Learning on the Job: Why I’m Glad I Entered the Workforce as a Newbie

Learning on the Job: Why I’m Glad I Entered the Workforce as a Newbie

I was ill-equipped and unprepared, but that's why I'm glad I started when I did.

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When I was 21 years old, I graduated with a B.A. in English literature, with a minor in journalism. I was as green as they come, with a new engagement ring on my finger. While I was walking across the stage to accept my diploma, the rest of my friends were back our shared townhome, cramming for exams. You see, I graduated in only three years, in a mad rush to begin life on my own as quickly as possible. My then-fiance was a year ahead of me in school, so I took on extra course loads and attended summer school twice so we could graduate at the same time. It was a challenging and overwhelming season of life in so many ways, but looking back, I wouldn't change a thing.

Before I graduated, I'd already secured a job with a government defense contractor back home. It wasn't a glamorous position by any means, but it meant a steady income and the chance to hone my craft. The only issue? I didn't exactly know what my craft was. I knew I loved literature, but my speech impediment and general anxiety prevented me from following a traditional teaching career path. I also knew that while I enjoyed writing, the feast-or-famine nature of being a full-time writer wasn't attractive either. So, I compromised, found a position as Technical Writer 3 at the firm, and went to work.

I showed up on the first day dressed in my favorite vintage sundress. I sat through meetings, checked emails and attended training, all the while wondering what in the world I was doing. The technical jargon was foreign to me, the people, albeit kind, were way more advanced than I was, and I was beginning to doubt my competence and ability to perform. And, this was all before lunchtime.

I don't think a day went by during that initial month when I didn't find solace and solitude in the bathroom for a few minutes each morning, gathering my thoughts and my composure so I could appear at least somewhat put-together. I drove home every day defeated, wondering if I'd made a mistake by jumping headfirst into a career I knew nothing about. I was used to studying Chaucer and Shakespeare. I wasn't cut out for translating engineers, creating proposals and editing technical manuals.

Then, something somewhat miraculous and completely unexpected happened. I started to get the hang of it. I grew in confidence and responsibility and before I knew it, I was managing and training two technical writer interns who wanted to learn from me. The concept was laughable, but I was up to the challenge.

That was 10 years ago. The connections I made at that first job, the skills I developed and the people I worked alongside all worked together to carry me through my next series of professional endeavors. I stayed on as a technical writer for that same firm for close to seven years. Then, I had my first child and left to pursue a freelance marketing gig that would afford me the opportunity to stay at home with my new baby.

The hours were unnatural, as I would start on my work around 10:00 p.m. when she went down for the night. I'd work until 2:00 a.m., feed her, then catch a few hours of sleep myself before we both woke up and the cycle began all over again. I was walking through those first few months very much like a zombie, not sure if the sunlight peeking through the blinds meant it was dawn or dusk. I was in over my head, challenged to the hilt and unsure if I was doing any of it, both my professional and parenting work, correctly. I'm sure when I was just starting out, I made many of the novice marketing mistakes that we're told time and again are things to avoid. It wasn't that I was ill-trained for the job. Rather, I was slowly navigating my way through a new path, and learning its intricacies and idiosyncrasies along the way.

In many ways, this season of life wasn't dissimilar to the one I experienced when I first dipped my toes in the corporate waters. I had a few more years on me now and I'd grown in my confidence both as a person and an employee, but I was still miles away from knowing all there was to know.

That's the beauty of it, though. I'll never catch up. I'll never reach that capacity where I've learned all there is to learn or completely aced every challenge thrown my way. My children are two and five now, and I'm still discovering new surprises about the way I manage my time, prioritize, step up to the plate and pursue new opportunities. There are many days when I still feel like that same 21-year-old in a thrifted sundress, my hand shaking as I reached up to ring the bell at the towering office building.

I hope I never lose that sense of being overwhelmed. I hope I never reach the point where challenges don't scare me or I don't feel at least a little out of my comfort zone. I believe that's where real life happens and where real growth occurs. We'll fail time and again and make more mistakes than we'd like. But there's something to be said about showing up anyway. About pushing through the murk with the knowledge that something greater is on the horizon. I'm actively in pursuit of that progress and I'm grateful every day that I said "yes" to the first job offer that came my way. Was I ill-prepared and unequipped? Certainly. Are those the very elements that propelled me to expand my potential? Absolutely.

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Don't Let Twitter Make You Ignorant And Proud

We're in the new age of social media and it may be hard for some people to not let it affect them negatively.

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I share a Twitter account with my best friend Lexi. She doesn't use it as much as I do because I have somehow become addicted. I love DM-ing all my friend's cool memes, and retweeting things I agree with! I know I sound like someone's mom but hey I really like Twitter!

I have noticed a lot of Twitter beef in my time (definitely sounding like a mom), but I have never really been involved. Until now.

Black Sunday

I saw some random tweet about how hard college athletes have it.

@katymoe_@99JustDoIt_ / Twitter

I'm not a college athlete, but I was on track to be one. I was offered multiple scholarships but unfortunately tore my medial collateral ligament, aka my MCL. It was bad enough to take me out of softball completely but it doesn't ruin my life anymore. I do know how much hard work went into getting the offers though and can imagine the amount of stress it puts on people. However, you are getting money to get an education, and if it is a male sport you have the opportunity to make millions of dollars playing professionally. So I think complaining about it is bullshit. Also if you want to complain about it why not quit? Thousands if not millions of grateful kids are willing to take your place.

So I tweeted back, which is very rare for me.

@katymoe_@Katyandlexi / Twitter

I didn't expect a huge response or any responses at all quite frankly, I was just voicing my annoyance. But I was wrong. A LOT of people felt I was wrong. That is totally OK! I'm OK with other opinions!!! Oh my god, though not a single one made any sense? Everyone who replied was either illiterate or just absolutely out in left field.

She had nothing to say but that I was mad and when I replied that she should be too because of this ungrateful behavior she said I was ignorant?

Another one of my personal favorite replies was the direct message I received from a random stranger! I was debating adding this because it's a mouthful but honestly, it's too golden not to share.

@katymoe_

@katymoe_

@katymoe_

I am still getting tweets constantly and it has been three days. I am now convinced that Twitter is for the bold and stupid. I will continue loving the memes they post but now know you can't call out student-athletes.

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A Free Spirit in a Small Town: How I’m Finding Myself All Over Again

I thought I had to give up my adventure when I moved back, but I've learned to find that anywhere.

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I come from the type of town that most people grow up in, graduate from, and then promptly leave after they turn their tassel. It's literally a one-stoplight community, with the only traffic light installed less than 15 years ago. We have the basics: a local bank, dry cleaner's, handful of fast-food dives and a grocery store. We also have a slow and steady pace of life that can drive you crazy if you're from the big city. Despite going to college in our state's capital and immersing myself in the fast-paced life there, I found myself drawn back here when my husband and I were looking to settle down. No one is in a rush here, everyone knows everyone and if you're lucky enough to secure a parcel of land in these outskirts, you can bet it's the kind of place you'll want to put roots down in immediately.

Still, for all its charms, comforts and conveniences, small-town life can feel suffocating at times. This is especially the case when you're born with a free spirit and a deeply rooted need to explore, travel and dive headfirst into everything like I am. How does one reconcile the urge to find and discover new experiences in a place where everything has already been seen?

For years, my husband and I satisfied this feeling of being unsettled by going on long road trips. Back then, I worked as a proposal manager for a government contracting agency in a city 45 minutes away. Our busy season was always July through September and as soon as October 1 hit, we'd book a roundtrip flight somewhere, rent a car and head out. Before we had children, we took weeklong road trips down Highway 1 in California and Oregon, up the New England coastline, around Utah and New Mexico twice and to the Pacific Northwest. We saw mountains jutting into oceans and skies so jet black the stars seemed to dance. We went to hot air balloon festivals, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and an apple orchard in Connecticut. It was eye-opening, invigorating and a season of life we'll never forget.

Then, we really did settle down. Now, our little family is more inclined to take short trips to the beach rather than go on epic adventures. I know those will resume one day, and I can wait in the interim, but still, the need to get out there remains. So, too, does the understanding that I'm unlike many of my community counterparts in more ways than one. One example is that I've taken strides to adopt more eco-conscious and green practices than anyone in my family.

The kids and I compost, we raise free-range chickens in the field behind our home and we've even researched solar power options for our rooftop in an effort to reduce our carbon emissions and reduce our utility bills. Finding a way to weave these changes into family dinner table conversations might be challenging, but I press on with the dialogue in hopes that I can encourage my relatives to see the bigger picture, dream wider and explore alongside me.

At the end of the day, I wouldn't change growing up here for anything in the world. I was raised beside my cousins, deep behind a cornfield that grew tall every other summertime. It was a sweet and nostalgic upbringing that shaped me and defined who I truly am. Yet, in the time between leaving and coming back, I developed an uncanny and unexpected restlessness that cannot be removed no matter how many nights I spend under these same sleepy skies.

That's why I'm taking small steps to reclaim myself and rediscover my true identity. I'm unabashedly caring for the environment whether my loved ones understand my choices or not. I'm putting work aside momentarily to dance with my children in an afternoon rainstorm. I'm cooking dinner with the windows thrust wide open, the evening breeze blowing the cafe curtains around. I'm turning my music up loudly and running the gravel roads that connect my homeplace with my parents'. I might not live in a big city. I may not be off the grid in a tiny house living like the free spirit I really am. Instead, I might be planted right here in the middle of this tiny town forever. But that doesn't mean I can't bloom.

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