This past week I was standing on the platform of York Mills station when this overwhelming feeling washed over me. I realized that the last time I had been on that platform I had just finished sobbing in the bathroom. I spent the morning filled with anxiety and an overwhelming sense of unhappiness at the job I had started two days prior. Before showing up to work on that first day I had been filled with excitement and optimism about a new journey that might lead to bigger things. By the end of the first day I had been less convinced but determined to try again. But after the second day I was dreading even stepping foot inside the building once more.
I didn’t make it through half of the third day before I decided I was going to resign.
But on this past Tuesday morning I stood on that platform, my music drowning out the sound of late morning commuters. There was a smile on my face that could’ve stretched the length of the station, and all I was doing was running an errand for work.
My journey into the working world has been a messy one. Things were not everything I expected it to be. After months of applying to jobs and having few offers I just wanted to make what came up fit. Unfortunately, I was trying to fit square pegs into a circular hole.
The first job you get might not be the right fit for you, and whether you leave after a day or two or have to stick it out for a few months, know that is it okay to change your mind. For me, that lesson was a hard one. At the time I felt like a failure but now looking back on it all I know what I did wasn’t failing at all. I knew it wasn’t the right fit, I knew I was not in an environment where I could thrive, and so I didn’t stay. I realize I am privileged to have had that luxury and that under other circumstances I might’ve had to stick it out but I still believe the lesson remains; you can change your mind about what you’re doing and that’s okay. It does not mean you failed.
So what I wanted to do with this post is really reflect on what I had deemed as massive failures and come to look at it as more of a learning experience. I think by getting my toes wet in different positions I was able to find out more about myself as an employee, especially by figuring out what I wanted out of work and what I didn’t want. So lets start with that…
Job #1 – The Health Company
I have always been comfortable in administrative work so even though I didn’t fully understand this company in the beginning I had been confident in my ability to be the go to person for any big or small random tasks that come up in any business. I interviewed very well and the team members I spoke with helped excite me about the position. Unfortunately, within an hour on the first day I began to feel let down.
The position was a new combination of roles that others had taken on but didn’t have time for. They tried to squash these altogether into a new part-time position. It was one of the first things that was annoying about this role; it was five days a week but only five hours a day. I would’ve much preferred three full work days to get my work done rather than coming back every day. But that wasn’t the main problem. The real issue was that they didn’t have a real plan for the transfer of work.
The girl who had taken on many of the tasks was too busy with her own work to train me and so that resulted in her doing most of the things that should have been being transferred to me. A bulk of the proposed tasks had previously been done by someone who was on maternity leave and since she’d already left there was no one to train me on those either. The financial employees had some ideas on how I could help but they also didn’t have the time to hand anything over. So I sat there with nothing to do because they didn’t even have a computer set up for me yet. I went home telling myself over and over again that the next day would be better.
I do believe they needed someone to take on these responsibilities but they hadn’t taken the time to figure out what that looked like. There was no clear direction and there was a lack of support from the team. This was especially frustrating from a company that seemed like a very innovative and youthful environment where camaraderie was encouraged. Unfortunately that didn’t extend to the new girl.
Frustrated that I had done nothing but watch a powerpoint and search for new office furniture in my three first days I decided this wasn’t a good fit.
Job #2 – The Vacationers Hostel
So it was back to the soul sucking process of job hunting but I luckily managed to get an interview just a few weeks later as a hostel downtown. I thought the interview went okay but I was still surprised when I got the offer. I went in the first day nervous but excited. I knew the job would challenge me to be more social but I was prepared to handle that challenge. At least that is what I had told myself.
I ran tons of events the previous summer while working at Canada’s Wonderland. I assisted clients and guests from all over and never had any problems. But when asked to talk to complete strangers with no real purpose things fell apart really quickly. I spent more time wandering around the stairwells of the hostel than I did actually talking to the guests. I felt panicked and uneasy. I checked my phone over and over again, just dying to go home and get away from all of this.
My direction from my supervisor on that first day was to just ‘mingle’ which was not what I was expecting from the job. I thought I would be planning outings and big events but instead I was supposed to just engage with people to see if I could help them figure out where to go that day. I was there to promote already existing events and to try and get people to go down to the hostel’s bar that evening. Wanting to make this work, I sucked in a deep breath, tried to push down my fears, and then the first person I tried to talk to waved me off, got up, and left. After this happened a second time I kind of gave up on trying and spent the rest of my shift just sitting in the lobby. The only time a guest actually talked to me was when she asked me to watch her bag while she went to flip her laundry.
Once again I was frustrated by the lack of training, directive, and support from my team. I was more or less thrown to the wolves with no idea of what I was supposed to do or how I was meant to approach people. I feel like if I had had someone with me to support me through the process it could have went smoother. I hardly had any more information about the hostels events than what was on the giant chalkboard in the lobby.
One thing my supervisor did tell me was his plan for me that week. All but one of the days I was scheduled for were going to just be mingle days. Knowing well that it wasn’t something I was comfortable with and likely would not become comfortable with, I decided to resign.
Honourable Mention – The Granting Organization
Between the hostel and my current job I had a part-time administrative position that I was actually sad to leave. While the work was not entirely challenging, my team was extremely supportive and reliable. I was trained on each meticulous task and I was eventually given extraneous duties that were fun and interesting. It was certainly not the kind of work I wanted to do forever but it was a great environment and I felt quite guilty handing in my resignation. The small office was something that really illuminated the fact that while I am an independent worker, I do enjoy having a team around me that I am able to actually go to for support.
That’s exactly what I found at the job I’m in now.
Job #3 – The Non-profit
It would take me seven more months to find another full time position after the hostel. In the meantime in addition to working part-time at the granting organization I started giving ghost tours, I joined the gala committee for a local shelter, and I began volunteering as a crisis counsellor. Eventually all this hard work would pay off and I ended up getting an offer for the position I am in now. During the first week at this job those familiar new experience anxieties bubbled up and there was one night I found myself so anxious that I fell apart. But with encouraging words from my mother and a friend I went back the next day only to find I had been worrying about nothing. What helped me stay was the fact that I wasn’t let down by an unsupportive team or a lack of direction. In fact, I found the opposite.
While my position is very much based in doing random tasks as they come up, I was given some heads up about what the tasks would be. My awesome predecessor created a whole manual which has information on every little thing she was ever asked to do. Things have already come up that aren’t in the manual but I’ve always received the training and support on what to do when something new arises. I’m not left floundering with no assistance, it’s there if I need it.
And that’s the big difference; I feel like my team wants me to succeed. They’re not just throwing me into the deep end with no idea what to do. I’m over a month into the position and I’ve had multiple staff members check in on me just to make sure I’m happy with the work. I’m delighted to say that I really, really am.
In addition to this I’ve been trusted with tasks that challenge and excite me. New opportunities have opened up just from me saying that I’m interested in them. I’m finding work all over and while this makes my days busy and sometimes overwhelming (driving the company car is not my idea of fun) it is extremely fulfilling. I not only love the work I do but I actually feel like I’m contributing in a positive way.
So that was my long and twisted road into full time work after post-secondary. It took a lot of ups and downs to get where I’m at now so I wanted to share that journey with all of you, especially if you’re soon to leave school and jump into the working world. Some people will find their place right away, but many of us do not. Don’t forget that paid work isn’t the only way to fulfill yourself (as I’ve said in posts before) but that even if you don’t get the job you thought you would (read: Police Officer) you might find something even better. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.