Orientation: The Start of a New Quest


Every job is as unique as the next and there are many things to take into consideration when you start a new position. Whether you’re moving up in the ranks or coming in cold there are things you are going to need to know before you can really feel like you’ve hit your stride. It’s best to honor this and give yourself time to orient. Give yourself permission to be clumsy; allow yourself to ask silly questions and make obvious mistakes. Learn from them and keep going.

Any time I start a new project or begin working with a new team I always feel a little bit vulnerable and it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of insecurity. As the newbie in the next cubicle I have often been tempted to take the feeling of newness and equate it with weakness or incompetence. It’s important to recognize this as a flawed analysis and to shut this kind of thinking down before I start overcompensating and alienating the people who I will be working with.

When I was in college I had a roommate who liked to play the type of on-line adventure video games where you start out in the world with like, maybe a loin cloth and a wooden stick, and you had to run around slaying rat monsters or something and then after you get a thousand or so of those you get some clothes and a little metal dagger and then you have to run around and sometimes you luck out and find treasure, and eventually bigger more interesting parts of the world open up to you. Maybe eventually you get some armor and some healing potion and a fancy sword.

Occasionally these majestic characters (other on-line players) would sweep through the landscape in all their shining invincibility and my roommate would say, “Look at this guy!” And all I could ever think was, Wow, that guy has put in his time! And that’s all it is really. You stay the course. First you figure out where you are and what you’re trying to do, then you slay the little rat monsters, then the bigger rat monsters, then the wolves, then the dragons. But you never start out slaying the dragons. Nobody ever starts out slaying the dragons.

  1. Figuring out where you are: Take time to explore your new work world. Take time to find out where everything is at. Ask a lot of questions. Learn the systems. What is the process of getting paperwork from A to B? Where is the valuable information? What doors do you avoid?
  2. Figuring out the tools: When you first start a new job you are going to be a little bit like an anthropologist. Study the new office culture. How are things done? Who are your helpers? Who needs help? What is your place in it all? Eventually you will be a contributor to the unique work environment. It’s important to recognize what you can contribute that will make it a more positive experience for everyone and hone those qualities to use as your tools.
  3. Slaying the little monsters: Get a handle on the specifics around what the day to day meat of the job entails and just get really, really proficient at it. Get so good that it becomes an automatic action like breathing. Taking time to fully incorporate operations from the get-go frees you up to put more of your focus on innovations and advancements in your area.
  4. Slaying the dragon: Set this as your ultimate goal and work toward it daily. Put in your time, sharpen you skills, accumulate knowledge, and cultivate your awareness. When the daunting challenges arise at work you’ll be ready to meet them heroically.

That’s pretty much it. As government employees we must be resilient and ready to respond at all times. If we head into our new positions with humility and patience we are less likely to be tripped up by the inevitable minor missteps along the path and we will have the foresight to quickly correct course and carry on without much ruckus.

Rena Priest is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Hi Rena,
This is a great piece. I am connected to your post because I facilitate orientation in my agency.

I particularly like this: If we head into our new positions with humility and patience we are less likely to be tripped up by the inevitable minor missteps along the path and we will have the foresight to quickly correct course …

Eva Fulton

great comparison! funny enough, I bought a PS4 for my son and I purchased a game that slays things too. problem is that I can’t push the buttons fast enough to kill the big dragon. i think I’m in trouble!!!