On Office Mentorship: Be A Good Example First
Oh to be young and early in your career.
I think I’ve stressed many other times in this blog that when you are a young person in the office, you have to seek out allies and people to vent to in a safe environment. You need people who can speak a good word about you and increase your interoffice PR, and eventually you need somebody who will be an awesome non-direct supervisor reference (but still can vouch for your current work abilities) for the day you finally want to leave.
It’s been happening slowly, but a young woman on my job has been dropping by for some nuggets on how to navigate the culture of our office.
It’s wild because I’ve been so busy going to my office rock and getting advice and support from her. I love, love, love that woman. She is a great listener and so supportive. She pumps me up and tells me how wonderful I am even when I feel like I’m the biggest loser on earth going nowhere fast, destined to shrivel up and just die unfulfilled and unappreciated.
I didn’t notice it at first when the young woman would just ask a question here and there or my opinion on a situation.
I recently talked to her about her growing responsibilities and how when I was a younger person in the newsroom, I just expected to be told what to do and to do what I was told because well, I was taught to respect my elders and older people and surely they knew what was best because, they were older and they were the editors. And I was happy to just have a job in the field I studied. I would do anything to stay. I feel horrible for today’s recent graduates. It’s even worse.
After a lot of heartache and drama, I had to learn that I wasn’t hired to be anyone’s whipping post. I was hired because I had talent and a brain, and that it was my right to remind people what I was hired for, tell them my limitations and think of creative and efficient ways to get the additional things done, while improving my regular responsibilities and growing as a reporter and writer.
When you get hired for a job, you should feel like you are a partner and not a workhorse who has no say. But you have to present yourself that way and speak up when your workload is too heavy, or you’ve just been put in a situation that’s way over your head. You won’t look weak, in fact you will be organized and set a precedent for your superiors that you are honest, rational, and will speak up on things. People respect that. You can say, “I appreciate this opportunity and your faith in me, but I would like to adjust this a bit so you can get better performance from me. Let’s work on a solution together.”
So it felt good to share the knowledge that I’ve gained professionally over the years. I think she walked away feeling more empowered, and I felt good for helping her feel that way. I hope I’m saving her years of nonsense if she applies what I said. There are a number of women who have nurtured me and I really would be lost without them. Some have even stepped in the line of fire, even when they didn’t have to and in one case, even saved my job.
It’s odd, because another young woman who I really admire who used to work with me says to people all the time how I should write a book about office politics. She said, my example saved her work life. She said she used to get too personal with people and tried to make friends with everyone. She said she watched me carefully. I never ended up in any gossip, and no one had anything negative to say about me. They just knew I worked hard. I would speak to people and exchange pleasantries, but I wouldn’t go too deep. I wasn’t stern, but I was serious. You knew I was in there meaning business.
She told me she applied some of my tactics to her new job and hasn’t been happier. I was shocked. In my mind, this woman was too brilliant for our company anyway and I was glad to see her soar in her latest opportunities. And this person credited little ol me with how she handles herself professionally. Wow.
These exchanges remind me of my passion for empowering women in the workplace and anyplace. We lift one another up and even in having someone come to me for advice, that really lifted my spirits and reminded me that people are watching. On my good days, and on my bad days, how am I handling myself? Others can see how people respond to me. What am I putting out there?