Timesheets | Anatomy of a Mistake
Timesheets is the podcast where I document the chaos of adulthood one entry at a time.
The newest Timesheets episode is out now !
It has taken me more than 6 months to release a podcast episode.
There’s a lot to feel guilty about, but all I’ll say is that I’m glad I came over the inertia and hit publish.
I promise this will be a better year for Curiousect, you can start by listening (or read the transcript) to the episode below — it’s a personal story about my blunders in the first few months of my job.
I’m Nirmal Bhansali, and you’re listening to Timesheets, the series where I’m making entries about the chaos that is adulthood — one episode at a time.
I know, it’s been a while, but I promise this will be a better year for Timesheets and Curiousect in general.
Let’s begin with today’s episode.
I took a step in the grownup world in 2021. CoVID ensured it was always work from home.
I was also struggling those days. Before starting to work, and in the initial months of my job, there used to be a constant paradoxical feeling that I was having a hard time with.
I wanted to impress my team and the people I worked with, and at the same time I was extremely scared of disappointing them. But there was another lingering thought:
Do I belong here?
Am I good enough? Can I handle this job? Will I get better?
For all practical purposes, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES.
But, I wasn’t sure. Early on, it was a big struggle to find confidence. Things in college seemed easy, but now everything was taking time and felt difficult. Did I become worse after graduating?
You suddenly don’t know how to deal with the responsibility that comes with being paid for the work that you do. It’s a completely different burden. A weight that I never had to carry before, but now is a constant presence. It made me feel really uneasy about myself.
And then it happens.
A mistake at work. Or in my case a series of mistakes, on the 2nd month of the job, all within a span of a few days.
Perhaps giving some context might help? I don’t want to bore you with all the details - but my first job was as a banking and finance associate at a corporate law firm.
What did I have to do? Draft some agreements, due diligence, review a lot of company documents, research RBI guidelines, attend calls, and send a lot of emails. The underlying focus was that all of this debt was being raised and loans being disbursed to companies.
If you didn’t understand any of that, that’s okay. I also didn’t.
In September, a few weeks into my job. I end up getting the responsibility of drafting some agreements. It had a very tight deadline – the client wanted the documents and final versions in a span of a few days. They wanted to give out this loan as soon as possible.
So, I got to work after receiving instructions.
After a long and exhausting set of working days with all-nighters, I sent the documents to the client early in the morning.
But the next day, I didn’t know what awaited me. The client sent some angry messages and had a stern call with us. They were annoyed. Everything that could go wrong in this situation, seemed to have gone wrong.
I made a bunch of blunders.
I missed some emails in a long thread. I misunderstood some WhatsApp messages. I didn't include certain important commercial terms in the agreements that I drafted. Had a bunch of basic grammatical and spelling errors in the agreement, including the name of the client.
I was in a hurry to finish the work, it felt like a lot of burden and I really just wanted to finish everything on time. But, alas, it wasn’t good enough. The people I worked with weren’t angry, as much as they were disappointed. The client was frustrated.
But none of that compared with how I felt about myself. I was sad and deeply angry at myself for what I had done.
I didn’t want to be in my skin for a few days. I wished I could distance myself. Give my life’s controller to someone else, and just avoid dealing with consequences. I really wanted to run away. My confidence was shattered.
And then you make more mistakes, because you’re also scared.
I first thought about the mistake I made, and then saw how it was pointed out to me, and then I started thinking about how stupid I was, and then I thought the firm should cut my salary, and then I began to wonder if I even belong here and then I wanted to quit my job to save myself from the embarrassment of sending another email to this client.
In short, I was nervous, anxious and scared of working on Microsoft Word or Outlook.
What happened to the transaction?
It was successful. The urgent deadline wasn't so urgent. Apparently, the world doesn’t collapse if agreements are signed a couple of days later.
We got some more time, to not just fix the mistakes I made but also help resolve some other issues of the client. It was all over. Client was happy. We got paid. Had to move on to the next assignment.
Except, it’s hard to move on. You feel terrible and you keep waiting for a call or an email that’ll say you’re fired because that’s what you have been telling yourself.
The thing about making a mistake initially in your career is that no one scolds or beats you up more than you do yourself. You know you have fucked up. And you meticulously analyze every tiny decision you took, and assess your worth through these mistakes.
I was stuck for a few days in the dark, and didn’t know how to move forward. I was so afraid of sending an email, reviewing a contract or even just sitting in front of a laptop.
How can I even do this? Didn’t I just fuck things up before? What if I make the same errors again? What if a different client gets angry?
There was always this haunting shadow of dread dragging me down.
It took me a while, but I got through.
In the moments that I made the mistake, I thought I was alone. I thought there’s no one else who could mess things up so badly, or who would make these kinds of stupid and dumb errors.
And, I was wrong. I reached out to my friends and some peers, who shared similar stories. My friends had these experiences too.
We have a separate WhatsApp group, and the entire purpose for the first few months of that group was to answer silly doubts and vent out about the struggles that came with transitioning into work life. Everyone would share a story or two about their bad days.
Mistakes are made by everyone. But when you make your mistakes, they seem isolating. You’re embarrassed. You feel ashamed. You’re not sure if you can reach out to others. You don’t know how to deal with them. You believe for some time that you’re the only one in the world who has made these kinds of blunders. You’re losing trust in your own capabilities.
This thought process is what I hope to help change in some of the upcoming episodes. I call these episodes, the Repository of Mistakes. You’ll be listening to stories of people making mistakes at their workplace when they just started their jobs. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. You’ll listen to what the mistake was, how they felt at the time and what happened next. These are stories of people kind enough to talk to me about their goof ups, blunders, failures, errors and all the bad luck that ruined an ordinary day.
I am not sure if you’ll get any helpful advice. But I think it’s nice to know you’re not the only one out there. That there are others who have been through similar hurdles. I know, I felt less alone after having conversations around mistakes. It gave me the confidence to take a step forward and away from the dread.
Thank you for listening to this episode. See you soon with some stories of mistakes.
And if you’re interested in sharing a story of a mistake you made at your workplace, I would love to hear from you, please do reach out !
Don’t forget to spread the word that Curiousect is back !
That was it.
Let me know what you thought — what were your initial struggles and blunders?
Thanks for reading Curiousect and listening to my podcasts, I’ll be more frequent this year, so don’t forget to subscribe