Museum Studies at Tufts University

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Dispatches from the Mid-Atlantic: A Pinch of Sage

by columnist Madeline Karp,

As many of you already know, I started a new job at the museum this week. On the one hand, it’s the easiest start to a job ever – I already know my supervisors and coworkers, I know the programs we’re going to run, where they will be and when, and I know how the museum functions and works to fulfill it’s mission.

On the other hand…starting a new job is never easy. There’s definitely a learning curve. As a lot of my friends, classmates, former coworkers, (and even my sibling!) are starting new ventures, let’s take some time to remind ourselves of some sage new job advice.

1. Don’t underestimate how long it takes to adjust.

I came home sobbing my very first day of work last summer. And my second day. And my third. Not only was I exhausted, I had no idea what I was doing and it felt like I never, ever would. (Eventually I learned, and soon started training new people.)

Being patient with yourself can be hard, and it’s something I often have to remind myself to do. You’re not going to be good at everything right away. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re doing really well, and then have a set back. It can take up to 6 months or even longer to really adjust to a new job.

2. Plan ahead!

I am a total sloth in the morning. The earlier I have to wake up, the slower I move. But the slower I move, the earlier I have to wake up. It’s a vicious cycle. Planning ahead saves me time and helps my morning run smoothly.

Find a routine that works for you. I pack my lunch, pick out my outfits, and fill up my gas tank the night before. Sometimes I even set my coffee pot to auto start and hard-boil a few eggs for breakfast. It totally stinks the night before to take my free time to prepare, but it makes my mornings a snap.

3. Dress for success.

My mother is a power-suited woman of the 80’s. Growing up I learned that you are never completely dressed without makeup and that a little nail polish can go a long way.

Now, I know that makeup or nail polish may not be your thing, and that’s cool. But I do believe that feeling good about the way you look is a confidence booster. So wear your favorite bracelet, swipe on a little extra mascara, buy a new hair clip, or give yourself a quick coat of nail polish – anything that makes you feel confident and professional!

4. Communicate with people the way they like to communicate.

This is one from my sister the Comm Major and it deceptively simple: Pay attention to how your coworkers, clients and partners communicate with each other. Is it through email? Phone calls? Text message? In person meetings? Post-It notes?

Paying attention to how people communicate can set you for successful dialogue and exchange of ideas. If you notice that your supervisor prefers to communicate through email, don’t waste your time leaving voicemails and then banging your head on the desk (a.k.a.: The Headdesk) wondering why she never gets back to you. I find more often than not, those situations open the door for passive aggressive behavior, which we all know is never okay.

By the same token, if you’re terrible about checking texts, perhaps suggest people call or email you instead.

5. Don’t be afraid.

I’ll admit it: sometimes I’m afraid to ask for help for fear of looking silly. No, seriously. I needed help using Gmail today and was kind of afraid to ask. I was afraid to buy lunch in the cafeteria because I had to ask for the special gluten-free noodles. I’m kind of a huge ‘Fraidy-Cat.

Don’t be afraid. Ask for help. It’s how you get better at things. Tell people what you need. It’s how things get done correctly the first time.

6.  Smile.

Not feeling so well? Smile. Not feeling so friendly? Smile. Not feeling so confident? Smile.

It takes fewer muscles than frowning, prolongs your life and helps make your workplace a positive environment. So just smile.


What kind of advice do you have to share? Did anyone give you sage advice when you started your job? Share it in the comments!

1 Comment

  1. I have been trying to adjust to my new job and reading this helped knowing I’m not the only one feeling like an “awkward duck” in a new environment. Something that I had to remind myself that helped is everyone has something unique and great to contribute to the team. Don’tbe afraid to stand out, take charge and make mistakes. It’ll only help make you become the best employee you can be!

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