Friday, October 23, 2009

[WHILE I'M AWAY] Critical career lessons I learned this week that you should know too

"While I'm Away" could also be called my "I'm in Peru and can't blog" series. Enjoy the trip down memory lane!

Today's post: the one where I finally get some important truths about the workplace -- and my place in it -- through my thick skull. Please read so you don't suffer the same fate.


Critical career lessons I learned this week that you should know too

Oh boy, has it been one of those days/weeks/months/years/lives. I got sick, my boss resigned, the sky fell down ... ok, the last one didn't happen, but in my more dramatic moments I wished it would. At least then I'd have a viable excuse to not show up at the office.

The good thing about times like these, however, is that they help refocus my energy on professional development. I reexamine what I'm contributing, and where my goals are now. And it forces me to remember -- or flat out learn -- the necessary workplace lessons that will keep me from:

a) pulling my hair out,
b) getting an ulcer,
c) losing my temper,
d) crying at the office, or
e) all of the above.

Note: All of these have happened already except the ulcer. And just give that one time.


So, here are just a few of the latest lessons:

* Your manager can hand in his two weeks' notice and really mean three business days. Plan accordingly.

* Figure out what constituted the happiest hour of your day at work. Do your best to make it happen again amid the unhappy hours.

* Your worst work-related nightmare can come true. And it will turn out it's not all that bad, and you'll just deal, because you're a big kid now and life goes on.

* Sometimes, you do have to ask "how high?" when someone says jump. The question is, are you having to say it all the time at the detriment of your professional satisfaction and growth?

* Some people are perfectly happy coming into the office everyday, doing whatever, collecting the check, and going home. My mentor calls this "making the donuts." They have no investment in the reach or effectiveness of their creative work. I don't understand this mindset. But I need to, because donut makers constitute a large part of the workforce.

* It takes a strong and desperate person to quit a job in this economy without another gig lined up. Conversely, this speaks volumes about the health of the environment he or she is fleeing.

* If your manager asks you to take a "leap of faith" and follow his lead, try to believe him. Why? Because if the leap pans out, then you've learned something new about your manager and improved the relationship. And if it doesn't, then you've saved yourself the stress of assuming responsibility that isn't yours to assume.

* You cannot reverse the Titanic's course by yourself. Don't kill yourself trying. State your concerns, do what you can to help, and then let it crash. Just make sure you're in a lifeboat.

* At the end of the day, you walk out of the office with only your interests in mind -- your career, your mission, your passion. The rest is ephemeral. Bend your work opportunities to your long-term vision. And when you can no longer bend them, take the skills elsewhere.

That's a lot of takeaways from a 42-hour week. So I'm pretty sure you've got some from your work experiences. What tips can you give this over-sensitive, over-committed young career woman to help prevent "e" (see multiple choice question above)?

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