Laura Buker

AddedTuesday, February 26, 2019 at 8:56 PM

How long did it take for you to really feel comfortable in your job?

I have a BS and 2 MS in engineering (one in CE/Water Resources and another in Civil/Environmental engineering) and yet I feel dumb and lost at work everyday, to the point of considering a career change.

I've been working for a small Land Development company for a little bit over a year and still feel unfit and lost. Daily feelings of impostor syndrome. I 'learn' how to do something and by the time I have to do something similar again I don't really remember how to do it or there are too many things that are different. The only other engineer is slammed and it feels like he doesn't have time to properly train me. He will answer my questions but I don't feel like I am learning a lot. I wonder if this is normal and people learn to swim or sink or people usually get more mentoring when they are starting their career. On my annual review I was told I was doing good but was about 25% less efficient than what they expected me to be by that time. My raise was 2%.

Should I be worried? Is it me or am I in the wrong place? When did you really feel comfortable in your job? How much training is normal? How fast should one progress in their career?

Related to Civil, Environmental, Internships & Jobs, Self Doubt, Work Environment
  • Molly Lebowitz , Propeller Consulting
    Answered Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 9:36 AM
    So glad you wrote, Laura. There could be a few things at play here, all of which I've experienced at some point in my own career. Only you can determine what mix of the below is actually going on. 
    (1) Size of Transition. I've typically measured the energy and stress associated with job transitions by the amount of dimensions you're changing at once. For example, if you change your discipline (like air quality engineering vs water treatment engineering) AND your network (like NY to LA), AND your role (like manager vs engineer) all at once, that's a HUGE transition and will cause lots of upset and discomfort. Ideally, you pick two and keep one the same with each move. How many dimensions did you change? Probably a lot, which is why you're feeling this pain. AND you went from education to industry, which is another huge mind shift. 
    (2) You're just not that into it.  When you're really interested in and passionate about what you're doing, it feels effortless. Even if it's really tough, you're able to magically be efficient and kind of work through the difficulties because you're enjoying the road. By contrast, when you're in a field that just simply doesn't jive with WHO YOU ARE, you're going to feel clumsy, slow, and downright ineffective. What I've learned to recognize is this is not a judgement on YOU, rather on the match between you and your job. Bad matches will make you feel like a low performer. 
    (3) Unreasonable Expectations. Perhaps you're being measured by a ruler that's not reasonable. You can check for this by talking with other folks about their experience when they joined the team or even employees who have left the team. Are there commonalities that could be more of a reflection on management than on you? 
    None of these are excuses, but depending on the mix of the above factors in your situation, you need to make some CHANGE so that you feel successful. Be a detective to figure out what change will have the positive impact you're looking for. And GREAT JOB reflecting on your situation and seeking help. If you keep doing that you're going to end up in a great place!
    Molly Lebowitz, Management Consultant, Portland OR