Theresa was a fine Air Force officer. She'd spent 9 years in the service working in the comptroller's office. She had a firm grasp on Air Force procurement spending and was well-known for being a whiz at finding money. She'd left the Air Force for greener pastures and found the market to be soft. She and her husband had enough savings to allow her to spend more time with the kids and postpone searching for a job for nearly a year. Once she stated looking, she used a recruiter and landed a job in the corporate finance department of a major bank where she was an underwriter. The pay was great, a full 20 percent more than she made in the service not including her bonus. Her team was fine. They were a collection of seven men who had never been in the service before, but knew their industry really well. She even felt that she caught on to the job fairly quickly. Most things were just fine.
There was only one issue. She hated it. She absolutely hated it. Randall, the lead underwriter that she worked with, had no appreciation for her work. She would spend countless hours working on developing a strong case for supporting a proposed loan only to hear him say that “He didn't understand her point”. Additionally, her co-workers really had no camaraderie. Each day, they would eat at their desks, spending no time getting to know each other, let alone her. She had only been at the job for a month but was ready for a change. Where does she go from here?
Theresa is not alone in her feelings. I've spoken with numerous veterans who, once they leave the military find their industry or company lacking. Sometimes they miss the camaraderie. Sometimes it's the sense of purpose. Sometimes it's the respect that they'd built up just by being affiliated with the service for so long. Now they had to start all over again. That is never a good feeling. Here's how you can get through it:
- Find an ally. In this case, Theresa was the only female underwriter, but she had a female admin assistant. Do not underestimate the value of a great assistant! They often will have insight into the people around you. Try striking up a conversation and genuinely get to know who they are. They might then be able to help you understand what is going on with the others in your office… maybe even your lead underwriter. When you're the new person to an office, you may not be aware of the things that are transpiring in the lives of the people around you. A lot of times, the way they react to your work has nothing to do with you.
- Be patient. Different people take longer to warm up to strangers in their environment. Giving folks time to observe you and befriend you in their own time is a great way to make long term work relationships.
- Work hard. Be the hardest working person in the office. When new to a job, there are so many things you don't know. Much of that is the idiosyncrasies of the people around you and the corporate culture. Focus on learning those things and you will end up miles ahead.
One additional note… in the end, you may find that the job is not the right environment for you. If that's the case, by all means, keep looking for your happiness. Find that place where you fit in and the work doesn't feel like working at all.