A “Can Do” Attitude, or Fake it ‘Til you Make It

December 9, 2010 at 7:30 am | Posted in Career Moves | 10 Comments
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We all get overwhelmed sometimes.  Our “to do” lists, seem never ending and for someone like me, you don’t want to talk to me until I cross a few things off.  But when it comes to your personal “to do” list, you only have to answer to you.  Most people have to report to someone when it comes to their work “to do” list.

My company has been working hard to define our job descriptions to ensure we are meeting the needs of the organization.  It’s a work in progress, so flexibility is a must.  So that’s why I was caught off guard when I asked one of my colleagues if she wanted to talk to her supervisor about taking on a project that I knew was in her job description and she said no.  No? What do you mean no?

Now, let me back up for a second because I’m sure some of you are wondering why I would be making this suggestion to a colleague.  No, she doesn’t report to me, which is why I kindly asked her to talk to her supervisor about it, because I knew it was something that needed to be done and it was her supervisor’s job to help her manage her workload.  But I happen to know that this particular project has historically had no coordination and she was hired specifically for projects such as this one.  For the greater good of the organization, I wanted to ensure there was a process in place for this project.

So back to this strange answer “no.”  Firstly, she didn’t say “no” flat out. She gave me some long excuse about her other work and how she didn’t feel she had the capacity for this project (the project doesn’t demand much attention right now, but it will demand some, come Spring).  Whatever the case, she basically wouldn’t take the assignment and I was dumbfounded.

I don’t think I have ever said no to a project that was within my scope of work. I’ve said, “it’s on my list, but not a priority,” but never no.  It’s actually this “can do” attitude that has gotten me as far as I am in my career.

It’s not that I know how to do everything.  I have taken on many projects where I actually didn’t know how to do the assignment (not how to go about it, literally didn’t have the skills in place to do it).  Did I know how to do simple animation before my old company required it?  Did I have any design skills prior to my first job?  Had I ever built a web site from scratch before a client needed it?  Could I write a one page document on just a few sentences of information?  I said yes to these projects time and time again knowing that I’d be able to use critical thinking skills to figure out the answers. It was my own personal professional development.

You don’t ever have to stop learning, but if you say no in the work place, people won’t come back to you because they will feel like they cannot rely on you. Not a reputation you want in the workplace.

I always try to follow this advice: you gotta fake it until you make it.  If you don’t challenge yourself, then don’t expect to progress in your career.  Unless of course you are satisfied with status quo.  I know I’m not.

Humble Beginnings

November 16, 2010 at 7:36 am | Posted in Career Moves | 5 Comments
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I ran into a former boss of mine the other day on the train. I know what you are thinking — this can’t be good, but it was.  We had left off on good terms, though the company was really saddened to see me go.  Anyways, I had been meaning to catch up with her, but alas life always seems to get away from us.  We caught up on our way to our respective destinations and she gave me great compliments and told me how much I was missed at my old company.  Sometimes, you have to move on from a place to see how much you were appreciated.  Sometimes, you work so hard and feel like you are spinning your wheels, then something or someone reminds you of how far you’ve come.

I had my first job at age 16, working at Dunkin Donuts with several other kids my age.  For 4 months, I served up donuts and coffee and dealt with disgruntled people looking for their caffeine fix, before returning to school for the fall of my junior year.  Working with peers was certainly a blast, but after that experience, I never wanted to work in food service again.  It is really tough work but I had at least grown a healthy respect for those who keep with it.

The rest of my high school employment consisted of childcare gigs, tutoring, and a real short stint in retail.  In college, I continued with childcare work, as well as working at a local gym and a tanning salon on summer breaks.  I also took on two unpaid internships for “real world” preparation.

When I think back on my resume, I do see serious growth.  It’s strange for me to look back at my humble beginnings as I’ve always been so focused on preparing to get ahead for tomorrow. Sometimes, I beat myself up about not moving faster, but the truth is, I am doing pretty damn good for a 27 year old, working through a recession with a damn good job at an appropriate level for my age and experience.  Just ten years ago, I was bagging donuts, now I’m writing, talking to reporters, bumping elbows with CEOs, and making change in kids’ lives and public perspective.  I’m going to continue to work hard to reach my goals but will always remember those who gave me a chance and taught me how to be good at what I do.

Escaping the Chaos

October 14, 2010 at 7:42 am | Posted in Career Moves | 1 Comment
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When I originally launched this blog, I thought I’d write a lot about my career.  Having started a new job just a month before starting this blog, it seemed a likely topic at the time.  After all, I was lucky enough to find a better job in this economy when I know so many people who are unemployed or unhappy with their current employment.  But as the weeks go by and I look at my list of ideas for blog posts in order to think about and plan out what I want to blog about for the following week, I find myself consistently skipping over the “career” section.

I think there are three reasons why I skip over this section.

  • Number 1: I have some good ideas, but the pieces of the puzzle are not yet in place for me to blog about.
  • Number 2: I am passionate about my job, but I want to be careful not to bore people with the details if they don’t know anything about my field of work.  I can spend a long time explaining what I do, and since part of my job is to translate jargon into every day language, I try to make it so that anyone can understand.  Somehow, I still don’t know if people do. Actually, I know for a fact they don’t and who can blame them? I know nothing about the financial industry or real estate, or the stock market, or cars. Why should my job be any harder to comprehend?
  • And now for the third reason, which I think is the real kicker.  I am currently doing so much at my job that when it comes to blogging, or time spent outside of work, I just need a break from it all.  In order for me to function at my highest level at work, I have to have something that is completely non-work-related to free my mind.

I think I have pretty good time management skills. I work well on deadline and on schedule and deliver high quality results.  I try to avoid working overtime other than sending a few emails, but there are nights I can’t sleep because I am thinking about work.  As you do well in a job, you get asked to do more and more, so I am balancing more and more, (and I still am delivering my blog posts consistently on the schedule I set up for myself.  To tell you how dedicated I am, I’m actually traveling on business while you are reading this).

A lot of my friends turn to me for career advice because I seem to have it together, and I want to share my trials, errors and successes with my readers, so sorry for the lack of career stories lately.  As soon as I am grounded, able to clear my mind, and have something really interesting to tell you, to hopefully inspire you, I will bring it.  Thanks for letting me escape the chaos with you all!

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