You never get a second chance to make one.
While this may be true of first impressions, it does admittedly overstate their importance. Plenty of conclusions are drawn right away, and many will ultimately prove to be accurate. Some will not be. Others will change over time. Nevertheless, we’re constantly finding ourselves on both the giving and receiving ends of snap judgments, for better or worse. But as much as we tend to think of first impressions in relation to other people, there are countless other ways in which we are making instantaneous decisions about whatever we encounter.
Having just completed two full weeks’ worth of shifts at my latest occupation, it seems like a fair time to assess both my specific position and the company for whom I now work. It would be unfair to make too many definitive declarations before I’ve even received my first full paycheck or become eligible for benefits, but there’s enough data to go on to at least get a general sense of what I can expect going forward. Of course, the very first impression was made during the application process, when both the company and I were each trying to determine whether we might make a good match as employer and employee.
The process of seeking new employment is often prolonged and frustrating, as I’ve experienced on multiple occasions over the last few years. What I would consider my “best” job up to this point was my time spent working in the accounts payable department for a major online travel company, which I did for eight years before falling victim to a department-wide relocation. The pay was modest, albeit sufficient, but I viewed at as a very favorable work environment, carrying such perks as a relaxed dress code and the ability to listen to an iPod on headphones, all thanks to its complete lack of in-person customer interaction, which itself was also a major plus in my book.
It would be fair to say that I’ve been seeking an adequate replacement for that job ever since, which included a relatively brief return to that same company in a totally different capacity. Truthfully, the second go-round always felt like a temporary fix until something better came along, as I reluctantly accepted a call center position with them out of sheer desperation, and only remained with the company for another half year before leaving for good.
Afterwards, I returned to the banking industry, in which I had previously been a teller for about five years mainly during my college years, only now I was working in the so-called “note department,” drawing up commercial loan documents. The salary was comparable to what I had been making during my first tour with the travel company, and the work was challenging enough to learn and keep me mentally engaged, but it still never felt quite as enjoyable overall. I considered it to be fine at the time, particularly after spending nearly two full years adrift in the wake of that layoff, but if asked the question of where I would want to be in five years, that position didn’t seem like the correct answer. Frankly, neither did anything else within banking.
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, my long-term method of earning an income could wind up being substantially different, possibly in the form of writing this or another blog, or perhaps taking on a significant role within the lingerie company that my girlfriend is trying to build. But in the meantime, the hope is to simply find a relatively stable full-time job that pays a livable wage and fosters an enjoyable work environment. So it is fitting that, nearly four years after being laid off from what was my best and longest-tenured occupation, I have returned to the travel / hospitality industry, this time working in the accounts payable department for a timeshare company. Certainly there is a familiar feel to it, as it seems to be similar work to what I had once done. In fact, the office is just down the road from the prior travel company, which offers a much better commute than I had at the bank.
The first floor of the building houses a marketing department call center, which is apparently prone to having loud weekly rallies honoring top performers. I, on the other hand, work on the much quieter second floor, as an accounting department tends not to make a great deal of noise. Unless, of course, you supply your own in the form of listening to an iPod while you work, which is now an option again. The dress code isn’t quite as lax as the prior travel company, where employees like myself would frequently show up wearing a T-shirt and shorts, but I need not wear the dress shirt and slacks required at the bank. And I’m continuing to work standard business hours, which works very well for me. Overall, I’m not sure the environment figures to be quite as fun as the original travel company was, but having already had an opportunity to do a good bit of work on my own, I can say that the workflow seems to be steady, and the day does not usually feel like it’s dragging along.
My very first day on the job was a bit rocky, as I was receiving desk-level training from a very quiet woman who speaks broken English in a very thick accent. And this particular team consists only of another woman and myself, so options would be limited. I was a bit concerned about receiving proper training as I headed home from day one. As luck would have it though, I ended up sitting with the other woman the next day, who may have been a less experienced worker, but proved to be a far better trainer, and I left worked that day feeling far more comfortable that this would end up alright for me.
The job is not without its drawbacks, however, which is true about pretty much every job in existence. For one, there is a rather strict policy within the department that requires us to keep cell phones off the floor, and thus lockers are provided to store items during one’s shift. Not a major issue for me, really, but I won’t be able to see and respond to a text message until I’m on a break, which could be problematic if I need to be contacted more urgently about something. Secondly, internet usage seems to be completely restricted to business purposes only. While I’m generally pretty good about staying on task and keeping slack-off time to a minimum, I’ve found that, say, reading an article on ESPN.com for a few minutes is a great way to give myself a mini-break and get refocused. I’ll surely miss having that ability at some point down the road.
But the most disappointing, and frankly surprising, discovery came during a new hire orientation, during which we were provided a brief company history and philosophy. Again, it is a timeshare company, and one of its basic principles is encouraging its customers to take, and use, their allotted vacation time, citing the mental health benefits of being able to recharge and enjoy a getaway with friends or family. All of this seems perfectly fine and legit, until it is later revealed that the standard company policy is to offer but one solitary week of vacation to employees within their first year of service. As my mom would tell it, such a policy was pretty standard operating procedure years ago, but it feels archaic and shockingly restrictive nowadays. Get out and go on vacation! Well, unless you work here, that is.
So with all that said, it’s mostly off to a good start. It is interesting, though, how perception has already evolved from the initial training on day one, to the new hire orientation a few days later, to today, where I’m officially two weeks in and already working predominantly on my own. Will I love this job? Probably not. But it does feel like a legitimate improvement over the prior stop, and it may just be able to provide however much staying power I really need until, well, whatever comes next. For the foreseeable future, at least, the long and grinding search appears to be over.