New job is going well, but I want to do better.
September 8, 2015 2:39 PM   Subscribe

I started a new job a few weeks ago. I am back in an office setting after my last job of almost five years entailed working from home. Things are going well, but I could use some extra guidance in re-adjusting to office life and finding my place. Snowflake details below.

You are not my employer. But I'm hoping someone can help me navigate office life and help me figure out how to belong and be an awesome employee.

After much job searching turmoil, I emerged as the leading candidate for a sales job at a locally known company. Yay! But an internal candidate came at the last minute and got the job, leaving me with a part-time job in customer service at said company. It was disappointing, but the part time job still offered higher hourly pay and more hours than my retail position, as well as a foot in the door at a place that is not known for being easy to get into. So off I went.

This is now my third week at the new position and I feel comfortable in my responsibilities. The catch is, I'm now not sure what to do from here. My job description involves answering the phone, giving customers basic info and making transfers as needed. I do not get side work when I'm not on the phones (though I almost did one day when our phones went down and my boss said she'd find me something, but the phones came back up after only a brief outage), and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be finding my own work, reading our company's website or what. I did make myself a helpful hints document and break it into categories, so that's useful I guess. I do still eventually hope to get into a sales role, but I'm nervous to bring this up to my boss right now and ask for additional work out of fear of looking stupid or that she'll think I'm already looking to advance. Today I tried to pass time in between calls by reading career-related articles on things like networking, good work habits, etc. Stuff that can apply at any office or in any career path.

I do need full-time work eventually, but I'm enjoying my company and am not really willing to bail unless another place will give me FT and pay me more an hour. In my area, my job is paying enough for part time that some places pay lower to start for full time. So I'm not asking "Help me leave my job ASAP." I don't need interviewing or resume tips. I'm just looking for ways I can be valuable to my employer now so I don't continue to feel clueless. I got another suggestion to show my employer ways they can track our performance and other analytics, but I have no idea if my company is open to employees making suggestions like this and implementing them. My last company culture was, but I realize that doesn't mean every organization operates that way.

What I do know about my company: It is possible to advance here. I've already heard a few success stories, but everyone's timeline is different. Some get a new job after six months; others a few years. Several people have worked here for 10-20 years, which could possibly make advancement tricky. (One lady is retiring in 1-2 years but someone is already slated to take over her job.) But with so many longtime employees, I'm confident that my organization is stable.

MeFites: Help me ensure that I'm not a customer service/call center monkey forever, but without overstepping my bounds at the new job. It's appreciated! :)
posted by intheigloo to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For the first six months, just do what you say you will do or are supposed to do when you say you will do it or are assigned to do it.

Have a good attitude.

Earn a great reputation that way.

Advance thereafter.
posted by slateyness at 2:54 PM on September 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

I would absolutely ask for more work. First ask your boss. Then ask those in your department. Basically ask to help anybody you interface with until you have enough to do to fill your work shift. Always make your work from your boss your priority.
posted by Kalmya at 2:57 PM on September 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

For the first six months, just do what you say you will do or are supposed to do when you say you will do it or are assigned to do it...Advance thereafter.

This is what good employees do.

...ask for more work. First ask your boss. Then ask those in your department. Basically ask to help anybody you interface with until you have enough to do to fill your work shift. Always make your work from your boss your priority.

This is what excellent employees do. It's how I've secured promotion after promotion in my short career.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:16 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Asking for more work is surprisingly tricky. Here are the potential problems with it:

1) You're doing more work for no extra money. Once a (bad) company figures that you'll do this, there's no end in sight. You don't know yet whether this is a good company or a bad company.
2) Your coworkers have a routine that they don't want interrupted. For people stuck in their ways, there's nothing worse than having a new person come in and suddenly disrupting everything, especially if their perception is that you're trying to outwork them. You run the risk of being a target for office politics.

If you've only been at your position for 3 weeks, you're really just getting started.
posted by paulcole at 4:25 PM on September 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Download ThinkUp and record 10 affirmations to listen to yourself every morning. Go to work and always look for ways to be helpful. Use Youtube yoga videos to unwind each night. Be super mindful and know where you're going. You'll get there.
posted by timpanogos at 6:57 PM on September 8, 2015

I'll just address your question about the suggestion you have.

I think you should just ask a co-worker or your boss if the company is open to employees making suggestions. And for the implementation part I would ask your boss. I don't see drawbacks to it except for maybe what paulcole said about bad companies taking advantage of you if you show a willingness to do extra work.
posted by SillyEvelina at 7:07 PM on September 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

In my experience it takes at least six months to get the lay of the land at a new job - learning how to follow the instructions your manager meant to say instead of what your manager actually said, learning who's in the out group among colleagues and who is well-respected, learning what your office considers brown-nosing vs. initiative, and whether the organization is resistant to change vs. open to new ideas.

Before you start making suggestions, however awesome they might be, I suggest getting a little more workplace ethnography under your belt. In some ways it's not unlike dating: think about three weeks into a relationship vs. six months vs. a year. Give yourself time to figure out the culture and develop a track record of good performance.
posted by good lorneing at 7:15 PM on September 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Have you asked if there's anything you can do to help during downtime between calls? That shows a good attitude that I think any boss would appreciate.

As far as giving unsolicited organizational advice (e.g. tracking performance analytics), I could see that being just as likely to annoy/offend people as impress them, so maybe it does make more sense to get a better feel for the company culture first.
posted by Gravel at 12:28 AM on September 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

As a person who was in a similar situation 3 months ago, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT ask for more work. I've created hell for myself by being too efficient, effective, and asking for more work. I now have endless responsibilities on my task list, and it's all because of this. Overachieving in some organizations will not advance you or help you, it will only make them take advantage of you. No matter how "nice" and "fair" they appear to be at first. Next thing you know, you're doing your boss' job tasks and he's earning all the credit for your hard work. It always takes time before they fully unload on you, just wait. Do not ask for it.
posted by SkinsOfCoconut at 5:30 AM on September 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Look for problems to solve that will eliminate work or make tasks easier. That way you aren't just taking on more and more work. Instead you are finding ways to make those tasks go away or become easier for everyone.
posted by Shanda at 9:00 AM on September 10, 2015

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