Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Work - Old versus the New

Have you ever had one of those days when you start to doubt yourself and then everything starts to snowball after it? Everything is constantly changing, tilting, whirling, and once you think you have gotten a handle on something, someone throws you a curve ball and you lose your grip. I find I tend to live my life like that, one day puttering along in neutral before finding myself suddenly in 5th gear and careening into the chicane.

The problem is, once I think that I have become comfortable in my routine, quietly confident, assured, it is only a matter of time before the cracks start to show and then it will all come tumbling down around my ears. It takes me a while before I start to become familiar with a job, and longer before I start to be able to feel like other people have faith in my ability.

In my last position, I was there for two and a half years. By the end of it, I felt comfortable. I had moved up one full level within a year and was on the cusp of a second before I left. True, it had taken a lot of encouragement and training before I found myself capable of taking the leadership role I had been given and attempting to excel at it, but I was there. I stumbled more times than I can count, but my colleagues and superiors picked me back up again and pushed me further along the path. The constant expectation of failing followed me throughout the first six months of my promotion, so apparent was it, that I was asked why I always seemed to view things through fog-tinted glasses.

Eventually the cloud lifted from my outlook and I started to embrace my role. I still fretted over little things, taking on too much, refusing to delegate, but in the end I think these things helped develop my strengths in the workplace and perhaps started to shrink my weaknesses. By the end of my 2nd year, I had settled into an easy rhythm. I knew my stuff. Technical problems? I could usually solve them. Order issues? Give it to me. Customer aggravation? Well…I didn’t really have a choice there. Links removed from a watch? Give me 20 minutes. Repair bookings? Getting there. Product knowledge? Jet 1 qualified baby.

All these little things added up to being one big thing. Ability. Knowledge. Confidence. Ok, 3 big things. I was left in charge of a 2.5 million pound store most nights. I handled the revenue, the high-value stock, and the figures at the close, the cleaning and the alarm. From part-time to full-time, I was suddenly completely involved. I left my shift 2 hours after I was supposed to because I couldn’t let go of whatever I was caught up with and had to be told to leave. I left my shift telling the manager what needed to be done that night. (Which isn’t big or clever, don’t do it!) I refused to leave after a 13-hour shift without completing the window stock, and making him do it with me. I started at 6 and finished at 4. I guess involved might be an understatement.

But on the whole I was happy. Sure, I may have complained every other minute about how much I hated my job, but isn’t that part of the drill? And I did, to a certain extent. I hated the hours, the wages, the abuse from the general public, and the tension when things were rough. But I loved the knowledge, the product, my colleagues, the buzz and the fact that finally I had hit the ground running.

Christmas is always a nightmare; yet somehow I managed to survive three of them, two as a member of management, go-to-gal for all and sundry, first stop for chaos. I recall complaining bitterly about it, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back I see how much I actually loved it and how much I miss it now. The laughs, the stress, the highs and the lows. Sure, I still struggled with a few things, but my superiors were always willing to help me take that next step, making sure I didn’t slide back a few on the way. If I needed help, I learnt to ask, and they always answered.

I think I miss the comfort of knowing my job. I hate being the new girl, and yet here I am again. A new company, a new boss, a whole new set of duties lay out before me, waiting to be memorized and become automatic. Sadly I am only 3 months in, and starting cold in this position is a lot harder than being given my window keys on the second day and being told to sell. My lowly position can affect even the highest person with a simple mistake, something I have already achieved, and I strive not to accomplish again.

The problem is, once you make one mistake big enough to be noticed, then others start coming to light and before you know it you are rolling down the hill in that snowball. The only way to stop it is to either suddenly gain a miraculous grasp on your tasks or get your head down and show them that you really are trying. This is something I think I will struggle with. In less than a month I will lose the only other equal I have in the office, with a year’s worth of knowledge and information stored away in his brain. Then it will just be me.

Crash and burn or impress? I guess we’ll see.

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