Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The 6-month mark. And swimming.

I’ve officially been at my new job for 6 months. Apparently that’s how long it takes to settle in. And what a strange, stressful, nerve-wracking journey it’s been. Full of highs, lows, “wtf?” moments, small victories, minor setbacks and a few tears along the way. To me, the first 6 months are the hardest part of getting a new job. Sure, the job search and interview process can be absolutely grueling, but you make it through. When you finally get the job, you feel elated. This is your chance for a new start. And then BAM! it’s your first day and it’s freshman year of high school all over again. You’re thrown into a massive pool of newness. And you better be able to deal with how to survive and thrive while dealing with things like cliques, cafeterias, lingo and new expectations.

It’s up to you to learn how to swim. Because honestly, starting a new job is like learning how to swim all over again. Allow me to explain:

Months 1-2
You’re thrown headfirst into the deep end of the pool. Yes, you are given the necessary training and you already (hopefully) have the knowledge you need, but quite quickly you feel like you’re drowning. After all, you’ve never been taught how to swim in
this pool. There are so many new rules, new strokes and new philosophies on how to be successful in the water. For the first few weeks, you kick and thrash about, struggling to remember how to swim. Your knowledge seems to have gone on a brief sabbatical, allowing stress to set in. You might even find yourself wondering why the heck you wanted to be in this pool in the first place. But luckily, you eventually realize you can tread water. Sure, it’s tiring, but it’s definitely doable. And not long after, you remember how to dog paddle. You keep your head above water. Now you’re getting somewhere.

Months 3-4
Hey, look! You can touch! Only with your tippy toes at first, but you soon find firm footing. Now have more control over your time in the pool. You decide when to float, swim and tread. Naturally, you’ll come across a few slippery spots and the occasional “cannonball” from a less-than-compassionate coworker, but that’s to be expected. Soon dog paddling gives way to cleaner, more confident strokes as you navigate your way through the water. You might not be as strong as you once were, but you’re getting there. And with each passing week, you feel a little bit better.

Months 5-6
Congratulations. You can swim! Perhaps not particularly well just yet, but you’re figuring it out as you go. Sure, you might still scrape your toe on the side of the pool or get water in your ears, but you have the hang of it. And good news! People aren’t as wary of your swimming skills as they once were. They’re starting to swim a little closer, invite you to have underwater tea parties (remember those?!) and maybe even challenge you to a handstand contest. By the end of the 6th month, you’re back on top. You remember why you chose this pool and you feel confident in your skills and your decision. It feels good to swim again.

So what do you think about the first 6 months of a job? Did it take you a full 6 months to catch on, like it did with me? Or were you an Olympic-style Working Girl, able to dive right in and set a world-record pace? Let’s hear it!


Raquel said...

I agree but the worst part is after 6 months you realize you hate everyone you work with! Ha!

Melissa said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. I am reaching my 6-month point at the end of this month and I am truly just starting to feel comfortable. It made me feel better when you too had some WTFs, small victories and some tears.

Now that I'm at the 6 month point I am the co-chair of the employee enhancement team and I have a lot of new friends to catch up with in passing. Getting to this point makes you remember why you didn't quit at those WTF moments--basically you can't fathom the first six months at yet ANOTHER new company!

Becky said...

This is such a great analogy!

bigapplegirl said...

Love this analogy! On a much smaller scale, I'm in the middle of week 3 at my new job, and there are so many "Wtf?" moments and times when I just want to talk back or walk out. Needless to say, I'm definitely learning how to stay afloat at this point!


{Amanda} said...

Hey, thanks for finding me on 20SB! And thanks for stopping by my blog! I'm doing the same for you :) Very cute blog & a great post!

I think it takes time to settle into anything new, whether it be a new place to live, a new job, a new relationship, etc. It sounds like you're doing great! ♥

Take care & have a great week!

* http://donandamanda.blogspot.com *
Travel Tuesday: Prague!

Anonymous said...

this is a good analogy however i don't think that it takes six months for everyone. i had a three month contract someone where and it took me about a month to go through all of that.

but there certainly is a learning and swimming curve for every new job.

Corporate Chickee said...

Great analogy! And totally remember underwater tea parties!! :)

Em said...

I totally agree. I am just hitting the 7th month mark and feel like I'm finally settling in. Though I hate finding all the mistakes I've made in the past 7 months!

Terri said...

I think it depends on the complexity of the job, and type of past experience. I don't think six months is that long at all from what I understand about your situation. I'm sure employers don't want people who cut corners or think they know it all from day one either.