First Job Is Off to a Rocky Start? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I recently graduated from college and started my first job. The job I was offered was the one I wanted, but on my first day I was moved to a different department and given a job that does not come close to the description of the job I signed up for. The person who hired me is no longer my manager and my new manager has no idea who I am. I show up at team meetings and my manager calls me “Kid,” which I find demeaning. I am fairly sure he does it because he doesn’t know my name.

This all seems unfair to me. I don’t know anyone well enough to try to figure out what is going on. I recently reviewed my employment contract and there isn’t anything in it about what job I would be doing or whom I would report to, so I don’t think I have any recourse legally. I asked my parents, but they are so relieved I have a job, they just tell me to keep my head down and do what I am told.

It just doesn’t seem right to me, but I have no idea what to do about it.

Shunted Around


Dear Shunted Around,

It probably isn’t fair, and it sounds pretty chaotic. I am sorry that your first job experience seems to have gotten off to such a rocky start. It must feel very disconcerting. I do have some ideas for you.

I agree with your parents, but not with their reason. The job market is hot right now and you would be able to get a different job if you wanted one. I just think it might serve you to give the situation a chance. Take a minute to step back and figure things out, get to know some people, and see if you will be able to make it work. Jumping ship at the very first sign of a challenge means you will never know what you might have missed. Stay and try to get a clear picture of the organization.

Seek to find answers to the following:

  • What are the organization’s values? Do they have any, do they try to live by them, and can you align with them?
  • Will you be able to use your strengths and find a career path where you are?
  • Can you reach out to your new manager and make yourself known to him?
  • Can you find people you like and can relate to?
  • Are you interested in what the company does—its products and/or services?

Decide how much time you want to give yourself, and then, if you aren’t satisfied with the answers to the questions you have asked, you can start looking for a job.

The one thing I know for sure is that every organization out there is experiencing an unprecedented volume and speed of change. The one you are in is a perfect example of what I see happening everywhere. Political unrest, climate disasters, economic instability, and turbulent social transformation are all forcing leaders of companies to experiment rapidly to be as successful as possible. There is no blueprint available to help them—so if it feels like they are making stuff up as they go, that’s probably exactly what’s happening.

You are not the only one trying to just hang on for what may be a very bumpy ride.

It is entirely possible that your new manager can’t remember your name. He is no doubt just as discombobulated as you are. Our organization has many new people I am scrambling to keep straight, so I can relate. You can choose to take offense at being called “Kid,” or you can revel in the fact that you are so young that it makes sense for someone to call you that. The one thing you have on your side is time, which is a luxury you won’t appreciate until it’s gone. If your manager assumes your work ethic or your intelligence is lacking because of your age, that is a different story. In my experience, the term “Kid” is usually not ill intended. As you get to know your manager, you can respectfully ask that he not use it. But who knows—by then it might feel like a term of endearment.

Try not to fixate too much on fairness, although it is natural to do so. There is so much unfairness in the world and in large, complex systems. Save your ire for those moments when you are being asked to do unethical things or things you don’t know how to do with no training, or when you are seriously underpaid, or when your workload is unreasonable. The chaos and turbulence you are experiencing right now are unfair to everyone in the organization, so it isn’t personal. You aren’t being singled out.

Breathe. Take a step back. Stay open. Try not to worry so much. Just keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. Decide on what criteria about the job matters most to you and whether this position can meet them. Experiment with influencing and steering your ship through stormy waters.

You ultimately may decide you do have to leave, but you will have learned so much.

Love, Madeleine

About Madeleine

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

Leave a Reply