Friday, August 26, 2011

First Week on the New Job


I've put in my first 40 hours on the new job.

I can tell right now that having to be in the office at 8 and having to put in a "true 8" sitting in a chair on a computer on an office network that blocks anything not work related is going to seriously cut back on my blogtime (posting and commenting), facebook status updates and podcasting. My life is over.

I discovered after three days that my office wardrobe was seriously under stocked. All of my old office-worthy clothing was nearly 30 years old and 4 inches of waist ago. The only time I've had to dress up in the last 30 years has been for two weddings and a couple of funerals. At the last wedding I had the pants from the previous wedding let out two inches so I wouldn't have to buy a whole new suit. Other than that, everything I've had to wear to anything formal has been hidden under a black cassock. As long as I was wearing decent black shoes I could have been nekkid and I was good to go. So, it was off to Goodwill.

Way back when, I was a bit of a clothes hound. Maybe it's the old "art major" in me but for some reason when I'm shopping clothes I scan a rack and inevitably my eye is drawn to the most expensive pair of pants, shirt or accessory. I admit I've owned $75.00 ties and $200.00 pairs of pants... way back when I was making the kind of money you weighed instead of counted. But for 20+ years I've been counting, and I don't have to count very high these days. So I have to somehow reconcile my "eye" and my "wallet".

One word: Thrift stores. (OK, two.)

Not that I'm into "labels", I just know what I like... but I found a little over a week's worth of worthy office attire at Goodwill for under 80.00. Pants, shirts, ties, most of them indistinguishable from new off the rack. Because I've never needed brown shoes for the last 20 years, I did have to buy a pair of new brown shoes that cost me the same as my entire wardrobe. I know enough to know the same wardrobe at Macy's or Dillard's would have been well over a grand. I actually had to spend more on my construction clothes because those kinds of things don't make it to Goodwill and I had to buy them new.

Anyway, that was an anticipated part of the career change. It's kind of mundane for most of my readers I'm sure, but when you've been wearing carpenter jeans and a white T-shirt and tennis shoes to work for 30 years it's a big change.

Years ago, I would have bristled at the thought of having to dress up for "the man". But I've come to realize that a certain amount of "chameleon competence" is not a bad thing when navigating life and the various environments one finds one's self in. The issues of fitting in are far deeper than what drapes your body. If a piece of cloth offends or creates a barrier then I've created a hurdle that has to be overcome before I can begin to address the deeper issues of what separates human beings.  Of course I realize I could dress like a homeless person and press an issue on that level, but if that is a huge issue I won't be around long enough to influence any change anyway and the relationships are lost.  But that's not the point.

I haven't really escaped construction.  I got in the office early Monday morning and no one else was there yet. The offices had moved the week before and furniture and boxes were still stacked all over the place.  I moved some stuff around and found an old wooden desk in one of the offices. The center drawer was in three pieces from the move. I went out to my truck, got my tools and glued and clamped it.  It turned out it was the CEO's desk I fixed.  I went in to remove the clamps and put the desk back together and he asked who I was.  I told him and said this is my first day on the job, I had gotten there early and decided to make myself useful since I didn't know what else to do except what I used to do until my boss showed up to show me what new thing to do. We had a nice talk.  Not a bad first impression, I suppose.

I also started a job last Saturday that should have been a one day project.  It has turned into a week plus another 2-3 days next week because of changes and complications.  I've been working through my lunch break at the office so I can leave a half hour early to go work on the remodel project.  In the meantime this week I've gotten a half dozen calls from people wanting me to do construction stuff for them.  So I've been putting in 14 hour days this week and will continue on into next week.  That's not all bad since we need the money.  I can make more for a few hours after "work" than I will for the eight hours at my desk.  But I know I can't do that for long.  It's Friday afternoon and I'm fried and I have to go to work all weekend.

It is interesting being a total "newbie" at something once again.  I have basic computer skills which are essential for the new job. What I don't have is familiarity with the software and educational environment I am working with.  It is intimidating to be given a link to a website that you have no clue what it does, means, contains or how it fits with what  you are supposed to be doing.  Then you given 3 more of the same and you have to just play with them, click around all the dozens of menus and sub-menus to figure out how they all fit in the big picture and integrate all the information you get from each of them and put parts of each of them back into those same websites.  Of course I have a mentor, but he has his own job to do and part of my job is to take some of his job, so along with the learning curve I was handed a few dozen students and had to set up my own record keeping systems and get all of these kids started in all of the schools' programs in the meantime. Needless to say, even with a mentor there were plenty of opportunities to feel stupid and overwhelmed.  I know I had to ask several times stuff like, "Ummm.. WHICH website is it that you sign a kid up for/get this information from...?"  I've always told my employees there's no such thing as a stupid question, but it's still easy to FEEL stupid when asking one when you KNOW you've been told how to do that before.

Of course nothing is as simple as it looks.  "This is the procedure to do this..." Then the first batch of kids I got happened to be "exceptional cases" in the software and procedures. What should have been straightforward processes ended up taking me deep into sub-menus and different administrative procedures to get them enrolled and on track. It wasn't until the middle of the week that I got a true straightforward process. But, now I already know the hard stuff.

It's amazing how much of the same information needs to be stored in different places. I think I've cut and pasted more stuff than I have total in the past 15 years.  I've discovered more than a dozen Excel tricks and discovered two dozen more issues that I need to figure out what the tricks are to fix.  I can already see that keyboard short cuts are the key to survival in this job.  

So far I like what I am dealing with both in terms of the technical aspects of the job and the interaction with parents and kids.  I can see I'll be doing some "hand holding", tech support, coaching, encouragement, tough love and just ordinary information giving about the educational system/requirements.  It's not too much different than running a crew of 55 drywallers, really.  

Things I can see right now:

I need to change my eating habits. I'm going to be a blimp in about two months if I don't.  I sit down in my chair at my desk and except for bathroom breaks I don't get up again for 8 hours. If it ever drops below 110 I'll walk to work. My new office got moved to four blocks from my house. 

I need to say no to "side work".  One day a week, two in an emergency.  All work and no play makes s-p a dull boy and a bad blogger.

We need to budget.  The Wifey got a teaching job this year. Between the two salaries we can make ends meet if we're careful. Cool thing is we are both 10 month contracts, we could actually take vacations in the summer if we're careful.

I like the people I'm working with. I liked them in the interviews and staff training.  They get better every day. 

So, there's 40 hours in a nutshell. The nice thing is, no regrets and no red flags.  Yeah, I can do this.


Matushka Anna said...

That's great. I've been really wondering how it was going but I didn't want to bug you. I'm glad things are going as well as they are. At least you only have to do "the first week" once.

And good move on the boss's desk. (:

Moore said...

Brother - I'm so glad you got some steady work with insurance. You'll pick it up!

discourse said...

Very glad to hear this.

elizabeth said...

yay!!! It will come; really, sounds like you're doing great... :)

I start my new job Monday... am excited... big change of course... but am hopeful.

I liked hearing about your work fyi and did not find it one bit boring.

Anonymous said...

Yay! It sounds like a great job all things considered. Glad it's working out :D

JNCL said...

Ah, the cassock coverall. When I was in seminary, I noticed it covering a multitude of, well, not-so-snappy dress for the male seminarians, and a few priests, too! I'm a newbie to your site, BTW, and I have to say, I love the Orthographs. Curmudgeophan is AWESOME, but the Monkabee and the women's magazine are my favorite by far. Good luck on the new job!

Philothei of Salem (

Lucas said...

Office weight gain: Is it pretty much just you-and-your-computer? You might try doing a standing desk. Since you've built a thing or two, you can just whip together a platform that elevates your monitor & keyboard/mouse 15" above the top of your desk. Get a squishy mat to stand on (save your knees & back) and you're good to go. I did this when I was in the back office, I noticed it helped energy/fitness a bit.

Limited internet/blog access: can you compose your blog posts in a Word document, then post them when you get home?

Looking forward to hearing your reflections on this new direction.


Oregon Mom said...

Glad to hear all is going well. Way to get off on the good side of the boss the first hour you were there!

Nicholas said...

Good to hear.

Say no to McDonalds, however tempting it is. Except for the coffee.

Gaberham said...

Thought of you when I saw this:

Anonymous said...

So glad things are flowing well. How good God is, to not only provide you with reliable income and insurance, but a chance to practice humility (not knowing something, having to ask again how to do x, y or z)and to advance in theosis. Looking forward to reading your "seasoned" reflections during your first semi-significant work break (December, perhaps?).

(another) Elizabeth

David B said...

Ah, the ins and outs of educational databases. I miss it, and I don't. You'll get it in no time, then it's something you'll see in your sleep.

Thankful for this new chapter in y'all's life.

Dana said...

bring your lunch from home to the indoor office. It saves money and is almost always more nutritious than anything else.

Don't forget to stretch about every hour, whether you are sitting or standing at the desk. Maybe throw in an "Our Father" too :)

Good to hear things are going well.


Chocolatesa said...

Cool! Glad to know things are going well :)

James the Thickheaded said...


Glad you've found your way toward work that can sustain you. Transitions... are what they are. My best wishes for your success!

Chocolatesa said...

Argh! I tried publishing the last comment you made on my blog about the mayo but then said I didn't have access to that function, that I had to log in under another username, and then when I refreshed and tried again it said "The comment doesn't exist or no longer exists."... I guess that's what I get for trying out the new blogger layout... Anyways could you please re-comment so I can try publishing it again? Lol.

Chocolatesa said...

*then it said