I recently started a new job, and I’m very excited about it. Not only because I’m around new students, faculty, and staff, but because I’m the “new dude” at work. I forgot how exciting and awkward it is to be new. It is hard to go from knowing everyone and how to do everything, to barely knowing anyone and feeling like a dumb ass most of the day – ha! Feeling challenged is good though, it means you are learning. I read this great article on Lifehacker on being new, and I thought I’d add a few other tips I’ve learned the past few weeks at my new job.
Remember your strengths.
At my new gig I’m working with STEM students. At my old gig I worked with COM students. These two student populations are very different, and I was worried the STEM students would call my bluff as I’m still learning a lot about their industry. I had to force myself to remember that my role is to teach my new students to tell their professional stories and connect with others to learn and network – basically to teach them to inform and persuade. Those are two COM skills. I have to remind myself everyday that the skills they need the most I can teach them, and teach them well. As long as I stay focused on my strengths, I feel a-okay.
Remember who you are (your values, yo!).
As a new person you are walking into a brand new culture, with its own set of rules. It will take some time (about a year if you ask me) to determine who is who. As you are building relationships, being asked for feedback or ideas, or discussing your future goals, remember who you are and make sure that it is consistent with what you are saying. Over a year ago I wrote a post called “Be your own beatbox” – it reviews the life rules my good buddy and I came up with on our long commutes to work (my old job). Know who you are, and create some life rules for yourself. These rules will help you make decisions, friends, and future plans.
Stay connected with your old colleagues.
At my previous job I met some wonderful and talented professionals that became my friends and mentors. I make it a point to check in with at least one of them a week. The emails are brief. I give them the skinny on how things are at my new gig, ask them about their life/work, and let them know I miss them. Easy. This is great for me personally and professionally.
Turn fear into opportunity.
Like I said earlier, I’m working with STEM students (totally new to me). My students are also all graduate students and half of them are international. I had little to no experience working with international students in my previous jobs, and though excited, was nervous about working with this population at my new gig. I had some anxiety and fear, y’all. BUT, I decided to geek out on the topic. In sessions with international students I asked them about their cultures, about what the job search looks like in their home country, and how their transition has been to the US. I read articles online about international students and their challenges, I attended a couple of focus groups on the needs of Indian and Chinese students when coming to school in America, and I plan learning more about social media popular in other cultures (e.g. Renren). I may not know much now, but in a couple of years I plan on being an international student career development Jedi!
“I don’t know” is a-ok.
This is easier said than done. I hate feeling ignorant, but I have learned it is best to say “I don’t know” rather than try and bullshit. People can smell BS, and I honestly think people respect you more when you are honest and admit that you don’t know (probably because they wish they were brave enough to say those three words).