Sarah Novak, Government Employee

Foreign Service LifeMalawi
January 12, 2017

It was a BIG week people. I know I say that a lot, but I really mean it this time. You see, this week was the first time in 8 years that I was back in an office job! Yes, it’s true. After 5 months of waiting, they finally let me start. Of course with 5 months of waiting, I had lots of time to dream about how amazing this new job would be. And mostly, it feels great. But boy were there a lot of frustrating things too.

Let me paint you a visual…

I arrive at work, sign my HR paperwork and get escorted to my new domain. I have my own office space but there’s also a living room-esque space adjacent to it that has coffee, a tv, computers, books, games, etc. It’s a little hang out spot for people, a social hub, so to speak. It’s adorable.

Shortly after getting settled, my HR person leaves and I’m on my own. My boss is busy and the person who had my job previously is unable to assist that morning, so I’m literally on my own. I don’t bother with the computer because I know they don’t have me set up in the system yet. Instead, I decide to write a to-do list (one of my favorite things ever). I begin to search for a pen and realize THERE ARE NO PENS. Anywhere. I head up to ask my boss where I can get a pen and here’s what transpires.

Me: Hi, boss. I need a pen.

Boss: Ask Bill. He’ll set you up with a pen.

Me: Hi Bill. I was told you can get me a pen.

Bill: Oh, sorry. I don’t have any extras. You need to order pens through X system. Go see Tom.

Me: Hi Tom. I’m trying to get a pen. I was told I need to be set up in X system. Can you help me?

Tom: I need to make a request to IT to authorize you for the system. You have a computer login, right?

Me: Unfortunately, no. Not sure when that’s coming.

Tom: Come back when you have a login and then I’ll submit an access request. Once the access request is approved, I’ll teach you how to put in an order for pens. Then it’ll take a bit to get them from the warehouse, so my guess is we can get you a pen in about a week.

Me: Thanks, but I think I’ll just bring one from home tomorrow.

That, my friends, is bureaucracy in a nutshell. So many systems and best practices (called SOPS or standard operating procedures) that it makes my head want to explode.

So what did I do? I cleaned the crap out of the office. I organized the books, magazines and dvd collections. I tidied and gave stuff away. It felt great to see the impact and it immediately felt like I made my mark on the space.

I had forgotten on LOOOOOONG an office day was. Not to mention how bone-tired I was once I got home. And I don’t even have to cook or clean at my house. I don’t know how you all do this. It’s downright exhausting.

As the week went on I started to find my groove. I got access to systems, started figuring out how to do things and brainstormed about all the amazing things I want to do for the community here. I got so excited, in fact, that I had trouble sleeping. This morning I woke up at 4:30 and wanted to talk about my ideas. So what did I do? Wake Mr. Nick, of course. He wasn’t too enthused about my ideas, but he pretended to listen for a bit. After that I was too revved up to go back to sleep and the day had begun.

It feels great to be that excited about something. It just feels ripe with potential and I have a ton of autonomy to do what I want. Now I just need to decide what my first event is going to be! Yay for new jobs!


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