One of the Challenges of a New Job
Starting a new job is never easy; even more so when it is the first job in a line of very many in the future. Indeed, one’s first job ever generally creates a perception of “work” that will quite possibly stay with one for a long time. The challenges of being the newbie seem to range from the sublime to the ridiculous without even meaning to. The first of these, and ranging high up on the list of most frustrating, has to do with the fact that one is still treated as a child whilst having the apparent intellect of a grown up.
I use the word “apparent” with serious intent. There is no reason why someone who has a master’s degree (or any degree for that matter, whether undergrad or postgrad makes no difference) should be considered anything but intelligent. However, with limited work experience and a lack of etiquette in the world of business, the intelligence that comes with a master’s degree simply seems vague and inapplicable in most situations. Therefore there is very valid reason for a more-settled colleague to have low regard for new employees who do not know the ins-and-outs of business in general, never-mind the job at the specific company itself.
Thus the newbie, fresh from University and a ball of hope and excitement stepping into the world, has to face the scorn and derision of those who have long-last had their shiny eyes dulled by the reality of work-work-work. And so the question is raised: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does the new employee go through a tough time because starting out from the beginning is just tough, or does the new employee go through a tough time because of the reaction of those around him/her because they too went through a difficult period of adjustment? It is the idea of a life-span that loops itself around. The new employee has a difficult orientation period, thereafter becomes accustomed to the job, welcomes in a new employee who is then given grief in the form of a difficult orientation period. When and where does it end?
The argument can be raised along these lines that orientation should be tough; that the mettle of the man should be tried and tested so that the breaking point can be found. In so doing, the business finds out the value of the person behind the cv, and can thereafter determine the best way to handle the new placement. The issue I have with this, however, lies in the fact that the person themselves – as new to the world of work as to the organisation itself – does not even know his/her boundaries. If a person has no idea of his/her breaking point, then who is to say that it is the best approach to “break in” a new employee? Surely there needs to be a differentiation between orientation procedures for new employees based on the extent to which they have experience? And then this should further be differentiated depending on the different personality types – those who respond well to pressure and punishment in comparison to those who prefer reassurance and rewards.
The challenge of being new to business is that one not only has to orient oneself to “the way that things are done around here” (being the organisation’s corporate culture) but also “the way that things are done in general” (being the overarching realm of business). I suppose there is a drastic difference between individuals studying different professions. When it comes to accounting, the programme is so well integrated into its specialised practice genre that it is very difficult to consider someone graduating and not being able to do the very thing that he/she studied. The same can be said for a doctor, however even these individuals go through a phase where they need to transition from one side of the coin to the next – from marks as performance to actual practice as an indication of success. The fear of many a student studying one of those degrees that fall outside of the well-conceptualised and controlled environment of specialised professions is that – sure, on paper – they are good… but what about for real? Does the mark, indicating a distinction, really predict positive performance once in the real world?
And an orientation process that only succeeds in scaring a new employee does little to calm this small voice in the back of his/her head. The voice that says “you are not worthy”, the voice that says “you know nothing”, the voice that says, “you can’t do this”. Therefore, another challenge for a new employee is to have faith in one’s abilities without knowing what those abilities really are. And then one wonders why one should ask another human being to have faith too?
The only answer I can come up with is potential. While you may not be competent now, there is potential. That GPA of 4.0 indicates potential. No, not competence. Indeed, there is very high indication that, upon leaving University, one is highly incompetent. Basically, a person is smart, but they are business stupid.
This is the challenge that I face at the moment. I am smart. I often underestimate the extent to which my studies have placed my understanding of the world around me on a higher level than some. But I am hopelessly and completely business stupid.
Therefore it is necessary to have a shock during orientation. Businesses cannot afford (pun intended) to have a person on board who doesn’t know how stuff is done in general, nevermind within the company itself. The advantage, therefore, for the company is that they get the first opportunity – the first brush stroke on a bare canvas – to create the perception of that newbie’s entire working life. So yes, there is a definite gap in the market for orientation processes that make people feel welcome and secure in their new jobs. However, there is an even bigger gap in regards to creating a programme that will properly initiate a person’s general intelligence into the world of business intelligence. Do that right, and you end up with first class employees from the get-go. Do that, and the rest of the challenges faced by newbies almost seem like insignificant rain clouds that stand no chance of ever raining on one’s parade.