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I have one BIG problem in my new job: I have NO idea what I’m doing

Collage drawing by Franke James using source illustration ©istockphoto.com/ MarikP

Dear Office-Politics,

…I have one big problem in my new job: I have no idea what I’m doing, and no one will answer my questions.

I have found myself in an unfortunate pickle. In my haste to get a job after moving to a new city, I took a job that seemed perfect at the time. I had been in residential real state for 3 and a half years, and an investment banker with a small staff hired me to work on a special project that would make use of my skills in residential property evaluation, to aid him in the pricing and acquisition of mortgage loans. I was excited to learn a little more about finance.

Well, the project never took off and while I am grateful that he has kept me on staff, I am doing nothing but making cold calls regarding commercial real estate loans all day long. Sometimes I get a filing project, but all of those are literally done now. I have tried to go into it with gusto, but given that I have no background in finance or commercial real estate (and majored in art history), I have a lot of questions. I am literally learning a new vernacular, and also a lot of slang, and doing it pretty much on my own.

There are two other staff members, and the CEO and principal of the company is out of the office most of the time. While he is communicative in terms of accessibility, he is not willing to teach me, and give me all of the background I need. He is dismissive, and has told me that no one expects me to know anything at my level anyway. I have tried very hard to communicate my ability and eagerness to learn by reading or taking classes in basic finance, but he does not encourage any growth and mocks my enthusiasm. The VP is in the office, and is stuck in the position of having to deal with a very inexperienced colleague, and makes no effort to hide his frustration with me. He is impatient, and often condescending in tone. The CEO’s assistant is usually busy with stepping and fetching for the CEO, and takes everything very seriously. She sighs a lot, and does not smile or talk much. The same for the CEO.

I am in a very quiet, very tense office with nothing to do but one task all day long, and no opportunity for growth. I get paid well, and have health insurance. I was able to lighten the mood in the office for a few weeks, but one afternoon the VP got so irritated with one of my perfectly logical questions (regarding a faulty software issue, completely out of my control) that he threw a bit of a tantrum and now has not spoken to me at all in three days. I have tried to reach out and acknowledge how frustrating it must be to have to assist someone like me with no finance background, but he literally ignored me. He often ignores me. I have long stopped bothering him.

I have gone from a job managing people in a thriving, communicative environment to being spoken to like a child in a silent chamber. I am looking for another job, clearly, but how do I deal with this in the meantime? It seems as if my relentless positive attitude, no matter how unoppressive, really makes things worse.

Help me before I jump.

Thank you,

Feeling Jumpy

franke james

Dear Feeling Jumpy,

I’m replying to your letter at 11pm — reading through it quickly you’re doing lots of things right, but the culture and fit aren’t right for you. I’m glad to hear you’re looking for a new job.

I strongly suggest you read some books that will help you determine:

– Your key strengths
– A dream — and a roadmap to get there.

To help you figure out what your strengths are and what your big dream is (and how to get it), go to the library — or to Amazon and get these books:

1. Dreamcrafting — I love this book. I recommend it highly.
2. Erika Andersen’s book Being Strategic — it’s all about imagining your castle on the hill — and crafting a plan to get there.
3. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Also, do you use social media like Twitter or Facebook? Both of those sites can help you to network into a better job — but whatever that job is — make sure that it’s really something you LOVE and you’re PASSIONATE about. Life is too short for a dead-end job.

Get your foot in the door in the industry you want to be in — and then work like hell…. And have fun.

Good luck — happy reading — keep notes in a journal — you have a lot of work to do to but there’s a wonderful opportunity out there for you if you go after it.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Inventor, Dear Office-Politics Game


Franke James, MFA is the Inventor of the award-winning Dear Office-Politics Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

  1. 6 Answers to “I have one BIG problem in my new job: I have NO idea what I’m doing”

  2. Feedback from Feeling Jumpy:

    Wow, Franke. You are on top of it!

    I believe I may have written for more an outlet than anything else, and I am very appreciative of your time and thought– almost touched.

    I do have a dream and am hard at attaining it outside of work. I finally, at 31 and tired of ‘real jobs,’ have just succumbed to my dream of working in the music industry. I am managing my first client and have been fortunate enough to have befriended many contacts over the years as a music lover and concert goer. In my first 6 months of taking the leap I am well on my way, but have grown accustomed to having money and crazy things like that so it will take awhile to get to the level of earning at which I am most comfortable. Until then I use my other strengths, communication skills, enthusiasm, leadership, blah blah in whatever environment to pay the rent.

    Your response is very encouraging, and I am further inspired to do whatever I do well. Affirmation and accolades for you.



    By OP Feedback from Feeling Jumpy on Feb 3, 2011

  3. Great! Read Dreamcrafting first. It gives advice on how to develop a career in the music and arts industries — as well as other industries. My advice on arts careers is to reduce your monthly cost of living as much as possible, so you have the runway to pursue your dream.


    By Franke James on Feb 3, 2011

  4. I mean it. Deciding to find another job was a really good thing to do. This job could have led to such an expansion of knowledge and expertise and you could have helped your CEO grow his business — but he won’t let you even though he’s around to give you advice on how to do it. You aren’t even expecting him to run private classes for you so it’s not like you’re going to take time out of his schedule. I hope your new boss appreciates your self-starting capabilities and gives you the opportunities you deserve.

    By go for it on Feb 18, 2011

  5. Quit.

    By Srinivas Kari on Oct 14, 2011

  6. I’ve been in a similar situation. Instead, I wasted years waiting to be noticed/acknowledged/moved up despite learning on my own and taking on more responsibilities. I gave so much but received empty promises that he had bigger plans in store for me as long as I continued to be patient and dedicated. In the end, I got nothing in return from my boss except a demotion and then an abrupt kick out of the door without so much as a thank you for the past nine years.

    Please find a new job as quickly as you can. Things WON’T get better in that environment. The money is not worth it. If you are the kind of person who can detach your worth and self from your job, then stay until you are financially able to pursue the music industry full time.

    This type of boss thinks that the paycheck should keep you happy. He/She doesn’t realize that treating you with respect and appreciating your efforts costs nothing and goes a long way.

    By Naive on Feb 23, 2012

  7. Finance people are high strung A**holes. Find a different job with people you can live with. The money is not everything. A bad working environment can wear on your personal life and health.

    Get out fast and don’t look back.

    By Jack on Jun 6, 2012

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