On the Monday of your first week at work, you cannot find your way back from the staff room after the coffee break because the corridors all look the same. On Friday, someone asks you how you find it in your new workplace. You don't know what to answer because it feels that you have not done anything, yet.
Suunnittelua valkotaulun äärellä

The feeling of having not done anything over the first couple of weeks at work means that you have been practicing the skill of not having a clue. It means the ignorant feeling when you do not quite know what is included in your job description, cannot remember anyone's name and even the computer doesn't work the way it should.

Not having a clue is annoying. Admitting it aloud may be difficult if the other employees have been in the work community for a long time.

Dear colleagues, here are some examples for coping when you haven't got a clue.

  • It is your right to feel you haven't got a clue. Take your time and get to know your new job description, the practices and materials related to it.
  • Write down questions that come to your mind and things you are not familiar with. Using your notes, you will be able to discuss more than one thing at a time with you tutor.
  • Write down the new terms related to your work as well as any abbreviations and find out what they mean.
  • Do not try to do too many tasks at the same time but divide your job description into smaller parts. Write down different work tasks and consider which tasks should be done first.
  • At the end of your working day, write down the tasks you need to do the following day so that you can forget about work at home. It will be nice to return to work in the morning when you know where to start.
  • When you are more familiar with your job description, you can learn to plan your work tasks for a couple of days or for a week.

A good work community is encouraging

Not having a clue means that you have not adopted any routines, yet. As a new employee, you have to learn things that others already do without thinking.

In practice, learning is tolerating the risk of failing. It is unpleasant. Something can always go wrong or make you look silly. The response in that situation is patience and time. Learning takes place alongside patience.

One of the rights of a new employee is to receive a good-quality induction. Trying to alleviate the feeling of not having a clue is not a personal burden the new employee should carry alone. It is the whole work community's responsibility to wish the new employee welcome.
A good colleague can put himself or herself in the position of the new employee and explain the everyday habits in the workplace. Nothing should be taken for granted.

Everyone should sometimes have no clue

Having no clue is a skill consisting of uncertainty and patience. The skill is further emphasised year after year as people change jobs more and more often and work tasks are fragmented even in permanent jobs. The skill of not having a clue is therefore not the exclusive right of summer employees or trainees.

The first notes are valuable

The most fruitful time for refining this skill is fairly short as a new employee will very soon learn the ropes. Therefore, it is valuable to already write down observations, experiences and emotions when you have just started in the job.

Compile the notes in a way that is most natural to you, by writing them on paper, to a file, on your phone or by taking a photo, drawing or recording a video. By glancing at your notes you can see that you have in fact learned quite a lot in a short time.

Talking helps

One way to collect your thoughts is chatting. Learning often happens at the very moment you tell someone about your experiences. It is a chance to put into words things that are ordinary but important for working life, in a natural and sometimes funny way.
A new employee constantly makes small observations that are difficult to categorise. When you are chatting, it is as if you are writing down these observations of everyday matters.

The best thing is that by chatting, the feeling of uncertainty eases up, whereas the skill of not having a clue becomes stronger and stronger.

Text: Mari Karjalainen