There’s a lot to be said about a liberal arts education. I’m really glad I went to the college I did and learned to write and to think critically about other people’s writing and to be able to articulate a point etc etc. I think the well-rounded experience of a liberal arts college is actually a super useful one to have…. however, one thing a liberal arts education does not afford you is an experience that can directly relate to a work environment. To be fair, most first jobs are going to be the same. They are going to be in a specific field that you most likely do not have much experience in (unless you went to graduate school for it, or studied the ancient art of puzzle making and then went on to become a puzzle maker.. obviously), and you just have to kind of hit the ground running with it. Some new jobs will make this transition easier and some will be virtually impossible, it really just hinges on how much they throw at you right away. It also depends on if you are able to handle the stress of juggling different things while learning new concepts without ending up in the fetal position under your desk or breaking down by the coffee maker. I’ve been told neither of those things are good moves in terms of career advancement.
Honestly, I feel like that’s the case with a larger majority of my company than others, mainly because they hire a huge percentage of liberal arts majors. I respect them for that, but at the same time, it means that for the beginning part of your employment you’re running around a bit just trying to figure out what everyone is talking about. And so many other people are doing the same thing. When I first started I was just super overwhelmed by it all. I would go to my team meetings and just sit there for an hour while everyone talked about highly complex reporting concepts of which I could not even begin to understand, and I would make random notes in my notebook about things that I thought I probably should figure out at some point in the near future but felt too awkward to ask anyone about it at that moment.
That went on for some time until I got over my fear of sounding like an idiot by asking questions. That was around the time that I figured out that it was idiotic not to ask questions, because no one knows everything and the people you are constantly pestering for help did the same thing at some point, and do the same thing themselves if they are trying to figure out something new. It’s just the nature of the game. It was also around this time that I started employing the above philosophy, namely pretend you know what’s going on until you figure it out. And surprisingly enough, I think it’s working. I thought I was barely concealing how much I am just stumbling along and semi understanding what I’m doing, but my boss told me at my six month review (yes I’ve been working here for six months by this point, it doesn’t feel like it) that he thought I was picking up concepts well and doing a good job. I refrained from telling him that it was all a lie, that I was usually confused and that I’m surprised no one has picked up on it yet. I thought maybe that wouldn’t be the best career move.
But it doesn’t stop there. A week or so before I left for the holidays (where I am proceeding to blow all of the vacation I have earned thus far) I was asked to be a mentor to a new hire in January. While I don’t have any real power over her or anything like that, I am meant to be a person to go to for questions that she feels too weird asking her boss. Someone is giving me authority over this person and I’m not really sure how it happened. Though honestly, I’m excited about it. I may not be the most knowledgable mentor around, but I am hoping to be the one of the more available ones, as well as someone my mentee will not be scared to go to with any of her questions. Not that I will necessarily know the answers to any of those questions, but at least I will have the experience of who she should bother next, and that’s something.