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.

19
views

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.

Popular Right Now

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.

9
views

I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

Related Content

Facebook Comments