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October 3, 2007 6:15 PM   Subscribe

How long (ballpark range) should it take to get comfortable at a new job after you've been in the working world awhile?

I used to think it was around 6 mom said 3, and frankly, I had the expectation that since I have now been in the 'working world' for going on 10 years, and am now considered to be a 'grown up', that I would be more adept at being comfortable at a new job faster. Anyone have a more updated timeframe, perhaps one that can be substantiated with hard data?

(Some additional background, just in case you are wondering...I have just passed the 6 month mark at my current project manager position which has been admittedly a bit of a stretch from my previous jobs (project/account coordinator positions that all involved project management to some level or degree, just not officially titled 'project manager'). It is more of a general project management position, not technical in nature.

I have received feedback that I don't always exude a high level of confidence at my current job. A big part of this, I think, is because I honestly do not feel 100% comfortable in my position, and hope with time that this will improve. To compound the issue, the other PM in my team recently left the company, so many of the duties they were doing have now fallen on my plate, and it feels as though I am brand new all over again. I don't know if this really means this isn't the job for me, or if it's all normal. But I digress...)
posted by Ham_On_Rye to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For me: 90 days. In that time, you've gotten paid, dealt with the normal day-to-day issues, and wrestled with at least a couple of oddball once-in-a-while problems. At that point, you can assume you "know the ropes" well enough to make a reasonable judgement about how good or bad the job is.

All this, of course, subject to change at the next re-organization.
posted by SPrintF at 6:22 PM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

This depends entirely on the job and to some extent on the person. If the job is a skill stretch, or significantly knowledge rather than skill based, it can take a lot longer to get comfortable.

In my last position, we had team members who were still struggling to make a significant contribution more than a year into their stay in the job. That was considered perfectly reasonable for that team.

On the other hand, we worked with people who did more task oriented work, and were expected to learn and understand their jobs within 2 months -- one monthly business cycle to watch and learn, and the next to learn and execute with supervision. After that, they were expected to be competent and confident.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:47 PM on October 3, 2007

Depends on the job. I am in the 6+ months category. You have to be there long enough to not be the "new guy", to have seen some unusual occurrences, make some serious blunder that you recover from, change the way something is done that has always been done some other way, and feel comfortable making up an answer based on a reasonable guess from experience.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:50 PM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

If I'm ever going to be truly comfortable at a job, it'll be apparent within a month. Within a month I may not have been exposed to 100% of the workings of the company, so in that case it might take longer.

Looking back at the places I've worked, I felt comfortable at the good jobs pretty quickly. But if the job ended up sucking it sucked from the beginning, and I never felt comfortable there.

But I switch jobs often. Back when I actually worked full time I never stayed in one company longer than 1-2 years, and for the past three years I've freelanced so I'm always starting at a new place. By necessity I need to get comfy pretty quickly.
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:55 PM on October 3, 2007

I am going to expound on what JohnnyGunn said, and say that it also depends on the length of time the other coworkers have been there. If they've all been there years & years, you will be "new" for a while. If there's a flurry of hiring a month or so after you've been there, you'll be old hat in no time at all.
posted by kellyblah at 7:15 PM on October 3, 2007

Best answer: In my job, I was still seeing big changes in how comfortable I was up until a year in. I think learning project management stuff is really hard.
posted by salvia at 7:35 PM on October 3, 2007

Best answer: Sorry for that unarticulate earlier comment, here's more. In my current job, which is largely project management, it has taken me about 15 months to get comfortable. It's my first PM job, so part of the lengthiness was because I was new at project management. But I think part of the lengthiness is because in project management, the work cycles are so long. It's not a job in which you do something and then do the very same thing again the next day, allowing you to quickly troubleshoot problems that arise. Instead, you establish the scope for one project, then you do something totally different, then you're doing something totally different from that. It's not until maybe 6-18 months later before you're establishing the scope for something else and can remember "oh yeah, we always involve Bob in scope-setting discussions." There's some repeat within a project (eg, recurring task force meetings and so you learn how to order refreshments and set the agenda, or whatever), but in a lot of ways, for the first year it really is an ever-changing sequence of always-new activities.
posted by salvia at 7:46 PM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would say six months, but that depends on how much you extended yourself in getting the job - if you are over-reaching slightly, you not only have to learn the job-specific stuff, you also need to get your generic skills caught up. Perhaps you used the person who left recently as a resource during your early days and having that taken away has left you struggling a bit - take it as an opportunity to let yourself shine, instead of a chance to fail and you'll be a star.
posted by dg at 7:57 PM on October 3, 2007

Best answer: In my experience the first three months are spent in a state of bewilderment. It takes a while to learn all this new stuff. After all you have a new commute to get used to, you're learning everyone's name and role, you're figuring out who the "Go To" people are, you're finding out that to transfer a call you have to press the 'transfer' button twice and not once, etc. All of this stuff doesn't sound like much but it's actually quite stressful. I find it helps to have a notebook that's strictly for all the newbie stuff you're learning and write everything down. Of course, my boss doesn't know I'm bewildered.

From three to six months the bewilderment subsides a bit but it can pop up suddenly when you have to do something you've never done. What I have learned is to ask for help before I get too frustrated. At six months I feel pretty confident but it's really after a year that I am somewhat at ease. Since you are learning a lot of new skills it could easily take a year or even longer to have the feeling that you are in control. It might take getting through a few projects because you will be getting a frame of reference as you learn what to expect.

A mentor once told me, "If you are not completely freaked out the first three months of a new job, you took the wrong job."
posted by Soda-Da at 9:36 PM on October 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

I tell all my friends that it will take at least 6 months to really start to feel like you know what you're doing. In my experience, it takes about a year before the confidence really kicks in.
posted by jrichards at 6:18 AM on October 4, 2007

Best answer: My job is on a one year project cycle, so I had to be here for a year before I had even performed all of the tasks for which I was hired once. Now that I've done that, I feel much more comfortable and able to offer my opinion on how things can be improved. Before that, all I could do was speculate, because I hadn't done many of the things that were in my job description.
posted by decathecting at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2007

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