Tag Archives: work

What I Wish I’d Known in School

Being a kid can be tough, especially when it comes to school.  Here is a list of 10 things most of us wish someone had told us while we were students:

1. The most popular and highest achieving kids in school are NOT always the most successful in the real world.  Success in the academic bubble does not necessarily translate to success in work and real life.  While you’re in school, take heart and stay focused because slow and steady wins the race.

2. Just because you’re not part of the “cool crowd” doesn’t mean you’re not cool or unique.  I remember one time just before Christmas break, I was walking out of a chemistry exam and a guy in my class who rarely spoke to me came up and said, “It must be wonderful to be like you and not get nervous about big tests like this.”  I looked at him and laughed.  I said, “What the heck are you talking about?  I’m a wreck just like everyone else.”  It just goes to show you that not only is perception in the eye of the beholder, but it’s also not always on target.  The reason I seemed composed going into exams was that I developed a “leapfrog focus” (i.e. “When the exam is over, I’m going to see a movie/have hot chocolate/etc.), but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a nervous wreck.  I’m amused at how we can all look at each other and think something is true when it isn’t.  Everyone has feelings, insecurities, ambitions, and dreams that aren’t apparent on the surface.  

3. The smartest, most interesting, and most creative people usually aren’t the most socially comfortable or interested.  It’s the least popular, most focused kids who become the most influential and successful.  They’re the ones thinking day in and day out about the big things they’re going to do with their lives.  So if you’re one of them, don’t worry.  And if you’re not, don’t be mean to them.  You never know who’s going to be signing your paycheck or be in a position to help you down the line.  As they say, nerds rule.

4. Being different is actually good.  In the adolescent and post-adolescent years, there’s a lot of pressure to conform to the group, agree to their rules, and dress, talk, and behave a certain way.  It’s a matter of belonging.  However, even though there’s a lot of pressure to fit in and be like everyone else, you can get to the point where you lose sight of who you are at a time when you’re supposed to be discovering yourself.  Therefore, being like everyone else is in direct conflict with what you really need. 

5. Pursue what you love regardless of what people say. You have to remember that people in school are painfully limited in their perspective on the world.  Whatever it is that you’re really into, that you want to stay up late reading about, or you’re thinking about when you should be focusing on a lecture or studying may be the key to what you build your life and career around.  Don’t ignore your passion. It doesn’t matter if anybody else thinks it’s stupid – it’s your passion.

6. Extracurricular activities and internships are sometimes more important than academics. Interacting with the outside world gives you invaluable experiences.  The more you interact with adults, businesses, community groups and execs, the more comfortable you’ll be networking with them when you need a loan, a job, advice on your career, admission to grad school, etc.  Get outside the bubble of school and build a network.

7. Courses and majors in school do not necessarily correlate to opportunities in the real world.  I laugh at some of the majors colleges have, such as “Women’s Studies” or “Communication Studies.”  What the heck are you going to do with those?!  Some of these degrees simply aren’t pragmatic in the real world.

8. Teachers and professors are not the enemy.  Consider them as mentors and friends.  Talk to them often for advice and counsel.  Ask them for extra help, perspective, or just to go over something again.  When I was a professor, I really appreciated the students who came around and wanted to learn more. 

9. Your parents and family usually have your best interests at heart.  They may not always understand why you do some of the things you do, but give them the benefit of the doubt.  Don’t make life harder on your folks.  The better your relationship is with your parents, the easier life is going to be.  Period.  You need family. 

10.  Life is complicated – get used to it.  Consider all the frustrations you’re going through now as training for the really big stuff later.  Learn to deal with conflict, confusion, challenges, and tackling things you don’t like or understand in school because adulthood is a much more dangerous atmosphere.  Develop the coping skills you’ll need for the rest of your life.  The biggest war is not with your teachers or your parents, but the one you have with yourself over who and what you’re going to be and what you’ll stand for.

Work Habits That Work

A lot of you are struggling with making sure you keep your jobs in this economic climate.  I think the qualities for making sure you keep your job are closely related to the ones you need even if you want to get a promotion, much less keep your job.  So I did a little research on the types of behaviors that keep you employed and possibly even get promoted. 

First of all, constantly look around and see what else you can do.  A lot of people have a sense of entitlement:  “Well my job description is ‘blankety-blank’ so, you know, I’m not going to put more paper in the copier.”  When I first went through all of the qualities I’ll mention here, I thought about all my peeps.  Each of my peeps has a job description, but when push comes to shove, they each act like the company is theirs.  So if there’s no paper in the copier, well their company doesn’t have paper in the copier so they put paper in.  No one (including me) thinks they’re above doing anything.  I am notorious for cleaning up…they’re always going “here she goes again”.  That’s not in my job description; I am the host.  Heck, we’re all in this together and whatever needs to be done, we do it.  That’s a team effort.  And people who have the team effort mentality do better with their bosses and do better with their co-workers.

Now everything I’m going to say presumes you’re not working for a nutcase.  We leave out the nutcases.  If you’re working for a nutcase, get another job.  Nonetheless, 99.9% are working for reasonable people.  If you behave as though you’re part of the team, everybody will appreciate you, including the boss who will find you indispensable.  “This is a person who will put the coffee on, as well as make the PowerPoint presentation for the CEO of this Fortune 500″…whatever.  So that’s really important. 

Next?  Be observant.  Pay attention to the people who seem to be doing well with the company.  I ask that question a lot when people have concerns about what’s going on at work.  “Well, who are the people who are doing very well?   Who are the people who are liked?  Who are the people seemingly getting ahead?  Who are the people who have the eye of the boss? What is it they do?  How do they behave?  What do they contribute?  What are their people skills?  Communication skills?  How do they get along with people?”   So observe.  Drop the competitiveness, drop the cattiness and just observe.  What skills, what attitudes do the people doing well have that you could take? 

In addition to being a team player (this may sound counterintuitive, but it’s not) you have to find a way to stand out.  Make yourself indispensable; be proactive.  On my racing sailboat (and sometimes I’ve got 10 to 12 people aboard), we sort of noticed over the years the people who were proactive – who would  look around and see if anything bad was going to happen.   Look at all the lines, is anything crossed?  How do all the shackles look?  How does this look?  How does that look? Where’s the wind coming from?  While being a member of a team, they’re looking at everything.  And, over the years, I’ve become adept at figuring out early on the people who are sort of lazy and just want to be on a boat as opposed to the people who really commit to the team by being aware and supporting each other, which is an important thing: Looking for problems before they happen.  It’s easier to avoid than to repair. 

You make yourself indispensable by the positive attitude, by being a flexible team player but also looking around, coming up with ideas, and trying to make things better for everybody.  You need to know how and when to have the right conversations.  So, for example, you go to your boss, your manager, your supervisor and you say, “In 3 to 6 to 9 months what would you like to see me doing?” or “What do you imagine for me?” or “What could I work toward?” or you have a friendly conversation (not a threatening, demanding one) where you say, “What do you see?  What could I do for you that would be better?”  So that you’re open to what a lot of people take as criticism without being sensitive.  Use it as information to run with. 

Bottom line, if you seem hell-bent on just getting a promotion, getting power, you’re missing the bigger picture.  You’ve got to focus in on every aspect of your being at work and relationships, because basically going to work is a relationship experience.  You need to know how to get along with people.  And the best way to get along with people is to be solicitous, non-competitive and supportive.  Ask them for advice and their opinions so they feel important to you.  It’s a give-and-take on a very positive level — it is not a family.  It is NOT a family.  Family has certain expectations and people get awfully emotional about that.  But be very aware of showing respect, asking for their input, and offering them help instead of being competitive.

There are lots of practical things to consider. If you come up with something brilliant for the company they can use, that’s great.  But for the most part it’s attitude, positive people skills, and support. A lot of people get into trouble at work when it all starts to get competitive.  To the contrary, the best thing to do with someone who seems already to be in that mode, is from time to time, say to them, “You know, I was thinking about ‘such and such’.  What’s your opinion on that?”  They stop being competitive when they feel somewhat valued because being competitive is insecurity.  So if you feed the insecurity by fighting, it’ll go south.  If you feed their insecurity by instead bolstering their sense  they are important to somebody, that’s going to work really well.

Work Habits That Work

A lot of you are struggling with making sure you keep your jobs in this economic climate.  I think the qualities for making sure you keep your job are closely related to the ones you need even if you want to get a promotion, much less keep your job.  So I did a little research on the types of behaviors that keep you employed and possibly even get promoted.
 
First of all, constantly look around and see what else you can do.  A lot of people have a sense of entitlement:  “Well my job description is ‘blankety-blank’ so, you know, I’m not going to put more paper in the copier.”  When I first went through all of the qualities I’ll mention here, I thought about all my peeps.  Each of my peeps has a job description, but when push comes to shove, they each act like the company is theirs.  So if there’s no paper in the copier, well their company doesn’t have paper in the copier so they put paper in.  No one (including me) thinks they’re above doing anything.  I am notorious for cleaning up…they’re always going “here she goes again”.  That’s not in my job description; I am the host.  Heck, we’re all in this together and whatever needs to be done, we do it.  That’s a team effort.  And people who have the team effort mentality do better with their bosses and do better with their co-workers.

Now everything I’m going to say presumes you’re not working for a nutcase.  We leave out the nutcases.  If you’re working for a nutcase, get another job.  Nonetheless, 99.9% are working for reasonable people.  If you behave as though you’re part of the team, everybody will appreciate you, including the boss who will find you indispensable.  “This is a person who will put the coffee on, as well as made the PowerPoint presentation for the CEO of this Fortune 500″…whatever.  So that’s really important.
 
Next?  Be observant.  Pay attention to the people who seem to be doing well with the company.  I ask that question a lot when people have concerns about what’s going on at work.  “Well, who are the people that are doing very well?   Who are the people who are liked?  Who are the people seemingly getting ahead?  Who are the people who have the eye of the boss? What is it they do?  How do they behave?  What do they contribute?  What are their people skills?  Communication skills?  How do they get along with people?”   So observe.  Drop the competitiveness, drop the cattiness and just observe.  What skills, what attitudes do the people doing well have you could take?
 
In addition to being a team player (this may sound counterintuitive, but it’s not) you have to find a way to stand out.  Make yourself indispensable; be proactive.  On my racing sailboat (and sometimes I’ve got 10 to 12 people aboard), we sort of noticed over the years the people who were proactive – who would  look around and see if anything bad was going to happen.   Look at all the lines, is anything crossed?  How do all the shackles look?  How does this look?  How does that look? Where’s the wind coming from?  While being a member of a team, they’re looking at everything.  And, over the years, I’ve become adept at figuring out early on the people who are sort of lazy and just want to be on a boat as opposed to the people who really commit to the team by being aware and supporting each other, which is an important thing: Looking for problems before they happen.  It’s easier to avoid than to repair.
 
You make yourself indispensable by the positive attitude, by being a flexible team player but also looking around, coming up with ideas, and trying to make things better for everybody.  You need to know how and when to have the right conversations.  So, for example, you go to your boss, your manager, your supervisor and you say, “In 3 to 6 to 9 months what would you like to see me doing?” or “What do you imagine for me?” or “What could I work toward?” or you have a friendly conversation (not a threatening, demanding one) where you say, “What do you see?  What could I do for you that would be better?”  So you’re open to what a lot of people take as criticism without being sensitive.  Use it as information to run with.
 
Bottom line, if you seem hell-bent on just getting a promotion, getting power, you’re missing the bigger picture.  You’ve got to focus in on every aspect of your being at work and relationships, because basically going to work is a relationship experience.  You need to know how to get along with people.  And the best way to get along with people is to be solicitous, non-competitive and supportive.  Ask them for advice and their opinions so they feel important to you.  It’s a give-and-take on a very positive level — it is not a family.  It is NOT a family.  Family has certain expectations and people get awfully emotional about that.  But be very aware of showing respect, asking for their input, and offering them help instead of being competitive.

There are lots of practical things to consider. If you come up with something brilliant for the company that they can use, that’s great.  But for the most part it’s attitude, positive people skills, and support. A lot of people get into trouble at work when it all starts to get competitive.  To the contrary, the best thing to do with someone who seems already to be in that mode, is from time to time, say to them, “You know, I was thinking about ‘such and such’.  What’s your opinion on that?”  They stop being competitive when they feel somewhat valued because being competitive is insecurity.  So if you feed the insecurity by fighting, it’ll go south.  If you feed their insecurity by instead bolstering their sense they are important to somebody, that’s going to work really well.