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Design & Technology May 04, 2018

It's alright to be 'okay' for a while

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The agency world can be intimidating. With its large scale projects, carefully orchestrated content on social media and online personalities sharing impressive talks about stuff you might have never heard of. When looking for a new challenge it’s easy to develop a feeling of having to perform on the same level as the new company you want to work for. Of course, it’s admirable that you want to push yourself to get on your new colleagues’ level, but it’s important to realize that these things might take time. All in all: it’s perfectly fine to “suck” for a while.

Three years ago, I started as an intern at Dept and it’s been a joyride ever since I started. Agencies like Dept do the things they do really well. So, when I started as frontend developer I looked at some of the work my colleagues did and it made me go: “Yikes, I have some catching up to do”. Now, as a medior, it’s easier to put things into perspective and reflect on a period of trying to sprint for the top, crashing and adjusting pace.

Racing to the top

In the span of a year, I worked my ass off and set the goal to become a ‘Frontend Grand Wizard’. Strangely enough though, I didn’t manage to fulfill that goal of becoming an expert within a year. And this frustrated me. It even came to a point where I had an evaluation with my team lead in which I expressed my worries of not making enough progress. Not sure what to expect, I explained him that I felt the last year went “meh” and that I maybe could have tried to reach a few more goals set by myself. My lead then gave me an answer I was least expecting:

“Shut up. You’re doing fine.”

It turned out I was doing alright. Better than expected actually. In fact, my team lead even advised me to take it a little easier. It took a few reassuring chats with my lead to get the message across. The pace I was progressing at was good and I was learning perfectly fine.

It was at that point I started to realise that I always looked up to people with more experience than I had and when I was trying to catch up with them, I had neglected to consider they have been doing this for years. They probably (no, likely) fell on their face a few times before getting to the point they are now. Who’d have thought, right?

Learning how to walk

What personally helped me was finding a few people I connected with who could teach me a thing or two. I clinged on to them like a koala to a eucalyptus tree for the first few months. When working together I would ask them for help and opinions on problems I ran into. And that’s basically my first piece of advice in dealing with your own high expectations: when you enter into a new environment, try and befriend as many people as you can and figure out who can help you in various situations. Many love to help so it’s wise take full advantage of their time and generosity.

Another important thing to consider is to decide who is your go-to-guy or -gal will be for specific types of help you need. Because sometimes you want someone to sit down with and explain you how something works, while at other times you just need someone to take over and show you how to solve a particular difficult piece of work.This is especially helpful when you’re coming up on a deadline and your brain can’t deal with learning because it’s friday and you have the dumbs. It happens.

Jogging at a steady pace

Getting as skilled as the people you look up to will probably take a lot of hours. And hey, that is okay. It’s totally fine to take a few months to learn the ropes and getting settled on a learning curve you feel comfortable in. And do remember to always ask for help if you’re feeling flat or stuck. Often the main part of the problem is being afraid to ask for help. It may have taken me a while, but I learned that it’s sometimes better to ask too many questions than to struggle on the same problem for days. Be confident in the skills that you have and accept that you have a long road ahead of you. Because learning something new takes a lot of time. But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s alright to just be okay for a while.