Three reasons why your admin job is kind of awesome.

your admin job is awesome

Ginny via Flickr

Providing administrative support isn’t your dream job?  It wasn’t mine either.  But it’s a job.  And it’s actually great for your career.  Here’s why:

1. You are in the perfect position to learn how organizations work.  You get to observe how decisions are made, and you’re learning systems and procedures that will transfer to any field you ultimately want to work in.

2. You are not tied to your work.  When you leave the office, you can really leave the office.  Which means more time for side projects, classes, hobbies and relationships.

3. You have nowhere to go but up.  You’re likely supporting multiple departments, which means multiple potential growth paths.  And promotions at this stage can mean big gains in pay and responsibility.

So relax, embrace your job for what it is, and enjoy the freedom while you can.

 

(Photo by Ginny via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

Band of Misfits: How To Make Friends at Work

Sonny Abesamis via Flickr

Sonny Abesamis via Flickr

Tell me if you’ve seen this movie: A good-natured hero, having been rejected by those in power, befriends a group of assorted outcasts.  Eventually, the hero rallies the misfits, they use their unique talents to triumph over the corrupt establishment, and the hero, by virtue of being a decent human being, ends up a winner.

Okay, maybe I’m blurring a bunch of movies together but it’s a familiar theme, right?  And it applies to your life at work:

It pays to be nice to everyone because you never know who is going to be an asset to your career.

I’m not talking about using people or being disingenuous.  We’re shooting for Good-Natured Hero here, not Mean Girl.  I’m just saying be friendly and talk to people, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone – or your department.

Because that chatty guy in Facilities may be a big help when you need to quickly prep a meeting space.

Or the gal in IT with the One Direction obsession may have great intel on upcoming projects.

Making new friends may not be high on your career priority list and, as an INTJ, I understand wanting to just hunker down at your desk.  But taking time to get to know people is the best way to learn how your organization works, what problems need solving, and ultimately, who to call when you need a hand.

How about you?  Have you had a Misfit Mobilization Moment at work?  Please share.

 

(Photo by Sonny Abesamis via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

My #1 piece of advice for picking a college major.

your major doesn't matter

Steven S. via Flickr

Are you torn between a “practical” major that offers a clear career trajectory and the course of study that speaks to your heart but feels useless when it comes to finding a job?  If so, you’re not alone.

It’s a tough decision, so let me offer one insight that I hope will make it easier:

Your major does not matter.

A degree is important to your career and will impact the kinds of jobs you get, but in most cases, your focus of study is irrelevant.  Employers want to know that you can complete something, that you have had exposure to a wider world view and that you have the basic skills needed for the knowledge economy:

  • teamwork and leadership
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • the ability to synthesize and present information
  • self-direction
  • digital competency

These are skills you can develop in ANY degree program.  Your specific, and ultimately most marketable, skills will be learned outside of school – in your first job, in your volunteer work, in whatever side-hustle you’ve put together.

Yes, higher education is hugely expensive and it’s important to make it a worthy investment.  But you know that – you don’t need all the caveats from me.  Do your research. Talk to your professors and counselors.  And then, if your path is still unclear, just choose a topic that is going to hold your interest for 4 years.

Focus on learning and exploring.  If you’re in the Humanities, take a few business courses.  If you’re into science or technology, take some Philosophy courses.  Be open and creative.

And most of all, don’t confine yourself to what you think you know about your future career path.  It will emerge on the job, as you discover your professional interests and strengths.

It will not be what you expect and that is a good thing.

 

(Photo by Steven S. via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Five women I would invite to dinner.

5 women I'd invite to dinner

Vijay via Flickr

I’ve been thinking about my ideal dinner party since Kathleen Shannon put the idea in my head during the Being Boss podcast.  If I could pick any five people to invite over for an evening of food and conversation, who would they be?

Nellie Bly
Groundbreaking investigative journalism, a solo trip around the world and some industrial manufacturing…all while wearing a corset.

Virginia Woolf
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  I’ve been fascinated by Virginia Woolf since first reading Orlando.

Peggy Olson
Yes, I know Peggy is not a real person but her character is such an interesting portrait of a woman moving through the corporate ranks in the 1960’s.  I’d pick Jane Maas if our lists are restricted to real people.

Dorothea Hurley
Who?  Exactly.  Dorothea has been married to Jon Bon Jovi for 25 years, a fact I only recently learned while answering the burning late-night question…”is that his real name?”  Rock star husband, 4 gorgeous kids…I’m dying to find out what her life is like.
(And it’s John Bongiovi, btw.)

Amy Poehler
She is just hilarious AND she founded Smart Girls at the Party.  “Change the World by Being Yourself“… so cool.

How about you?  Who would you invite to your imaginary dinner party?  Please share in the comments.

 

(Photo by Vijay via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

What are you listening to?

what are you listening to

Tom Godber via Flickr

I’m really into podcasts right now.  I listen while I’m alone cooking dinner or folding clothes (the pseudo-downtime of a Mom).  On days I don’t seem to have time to read, these help keep my brain happy:

The Fizzle Show
A “podcast for creative entrepreneurs and honest business builders”, this is basically three smart dudes shooting the shit for an hour.  It may not seem like it at first, but there is a lot of great business information packed into each episode.  This Q&A episode has good insights into making the most of your job early on.

Being Boss
This newish podcast from two Lady Bosses is also targeted at creative entrepreneurs.  I like the conversational style and insight into how these business owners get it all done.  This episode offers some nice perspective on being a working Mom.

Books on the Nightstand
This weekly podcast is a great source of print and audiobook recommendations, as well as “a behind-the-scenes look at the world of books, bookstores and publishing”.  I usually add at least one book to my reading list after each episode.  This episode is particularly interesting if you’re curious about a career in publishing.

The Portfolio Life
This is “the show that helps you pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art and discover your true voice.”  Primarily focused on writing, this podcast explores how we shift from having a single career to creating body of work.  This interview with Seth Godin is good.

How about you? What are you listening to these days?

 


P.S. Here are three Books on the Nightstand recommendations that I’ve read recently and thought were excellent:

     


P.P.S. Are we Twitter friends yet? Find me @TheMgmtMaven

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

Photo by Tom Godber via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

 

Don’t let your inexperience hold you back.

you can figure it out

Rayi Christian Wicaksono via Unsplash

If you’re making progress in your career – getting promoted, taking on new responsibility – at some point you’ll be faced with the unnerving reality that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.  Maybe you’ve never managed a project or run a meeting.  Or you’ve never given a professional presentation or conducted a hiring interview.  Trying something for the first time can be terrifying, and no one wants to screw things up right out of the gate.

But I’m here to let you in on a little secret:  Most things just aren’t that difficult.

In the words of Marie Forleo“Everything is figureoutable.”  Or as my Dad used to say,  “You can learn anything in the world from a book.“  (Or, these days, a book and the Internet.)

Sure, some tasks are harder to pick up than others.  If you work in hospital reception, you’re probably not going to jump into the operating room and just wing it.  But let’s be honest – most of what we do isn’t brain surgery.  You can probably figure it out.  It just takes a little initiative and a healthy dose of confidence.

Here are some things to remember:

When you first dive into a new topic, it will seem like there are a million different resources and perspectives out there.  But as you drill down, you’ll usually find that there are a handful of themes and core concepts that repeat themselves over and over.  With practice, you get better at spotting those key points and with a concentrated effort, you can learn the basics of most things relatively quickly.

Most topics have a steep learning curve.  In the first focused hours of your study you learn a lot.  Then, over time, your progress slows as you work to absorb all the nuance and detail that makes you a master of the subject.  But, here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a master.  You just need to avoid looking like a clueless rookie while you’re learning.  It takes years to become an expert at anything and I’m not suggesting that it isn’t worth putting in the time and effort.  But if you’re just starting out, don’t underestimate what you can pick up in a short amount of time.

And don’t forget to ask for help.  Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, so it helps to talk with an expert.  And “expert” could mean that guy in IT you talk to at lunch or your friend over in Marketing.  Anyone with experience can point you in the right direction, so use the resources you have.  It’s also often a good idea to figure out the basics with a peer offline.  There may be no “dumb questions” but you don’t want to repeatedly test that hypothesis in front of your boss.  So work out the kinks with a friendly sounding board first and save your higher level issues for your manager.

 

Want to show you’re ready to take on more responsibility? Start small.

start small

Sherman Geronimo-Tan via Flickr

You know that taking on projects in addition to your core tasks is a key step in moving out of your entry-level position and into a more interesting role.  But finding a potential project and the time to do it seems daunting, doesn’t it?  It isn’t.  Just remember to start small.

In the beginning, you’re just looking to show that you’re interested in contributing, that you want to learn, and that you have the self-leadership to prioritize your own time.  It doesn’t have to be a high-profile project and it doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time.  Here’s an example:

Early on in my corporate life, I worked in the accounting department, doing primarily data-entry.  Not very exciting and I was dying for something more interesting.  I knew my manager wanted to make the accounting page on the company’s intranet more valuable, so I let her know that this was a skill I was interested in and that I’d be happy to put in the time to learn and to upgrade the site.  She was supportive and approved the project.  The result?  I demonstrated my motivation and interest in learning new things, made a contact within the IT department and got to do something different for a few hours.

Shortly thereafter, the company was moving into a new building and my manager was on the cross-functional team doing office design and furniture selection.  She needed a back-up representative when she had other commitments and so who do you think she chose?  She’d already seen that I was motivated, dependable and able to manage my priorities.  I was there as a placeholder for my boss – taking notes, etc. – but it allowed me to meet people outside of my department and gave me insight into how large projects were handled.  I also learned a lot about cube systems, which served me later on as a project manager.

Neither of these projects required a large time or energy commitment, but they were highly valuable to my career.  Over time, I was given larger, more complex projects and eventually, promotions.  And it all built off an initial expression of interest and the willingness to try something new.

So stop waiting for an amazing project to fall into your lap.  Go find something small and get started now.

 

(Photo by Sherman Geronimo-Tan via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)