Last week I started a new job. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken a new position in December, and because of that, I realized consciously something that I think I’ve felt ever since graduating from college: Starting a new job feels more like being a kid at Christmastime than anything else in my adult world.
Part of the reason for that is what goes along with the transition, which makes it feel like an extended party (just like Christmas). You meet lots of new people, most of whom at least act like they are delighted to have you around. You get new things, a steady stream of little presents – ooh, a brand new stapler! Pristine note pads! Health insurance! In the tonier positions, you might be looking at a new Blackberry or a company car. If you are leaving a position you hated, or just spent months in unemployment, maybe the new job itself feels like an enormous gift.
But for me, the most Noeline element of a new job is anticipation. What is Christmas all about? Of course, opinions differ. The modern secular commercial theme of “demonstrating love through consumption” is locked in battle with the more traditional “birth of the Saviour”, although both seem compatible with my personal favorite, “peace on earth, goodwill towards men”. But for kids, the most popular theme by far is “anticipation”. The carols and the cookies are great, but to kids, it’s all just a prelude to that magical morning when they might just get their heart’s desire: the new Legend of Zelda game; a trip to Walt Disney World; a bike; clothes that fit; Mom to stop crying herself to sleep; Dad home from Afghanistan; food. It depends on the kid. (They don’t all get their wishes – never enough of them get their wishes – but, thank God or man as you will, more get their wishes at Christmas than the rest of the year.)
When we grow up, Christmas loses much of this element of mysterious possibility, and there isn’t much we encounter that retains it. Maybe travel, and certainly new romantic relationships, but at some point most people stop changing partners more frequently than they change jobs. But – for me, at least – every new job is fraught with this kind of hope, like a tree stuffed with presents still to be unwrapped. What’s in this box? Opportunity? Crackerjack colleagues? What about this one? Credit for work well done? Let me shake it – sounds like it could be skills enhancement! Aw, rats, it’s just another mindless routine. I got that last year!
I love starting a new job the way I loved Christmas as a kid. In some ways, it’s even better. Other than wishing, and making my wishes known, I had no control over what Santa would bring me each year. But much of what I get out of my new job is within my influence. I sought and accepted a position that I believed would offer what I am wishing for, and now that I’m here, my actions and choices will affect what I get out of it. I still might not get everything I’m asking for – and will undoubtedly also sometimes receive the occupational equivalent of socks – but the possibilities are energizing. And I’ve waited much longer than a year for this.
May we all get what we wish for in our careers.