Whether driven by passion or the gains from working, the workplace is a new bargain. The end goal, the driving force behind what we deem to be the fruits of laboring in the education system: that high paying job. The job that is to ‘compensate’ for all the hardship. Hope is what steers us forward, so hope we will.
My first experience at the workplace came pretty early for me, straight out of high school. I attended a seminar, an enlightenment to “what the workplace really looks like”. Unfortunately, not an accurate picture. The CEO’s address did however stand out: “You will have to grow into adults.” I must admit, he clearly knew what he was talking about. I do need to point out, I was a rookie in adulting. The school hustle does not prepare you for the fundamental adjustments one has to make in the workplace. It is similar to transition from the animal orphanage into the wild!
New beginnings are quite daunting. We often crave for certainty in life which is the one thing never guaranteed. In my case, working at a bank with no prior experience only served to fuel the fear. I was a ball of nerves on my first day. The anxiety of getting to work late disrupted my sleep. So, waking up early became a norm. As I came to learn, bosses hate tardiness. I, therefore, made my mission to arrive early creating that good impression. Then comes the introduction to the employees in the organization whose names you forget immediately you step away from their desks. Paradoxically, these same people will become good friends.
Therein followed the training phase of the systems, procedures and inner workings of the company. I worked and was trained as a teller and at the front desk. I was acquainted better with the systems, and for a minute, I was certain, this is it! Apparently, I had not gotten a hang of it totally. I thought the bank system was my oyster until I made grave mistakes. I ran short of so much money that my ledger could not balance. It only took every ounce of convincing and encouragement from my supervisors not to quit. Good supervisors are a lifeline. “You are only starting and you will learn, don’t fret over it.” And quite true, I did ace it eventually.
I mastered the bank systems, but not so much how my life took a shift. The earliest I could arrive at home on a weekday was 7.00 P.M (Oh, Nairobi traffic!), with an early rise at 5.00 A.M and so the cycle it was. My ‘me’ time became a distant memory. Fatigue so common that the only hobby maintained was sleep. My social life became the opportunity cost. Weekend hangouts were the occasional brunch on Saturdays with workmates. The workplace becomes your life. Your job, whether you are passionate about it or not, largely dictates the experience of life in that time.
The workplace is the epitome of diversity. You work with people of different backgrounds, social status, ideologies, different upbringing and mannerisms. It demands not only co-existence but teamwork which goes beyond the morning greetings. In addition to that, being a service industry in my case, interactions with customers directly are inevitable. And in the business world, the customer is always right. You learn you have self- control when a customer is hurling all sorts of insults, and ignorant to the facts at hand- talk about self -discovery in the process.
Experience is the Best Teacher
First experience in the workplace is akin to an adventure, with its own inexplicable hurdles and fulfillment of accomplishments, almost in the same measure. It will inevitably be hard, with moments of self-doubt and inadequacy. ‘Experience is the best teacher’ quote did not miss a beat. I was able to learn how to ensure the work pressures did not get to my head. I prioritized my mental health and took the necessary breaks even during the day, applying for the leave days when earned. It is critical to prevent physical and mental breakdown in the process of proving yourself in the workplace.
The first experience may be outright unbearable, or a tolerable situation. Whichever the case, remember it is an experience.
“Experience does not err; only your judgements err by expecting from her what is not in her power.”
Leonardo da Vinci
We consciously choose how to handle our first experiences. We adjust ourselves to be pleasant no matter the circumstances. We learn how to incorporate our loved ones into our new busy schedules. We value time more preciously and consequently become good time managers. Somehow, we get a grip on ‘adulting’ and responsibility. Let yourself adjust to the environment and evolve. Do not fret over the bad experiences, it gets better. Trust me, I have experienced it.