Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Learnings Of A Generation Y New Employee

We live in an age of instant gratification. I recently read a post about why generation Y yuppies are unhappy and it gave me some food for thought. Before reading the rest of my post, you can check out the generation Y post here.

Clouds over mountain with statue and dam in the foreground
Metaphor for what I thought my job would look like
before I started working...

When the post talked about generation Y kids starting out in their careers and expecting them to be great from day 1, I instantly related to this. I've been working for just over a year and a half and it's only in the past few months that I've really begun to feel a sense of making a difference in my job. My parents, grandparents and other older relatives and family friends all told me that it was going to take time and that no matter what job I start out with, it's likely to be crap. So, even though I logically knew that my first 6 months to a year were going to be tough, it was still frustrating to me when they were even tougher than expected. 

Desolate landscape
...Metaphor for what my job actually looked like
a few weeks after I started

I also got given some really amazing advice from the older people in my life that I took to heart. Using this advice helped me to make the most of a bad situation, here are some of the things I've been told about or learnt along the way that pertain to my experience as a new employee:

  1. Be humble. When you go into a job as a newbie, expect to know nothing. Instead of acting like you know it all (and even if you think you know how to do something or how something works) rather ask. No one like a know it all. But when the "know-it-all" knows nothing about the company it's even worse (and you end up looking really stupid, instead of intelligent).
  2. Give it 6 months before you decide on whether you like the job or not. It takes a while to learn the ropes and how a company operates. Add to this trying to learn how to be useful to your company - the only way to settle into your new job is to give it time.
  3. Be willing to learn. Ask questions. Don't assume that just because someone is a cleaner, tea-lady, receptionist that you can't learn from them. I've learnt the most interesting things from some extremely surprising sources. Our engineering finance lady knows more about machine inspections and care than I did when I first arrived - and she doesn't have a technical degree, just years of factory experience.
  4. Find the gap and fill it. When I arrived our control systems were buggy and no one was really looking after them. I've now become the "go to girl" for control systems in our factory. No one asked me to do it. I saw the gap and took it. The fact that I have my own set of "go to guys" (who have years more experience than I do) is irrelevant. What's important is that I'm driving change with control systems where before there was none and that is what makes me valuable to my team.
  5. Observe the good and bad managers. Knowing how to interact with people is extremely important. So is knowing how to handle and motivate a team. Taking note of how managers interact with people and deal with their teams is an important part of growing in business. There are techniques that you will learn from the good managers and there are techniques you'll learn to avoid from the bad managers.
  6. Chat to the people in your company who have been there for years. The quiet, white haired grandfather figure who keeps to himself and gets on with the job is only too happy to help out, no matter what problem you face. The talkative co-ordinator who is always reminiscing about how things used to be done in "the old days" has held a variety of positions within the same factory and understands the subtle people interactions you need in order to keep things running smoothly. And the blunt, no bull artisan who kaks guys out when they're not pulling their weight has a heart of gold and knows exactly how to coax another day's work out of something that should have broken down a month ago.
I've applied all of these things to my job and even though it hasn't been rainbows and unicorns, I can appreciate that there's a lot in life that needs a long term approach and building a career is one of them.

Since I'm a generation Y kid, I'll always get a kick out of instant gratification. However for the big things in life, I'm trying to look past instant gratification (no weekly clothes shopping trips for me) and rather invest in building a life, career and name for myself that will reap rewards years down the line. Starting now. And maybe, if I'm lucky, my current investments will start to reap rewards sooner than expected and I'll get not instant gratification, but delayed, prolonged gratification.

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