Meet Belinda: How to survive your first 30 days at a new job.

Hey there, I’m Belinda. I’m a determined and enterprising 20 something (if I do say so myself) who recently shifted jobs. This is a story of my first 30 days as a Trainee  Manager, hopefully it will help you survive your first 30 days, or make the next thirty more productive and meaningful.

Day 1 – Manage your Expectations

I hated who I had become at my last job. I turned into one of those people who only have negative things to say about work, the ‘I really hate my job’; ‘#TGIF’; ‘I hate mondays’ type of person. Every single day was an agonizing drag and towards the end I was just faking it. So when I got this offer, I genuinely expected that it would be the answer to all my problems. It’s my first day and I can’t help but realize that maybe it wasn’t all on my last organisation, some of it was me. I’m happy to be here but I can already tell that this place isn’t perfect, but I’m going to be positive and happy, I owe it to myself.

Day 2 to 6 – If you have nothing to do, manufacture work 

Unfortunately for me, my start date coincided with my boss’s family emergency, so I’ve pretty much been left to my own devices for one week. I realized quite early that there is no such thing as ‘free-time’ in the corporate world so I’ve gone around being as helpful and productive as possible and I’ve added it to my induction sheet. I’ve been doing odd job’s like helping the office orderly file, and I’ve actually learnt about the organisations filing system. On day 4 the  Receptionist was out sick, and guessed who volunteered to fill in for her, this girl! On day 5 I filled in forms, read documents, created reports on how I could improve certain things. Basically, I was able to justify and account for my week , and when my boss came back I was able to have a more intelligent and meaningful conversation with him about my roles.

Day 8 – Work past the fear

I miss my old workmates, I think they’re actually my friends at this point. I miss the ease and familiarity of everything there. I guess I’m also lonely and scared, I have no people here, I should probably work on that.

Day 10 to 12 – If the Company doesn’t do it, assign yourself a work buddy

To help myself get over my friendless anxiety, I have set out to make work friends. I’m actively approaching people, asking them about their lives and their stay at the organisation. I think I’ve made a friend! His been here for 2 years, his slightly older than me but we seem to share the same ideals of determination and being enterprising. I figure his been around long enough to know the organisations culture, but short enough a time to not be fully embedded in it. He should be able to help me avoid certain novice mistakes but not stifle my creativity by constantly saying “I’ve been here for over 10 years, that’s not how we do things!”

Day 14 – Make perceptual biases work in your favor

I once watched this Ted Talk about perceptual biases, and one of the examples the speaker gave was that being present at work (being early or leaving late) was often associated with hard work, so I figured it’s about time bias worked in my favor (being a young black woman and all).  I am one of the first people in the office and one of the last to leave. Today my self-assigned employee buddy was telling me that one of the directors was saying “the new girl is very hardworking.” For what it’s worth, I actually am because I do use those extra hours to learn about the buisness.

Day 15 – Prepare to learn some hard truths

Don’t ask me how but today I learnt that one of the other trainee managers gets a fuel allowance, and another get’s his rent paid by the company. I was tricked!!! I knew I shouldn’t have quit my old job.

Day 17 – Rise above extrinsic rewards (unless you can afford to quit)

After some soul searching and wine drinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that it currently doesn’t matter, I should probably work on my negotiation skills. I know how hard I work and how much value I can offer. Next time I get to talk money with my boss, I would have hit all my various deliverables and now, I even know what’s on the table so I can make specific realistic requests.

Day 19 – Your Boss will test your priorities

It was 12:28 on a cold Monday and all I was looking forward to was having a warm lunch. I then saw one of the very elusive directors carrying a heap of files headed towards my desk. It’s now 12:32 and I’ve given up all my dreams of warm lunch and buckled down to get the files processed.

It’s 14:05 and 3 minutes ago, after the director’s disbelief and checking that I actually entered all the files, I got my first ‘Good Job.’ I’m going to make some tea now, with like 10 spoonfuls of sugar, I’m utterly famished.

Day 20 – Stay out of the negativity 

When I was 11, I absolutely hated my primary school and I was convinced that I had to change schools. I also knew that my parents wouldn’t agree to take me to another school without the necessary evidence, thus I set out to find proof of better schools by asking pupils who had transferred, about their previous schools. I found the perfect school from a girl who was a year older than me, she sold me dreams of lower fees, free pencils and swing sets. Armed with this information, I plead my case to my mother, she let me talk and finally, she asked me one simple question “If it was such a good school, why did your friend come to your school?” I remembered this story when one of my new workmates was telling me how she hated her job and how amazing her previous place of work had been.

Day 22 – Expect other people to pawn off their work on you.

I had been asked to learn as much as I could in the first month, “soak in the business” said my boss. Thus, on my mission to do just that, I ended up getting quite a number of ‘extra and odd jobs.’

Day 24 – You will get the hang of things and find your niche

Today is the first day, I felt like I belonged. I didn’t notice it at first because I was so busy being a contributing and productive team member, but half way through a report I realized that at no point today, had I doubted myself, or wondered what was going on. I knew exactly what I needed to do and I did it.

Day 26 – Heavy Sleepers Need not Apply

It’s 02:34 and I am hyped up on 3 different types on caffeine. I can’t help but think of my interview, my then potential boss looked me in the eyes and said “Belinda my managers are on call 24/7, are you ready to commit to that?”, I naively and enthusiastically said yes! So it was a bit difficult to say no when he gave me a labor intensive task at 17:40 that was required at 08:00 AM. I know I could have negotiated myself into a better deadline, but like I said earlier ‘your boss will test your priorities’, I guess sleep is not one of mine.

Day 27 – Some days will be better than others

No good deed goes unpunished! I’m working on 2 hours of sleep, and my body is making me pay for it. I did meet my 08:00 deadline though. I can’t wait to go home and sleep!

Day 28- NO!

“Unfortunately Mr. Phiri, I cannot help you till Tuesday” I said for what seemed like the hundredth time, Mr Phiri looked at me murderously, and walked off muttering about inefficient inexperienced managers. I feel bad that I can’t help him but I’m becoming inefficient and ineffective because I’ve been taking on more that I can handle, even with my ‘first in last out’ policy. I’ve started to prioritize better and sometimes I just say no to things that are not high priority, and it seems to be working okay.

Day 30 – Working Hard and Smart Pay’s Off

One of the directors called me into his office to pick up reports I had dropped off, as I walked out, he casually told me that one of the managers I was training under had resigned and asked if I would like to take up the post, I said yes (thinking back I probably shouted it), and he said alright let’s chat later. I can’t help but think back to my first interview where I was told if I was selected, I would be a trainee manager for 1-2 years. I did it in a month!!!

I guess this means I have to start figuring out my new job, back to day 1.