No matter how old I get, and how much professional experience I gain, why is it that the first day starting a new job and I always feel like I’m 13 years old again?
It’s early morning as I wheel my bike through the staff entrance of my new employer. A little knot of teenage boys gathers in the corridor talking about fast cars and weekend parties. As I wait, sandwiches and flask in hand it feels uncannily like that first day at high school, people flowing past me with purpose and direction, whilst I stand cluelessly in the middle of the human current.
Thus begins my first day at working for the national bicycle retailer who now has the dubious pleasure of employing me. Engaged in their terms on ‘a competitive salary’ and in my terms a ‘frighteningly small wage’ to assemble, fix, talk and purvey all things bike.
Happily, the job description appears far wider ranging than the salary and it is this opportunity, to be immersed in all things bicycle, that gets me through the front door.
The chance to learn and practice cycle mechanics, on all types of machines, surrounded by far more proficient colleagues has hooked me.
From the outset I knew that this job would test me in so many new and different ways.
I’ve never worked in retail before, the thought of using a till irrationally terrifies me, as does the vast amount of new knowledge I’m about to have to ingest, quickly. Time and an aging brain don’t facilitate this.
Alongside the above I’ll freely admit that it will also be a massive test for my ego.
In previous employment and when working for myself I have been able to command a reasonable salary. One based on the years of expertise and experience in my (completely different) field. I am used to being in control of my time and my work, to autonomy and setting my own schedule and to working at a management level.
That’s all gone now, I’m starting at the bottom of the heap again, working alongside a large number of students and teenagers, for them it’s a first career step or a part time filler, but for me it’s a conscious choice and I need to remember this when my ego starts getting fractious.
I left my previous world of work for a reason, primarily that salary and job satisfaction are not directly proportionate.
Back to day one and it doesn’t help self-confidence when those same young students just seem, well, so damn proficient. Especially navigating the electronic till and generally operating on warp speed compared to my faltering, confused pace.
But for all that, so far they are cheerful, supportive bunch who don’t make me feel like an outsider, despite the (erm significant) age gap.
I’m also able to acknowledge my own strengths, even in this young, fast paced crowd. Unlike most, my experience with bikes isn’t confined to the workshop or weekend jaunts. I’ve competed on my road bike and ridden long distance cycle tours. If miles count then I’m expert in that at least.
Like my thirteen year old self though I’m still learning and learning lessons. Trying to do it with humility, conscientiousness and the ability to laugh at myself once in a while. Ok, fairly often.