Vol. 10 Issue 13
Job Etiquette 101
Use these helpful hints for getting along in your new job
Congratulations! You have finally graduated and are ready to go out and take the world by storm. But before you go implementing all the brilliant concepts you learned in school, there are a few things you might want to consider.
For starters, remember that you are the new kid on the block, and although you may know all the latest and greatest techniques, the therapists who have been at your new workplace the longest still know best, even if you don't agree. This is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you are positive that a new technique you learned about in school would save so much time and energy. Remember that the veteran therapists have been doing this job long before you got there and will be more than capable of performing their jobs long after you are gone.
So tread softly and drop the big stick. You are not at this job to smack anyone over the head with the wealth of knowledge that you accumulated in school. Sit back and take advantage of the knowledge your co-workers have gained during their years on the job. Learn how they do things first, and later you will be able to combine that knowledge with all that you have learned, giving you the best of both worlds.
"Students should be working closely with the experienced therapists and really listening, trying to learn from their base of experience so that they can develop and grow professionally," said Marci Salmi, MC, CRC, PHR, a human resources representative with Banner Health System. "When the new students offer the experienced therapists that kind of respect, they are really able to bond with the students, and then it becomes a fun place to work as well."
"Experience is more valuable than all the books and academic course work I can give [students]," said Lynne W. Schreiber, MS, RT(R), RDMS, director of the diagnostic medical sonography program at Jackson Community College, Jackson, MI.
Although you have had a formal education preparing you for your new job, you will find in many departments that there are caregivers who received all their training on the job. Most of the respiratory therapists you will run into will probably have completed at least a certificate program, but many of the older and most experienced therapists in all respiratory care originally came out of on-the-job training programs.
This does not mean that their skills are not equal to or better than those who were formally educated. Though they may lack a degree, these therapists deserve the same respect you would give any other professional. They have been working in this field and have the on-site knowledge that can never be taught in school. They can be very important resources if you allow them to be.
Caregivers who were trained on the job can easily be intimidated by students who are going through a formal program, said Schreiber. "What I try to do is work with those people and explain to them that it's an opportunity for them to learn all the newest techniques, but also for them to share their many years of experience."
When you first start a new job, you may have a tendency to want to jump in and do everything the first day. This is just not possible, no matter how much schooling you have had. Departments do things differently, and you need to step back and take a hard look at what the experienced therapists in your department are doing. Your formal education was just the beginning of the learning process. You have the basic skills you need in order to survive in the workplace, but now you need to learn exactly what this specific department expects from you.
"Be patient with yourself. Learning is a process and it may feel overwhelming at first. Learning new things really challenges your sense of self-esteem, and at times you may feel like you don't know what you are doing," said Salmi. "You feel like you may never get it. But you will get it; you just have to be patient with yourself and learn from each and every experience."
As important as it is to respect and listen to your co-workers, it is even more imperative to learn the needs of your manager. This is the top person in your departmentthe individual who is responsible for making diagnostic decisions based on your work. The manager is likely to want things accomplished in specific ways, and it is very important to do your best to meet these requirements.
"Learn what the managers want, because they all have different needs, different ways of approaching things and different idiosyncrasies," said Salmi. "If you can work well with the managers, they will be an invaluable resource to you."
"Don't get involved in office politics. It is so easy to get sucked in," said Schreiber.
One of the biggest pitfalls of a new job is getting involved in the disputes and disagreements that often pop up between co-workers. It is easy to get dragged into these contentions. You are not doing yourself any favors by aligning yourself with one faction or another. It is your goal to get along with everyone, without getting so involved that you forget why you are here in the first place, which is to do a good job.
"Focus on your job and what you are supposed to be doing. Your job requires so much concentration. You shouldn't allow yourself to be distracted," said Schreiber.
"I want my students to respect the therapists they are learning from, but in return I want the therapists to respect what the students are trying to accomplish in meeting their career goals," said Schreiber.
Although it is important in any new job to keep an open mind and learn from and respect the workers who were there before you, it is just as important that you get what you need from the experience. When you started down this career path you likely had objectives that you were trying to meet in your life, and these should not be swept aside just because you want to get along at work. The therapists you are working with were also once brand-new and remember what it was like. Give them the respect that they have earned by their many years on the job, and you will find that most of them are more than willing to help you succeed in any way they can.
As in any other aspect of life, when in doubt, ask. This is not to say that you should second-guess every action you take; you have to make some decisions on your own. Everyone understands that it takes time to learn everything, and if you make smart decisions, soon you will find that you are the one people turn to for help. You have valuable resources all around you in the form of other therapists and managers. They are not there to hinder you, but to help you integrate yourself into the workplace so you can have the best department around.
Success is like a tightrope. You need to learn to walk a fine line between independence and teamwork, and also have confidence in what you know while being open to new ideas. A balanced combination of these attributes will make you not only a great therapist, but also a great co-worker and an asset to any company.
When asked for the best advice she could give to a new therapist, Schreiber replied, "Keep on learning, you are just beginning."
Kathi Sartori is an ADVANCE contributing editor.