails).
The cure: I asked for help from more experienced colleagues. I would go to them with my proposal and then ask them if there was a shorter and/or a better way to do it. Everybody, with no exception, loves to give advice and to talk about him- or herself. Leverage that fact, and you’ll soon become the fastest on the floor.
3. Symptom: I felt stupid
I was sitting in meetings where people were using obscure acronyms and referred to previous events or company standards that I of course had never heard of. I cleverly went through the vocabulary list given on day one – and found none of these terms explained. As if that wasn’t cruel enough, in what appeared to me as a sadistic reflex from my new colleagues, at the end of meetings I would be asked to summarise (something I hadn’t fully understood) while also delivering the next steps (which I had no idea how to do). Flashback to when I was a kid, left out of the kindergarten sand pit – just this time I had to clean up after my friends had been playing; with no tools.
The cure: Encouraged by Director (a holy woman), I started taking notes as fast as a 1950s secretary, which was a huge help when I had to summarise meetings. I also started pointing at written words with a quizzical face, asking for clarification. I was pretty shy at the time, but I had decided that feeling silly for asking would be better than working on something blindly and then discovering it was totally wrong.
4. Symptom: I was very emotional
The weight I was gaining due to Symptom 1 I lost in tears of despair – seriously, I couldn’t stop. I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know how to make it better; I felt I was giving my maximum, but somehow it wasn’t enough. Only one thing would keep me afloat in the sea of my own tears: I was 100% sure that I was good and that I could make it.
The cure: Two things: (1) I learned to chill out! We’ve all been there, we just need to get a grip on it all. (2) I identified the three biggest drivers of my frustration and defined a plan on how I would overcome those three factors. For this, I made sure to ask more experienced friends, as well as reading books and articles. Once I had a plan, I gave myself one month to implement it, to make sure I didn’t let it drag.
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