Thanks for your understanding that I didn't get a post up this Tuesday. I wasn't expecting my new job to cause such a time crunch for me! Part of it is just the regular adjustment to not having all the time in the world during the day every day, but part of it is that I started in literally the busiest time of the year for the office and was trying to oversee logistics for RA training while simultaneously answering ALL THE QUESTIONS from incoming students and their parents (for all of which I had to find out the answers myself) so I've been kind of exhausted.
But now training is over and the new students are moved in, things have settled down into a steady-busy pace rather than a my-head-is-going-to-explode pace. I thought I should take the opportunity to share my first impressions of the job, for later reference, particularly because there are so many good things about it that I'm afraid I will end up taking for granted down the road.
Here are the upsides and downsides to my new job:
I can walk to work.
The office where I work is a five-minute walk from our hall. I knew that I would like not having a commute, but I didn't realize quite how many reasons there would be for loving this. Here are some of them:
- I have more time in the morning. I can wake up at the same time I had to catch the bus last fall and still get in a run before I get ready for work. I don't have to take time to pack a lunch, nor do I have to pack snacks because the stretches between breakfast, lunch, and dinner are no longer more than 5 hours.
- I have more time in the evening because I get home by 4:40pm instead of 6:30pm, so I can get things done and still be ready for bed before 10pm. Consequently, getting a solid eight hours of sleep has become infinitely easier.
- I can go home for lunch. Unlike previous jobs, where my lunch was subjected to surrounding conversations or could be interrupted by coworkers, I can go home, lock the door, and eat in silence. Since my job requires regularly interacting with people, this midday break is heaven for my introverted soul.
- I can take a nap on my lunch break in my own bed. I haven't done this yet, but I remember occasions at previous jobs when I felt exhausted but even on my lunch break there wasn't a good way to take a quick nap. When I realized I now have this opportunity, I was so excited.
- Forgot something? No problem. If I forgot something at home, I can grab it on my lunch break. If I forgot something in the office, I can get back into the building at any time with my keycard and get what I left. This is a big change from "Oh crap, I left my dress shoes at work that I was going to wear this weekend and it's too much of a hassle to go get them."
I love helping people.
I remembered liking the customer service aspects of my work in Chicago, but I'd forgotten how genuinely I enjoyed it until starting this job. I've had to learn a ton of stuff this past week, and I'm still having to put people on hold to ask my coworkers questions, but I get excited when I can answer someone's question on my own. My boss was afraid I'd get frustrated having to answer the same questions ("How big are the beds?" "When do meal plans start?") over and over, but it's the opposite -- I feel great when I am 100% confident that I'm giving someone the right information that they didn't know a moment ago. And even though there are the occasional people who are angry or upset, it's gratifying to hear the surprise and gratitude in most people's voices when they realize that all their questions were answered quickly and cheerfully, and I feel appreciated every time someone says, "You've been very helpful."
I have two student workers.
There are two students who have worked in the office for several years now and who are directly supervised by me. From my interactions with them this past week, they are both incredibly nice and helpful, and being able to delegate things to them has been amazing when I feel like I'm losing my mind. I feel bad giving them some of the most tedious work to do, but they both seem genuinely eager to do whatever they can to help the office run more smoothly. I also like being in a kind of mentoring position to help prepare each of them for work after college.
My coworkers are amazing.
I kind of already knew this going in -- one of the reasons I applied for the job -- but the people I work with are so great. The director and associate directors were in and out this past week, so my one coworker got to answer about 95% of the questions I had, which at first was every single phone call that came in. She is incredibly calm and patient and never once looked irritated at having her work interrupted. Everyone has been willing to answer questions when they're around, and if I manage to tell someone the wrong information they never act like it's a big deal, and just tell me the correct information so I can pass it on.
Mike is a resource for me.
Because Mike works for the same office (in a different way), he is able to be a backup resource for me. We've tried to draw clear boundaries around times when we talk work stuff (during my work hours, since his job is 24/7), but if I need to, I can come home at night and say, "OK, explain this whole process to me" or "What advice do you have about this?" He knows me well enough that he knows how to explain things in a way that makes the most sense to me and he knows which things cause me the most anxiety. Not having to give him a lot of backstory is also really nice.
I get a small meal plan.
Because our office manages the meal plans, the staff each get a partial meal plan that's enough to cover lunch each day. Since I live on campus and like to go home for lunch (see above), I use mine for dinner. This means that Mike and I could make the small but important switch from most dinners in the dining hall to almost all meals in the dining hall, and I no longer have to carefully watch our balance and plan occasional meals at home to ensure we make it to the end of the semester with two people on his one-person meal plan. Also, I had never really understood that feeling that people (usually women) describe when they've been a stay-at-home spouse or parent for a long time and then have their own money they earned themselves for the first time, but the first time I bought myself my own dinner with my own ID I was ridiculously excited. Logistically, this is a big help because it means that if Mike is off campus for some reason, I no longer have to arrange to get his ID ahead of time to be able to buy myself dinner. And I get just enough money that I should be able to have lunch with him one day a week as well.
Staying "just a few minutes" longer is possible -- and tempting.
This is a blessing and a curse. I've always had a train or bus to catch, which meant I had to book it out of there right at the end of the day. Now if I need to, I can stay and finish up what I'm doing at the end of the day because there's no rush to leave immediately. I definitely don't want to make a habit out of this; I need to protect my schedule, particularly since living on campus means I could always be in "work mode" if I let myself.
The boundaries can get blurred.
Keeping work within my scheduled hours isn't the only difficulty with my unusual life/work blend. There's also the relationships to balance. Mike and I speak and act differently when handling work transactions during the day than we do at home, but not everyone wants to draw such a clear distinction between Mike-as-husband and Mike-as-coworker, thinking it's funny or cute that we work together and are married, and constantly referencing such. I am also good friends with several of the other hall directors, which is fun when they stop into the office and chat while picking things up, but which could cause problems if one of us screws something work-related up. The hall directors already deal with this somewhat among themselves, but their work relationships are somewhat more cooperational, while their work relationships with me are more transactional (they need me to order this, I need them to pick this up). And it's not yet clear when Mike and I can vent to each other and when doing so has the potential to jeopardize the other's working relationship with someone.
I'm lacking in some potentially important skills.
I'm able to do everything that was listed on the job description -- I'm organized and detail-oriented, and I interact with people well. But my supervisor, by his own admission, places a very high priority on first impressions and how things look (whether that be "fun" or "professional" depending on the particular vibe needed). I am very much not a visual thinker or visually creative, and I also panic when given vague directions, so being told "jazz this up" or "make this look cleaner" is gobbledygook to my brain. My challenge in this job, I can tell, is going to be figuring out how to ask for clarification (and ask again, and again if necessary) in a way that helps me understand what's going on in my boss's brain so I can translate that into actual work.
I'm one of three new people in the office.
Three out of the five of us in the office are new as of just a few months ago, including the director (my boss). In some ways, this is exciting because we can overhaul things that need to be overhauled. (I just cleaned out over 100 outdated posts from one of our websites yesterday.) But it's also a little terrifying because "we're learning as we go" seems to be the name of the game, and this means sometimes I can't give people answers to their questions because we don't know the answers yet. "We're in transition" is a nice catchall phrase for the moment, but I'm not someone who handles uncertainty well to begin with, and when other people are relying on me to help them it can be a little anxiety-inducing to not have a good handle on what's going on.
I have to carve out intentional time for my "commuting" activities.
As much as I love having more time on either end of my workday, there are certain things -- primarily reading -- that I did a lot of while commuting because I didn't have many other options for that time. Audiobooks during my morning runs help me keep up with my reading somewhat, but I can tell that making time to read in the evening when I could be chasing my to-do list and catching up on personal e-mails I neglected all day is going to be a challenge for me. However, once we get farther in the school year I think things will calm down at work and I should have more time during the day to take care of some personal things (like responding to e-mail), which I hope will cause me to take more time to read, knit, etc. in my spare time.
So that's how things are shaping up so far! I'm enjoying myself far more than I expected, but I know that things will change (for better or for worse) once the school year gets up and running and the type of work I have to do changes somewhat.
If you work, what positive aspects might you have started taking for granted about your job? What surprised you -- good or bad -- when you started that job?