The year was 2012 and my husband’s work had relocated us from Eastern Utah back to the big city of Salt Lake. That meant I had to find new employment. After a lot of applications and a few interviews, I was offered (what I thought) was the opportunity of a lifetime! I was to be the Human Resource Director for an adolescent psychiatric facility. I really felt that I had “made it” in my career. Having worked in HR, by this point, for about seven years, I had solidly set in my mind what my expectations about my role would be. I knew who I was going to be and, based on the job description, I was sure my expectations were in alignment with the company, and I couldn’t wait for that beautiful corner office.
I arrived on my first day ready to participate in new employee orientation. I was told I’d be with a large group of new hires, and I was ready to learn all about the company and the benefits with my fellow newbies. I found an empty seat in the training room in-between a new mental health technician and a nurse. I happily introduced myself and asked about their positions. After about 10 minutes when no one had entered the front to teach the class we all began wondering where our trainer was. It was at that moment I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find the CEO trying to get my attention. In a low whisper he asked: “Can you run this new employee orientation today?”
As I got up from my seat as a participant and walked to the front of the room as a trainer, I realized the expectations I had developed in my head may not be quite in alignment with the reality of my new position. The vision in my head of an organized, professional company quickly turned into disappointment and instant fear that I had made the wrong decision. Not only was this company unorganized, but the unspoken, unwritten expectations placed on me were quickly coming into view and I didn’t know if I was up to the task, or in all honesty, if I wanted to be.
I got through the training doing my best to interpret each slide on the screen that the previous HR Director had built. When the 8-hour class ended I sat down in my new office and re-examined what my expectations were. The next day, I met with my CEO with my list and together we discussed both of our expectations of my role. After the reality check of my first day on the job, establishing open lines of communication with leadership and learning to pivot when surprises inevitably happened, I felt more prepared moving forward with realistic expectations albeit expectations that were routinely challenged and re-evaluated. When I left the company to move to Oregon a few years later, I left proud of the work that I had done, hoping I had made good decisions and influenced positive change. But I also left exhausted with a new toolbox full of questions I use help me avoid disappointment in the future.