How Do You Handle Being the New Kid?

When I started my first job at a fashion magazine, I was constantly referred to by co-workers as "the New Anne." Not only did I feel it was rude to not use my name (after all, I was my own person—couldn't they see that?) but it was also endlessly frustrating, especially since it turned out "Old Anne," had some pretty bad work habits, like reading magazines at her desk, never volunteering for projects, and doing the bare minimum, and was eventually fired. It took me some time to prove just because I was in her old position, didn't mean I wanted the same career path for myself. My new co-workers other than my direct boss, who had me do menial administrative tasks for her, had no idea what "Old Anne" had actually been doing at her desk all those years.

She wasn't someone to aspire to, and so I had to prove to my new co-workers that I was capable of taking on work outside of just the assignments my boss gave me. Gradually, I gained the trust of the upper management to take on more projects by using every menial task to my advantage. If I was told to hand out memos around the office or make photocopies, I would use the face time to briefly chat with my co-workers, and eventually built a rapport—telling them what my interests were, and that I would love to work with them on their projects (after carefully studying who was in charge of what, which took some time.) After I proved I could handle time sheets, answering phones, and other small feats, I got to move past the "Old Anne/New Anne" mentality, and make a new path for the job I had. If no one wanted to do a messy, research-involved project, I was their girl. If someone else needed someone to organize the book closet, I was the first one on the job.

At the time, as I figured these things out, the best thing was my friends, who were all starting their own first jobs, and were going through similar growing pains. For some reason, we all had this mentality that our superiors were putting us through hell for the fun of it. What we later learned is that the small stuff is all part of the game—it's not insulting our intelligence or throwing away a college degree to get coffee, or run an errand here and there. If you can master the little things, the bigger projects can eventually be yours for the taking.

To get through it, we had endless gripe-fests about our respective office blunders: tales of awkward staff meetings, first cafeteria lunches, as well as flubbing up the all-important conference call, or misplacing an important document. Once we got the stories out, it put everything into perspective. Things that seemed like a big deal at the time were nothing in the greater scheme of things. Then, all of a sudden, it stopped. After a few months of working, we each fell into our job responsibilities and stopped comparing our new lives to our college experiences, making it easier to adjust.

So tell me: what's your solution to new job growing pains? Do you talk about it, blog about it, or write a book about it? Share!

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