Posted: 11 Nov. 2022 6 min. read

What skating can teach us about our first job

Observations and learnings from a skating class to apply to your first job

Have you ever wondered what skating and first job have in common? Read along to find out, and be ready to take a trip down memory lane to your first job. Or if you are just starting your career, here are some valuable lessons that you can apply to your first experience.

Earlier this year, in the evenings, I used to take my daughter to classes for skating. As I sat on the grass and watched my daughter and the other children skate, I thought about how skating is a lot like our first job. Observing these children day after day, I thought about the advice I would have liked to share with my younger self when I started my career.

When you start, expect it to be tough

When I saw new kids starting with the skating class, I noticed that they struggled just to stand while wearing their skates. With their skates on, these kids needed a lot of help for any movement. Eventually, with perseverance and practice, they graduated from standing, to barely walking, to somewhat skating, to seamlessly gliding. In this case, the learning curve was quite steep, much as it is in life when we start our first job—what one can do is mentally prepare beforehand to go through such an experience. When I began my career as a developer, I felt quite underprepared for the job, despite having completed a degree and internships. The work was intense, and I needed help every step of the way. The whole experience seemed to stretch me beyond my limits. But looking at the skaters and my journey, I know that no matter how difficult it is initially, one day, you will reach a point where it will feel natural and almost effortless. 

You will fall a lot, but you will also learn

The new children in the skating class would spend a lot of time sprawled on the floor. When you start skating, falling is inevitable. But getting back up and trying again is key. I remember that our first build and deployment failed during my first project, because my module had unresolved errors. I was embarrassed beyond words and disappointed in myself. It was painful to see that the whole team had to spend two additional hours during deployment because of me. As difficult as it was, I learned that no matter how hard you fall, you have to pick yourself up and start again.

Performance may feel like a race, but it doesn’t have to

In the skating class, there would be a race after the practice drills. Like any other race, some kids would be in the front, some in the middle, and some at the end. This is how performance evaluation may feel like at work. But one should remember that it’s not your position that matters as much. What matters is your desire to be doing what you love and working toward getting better every day. I was lucky to learn this early on. I was convinced through high school and college that all I ever wanted to do was to code. However, barely six months into my actual job as a developer, I realized that I was average at best. More importantly, I realized that my interest lay in the business side of technology. So, I moved on to do an MBA and switched to business consulting—since then, I haven’t looked back. As I progressed in my career, I learned that the goal is not to reach the finish line, but to be better than your earlier self and to find meaning and joy in what you do. When you do that, everything else gets taken care of.

Don’t just flock with birds of your own feather

During the breaks in the skating class, the children would form smaller groups with those similar to them—the shy kids, the extroverts, the ultra-competitive ones, and so on. Unintentionally, we do the same at work. When I started out, my group comprised only of other campus hires like me. It wasn’t until I went to a B-school that I learned the value of working with a diverse group of people. In retrospect, I realize that while it is natural to gravitate toward people like us, we can benefit from actively seeking out and working with those people who are very different from us. If you have a choice, work at a more diverse workplace. There is enough research to show that inclusive companies and leaders are more successful than the ones that aren’t. So, if you are starting out, know that you can make an effort to know and work with people different from you. Because the sooner you start, the better off you will be.

Finally, the most important takeaway from skating is to be a sport as you start and go through your journey. Collaborate, celebrate the success of others, enjoy your work, and focus on getting better every day.

Starting your first job is stressful and exciting in equal parts. It is also the opportunity of a lifetime. Always remember what skaters say, “I may lose my balance, but I will never lose my determination.” If you are at the beginning of your career, you may struggle and learn some necessary but unpleasant lessons. But I hope your first work experience brings along invaluable learning and wonderful memories.

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Neha Verma

Neha Verma

Senior Manager | Customer & Marketing, Consulting

Neha Verma is a Senior Manager within Customer & Marketing at Deloitte Consulting India Private Limited. Neha is focused on growing marketing capabilities and is experienced in delivering omni channel marketing and campaign solutions for clients, to drive their branding and revenues. Neha is passionate about “elevating the human experience” by orchestrating engaging campaigns across channels such as Email, Search, Social, Display and others.