A hysterical but also somewhat sad realization I had when picking this blog back up was that I had transitioned in and out of an entire job in between posts… Wowza. My “About Me” page was about a year and a half out of date.
I say this not because I think there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t know that I’ve changed jobs, but because it gave me significant pause. Whenever I’m faced with a decision, I usually get griped with panic and think “HOW COULD I POSSIBLY DECIDE I’VE NEVER DECIDED ANYTHING BEFORE IN MY LIFE HOW DOES THIS EVEN WORK?” I spend a lot of time reminding myself that I’ve actually navigated in and out of plenty of situations and I am, in fact, capable of doing so.
The job that went un-blogged was a position at a landscape company owned by a couple of my very good friends. I accepted the position thinking it would be great experience in the private sector that would inform my career in the nonprofit sector. Midway through I was drinking the water and was pretty married to the idea of sticking around long term. 15 months in, I put in my two week notice and I was unemployed for a month before I started my new job. It’s easy to feel like I made a mistake in accepting that position because my time was pretty short-lived. But the lessons I learned in that year were transformative. I want to put some of them out into the world because I want to remember them and I want them to be as helpful as possible.
1. There’s no such thing as bad experience. Really-I believe this. My time at a landscape company seemed like a serious detour in my career and when I was interviewing, I thought Man, how am I going to spin this? But it wasn’t spin. I learned so much about time management, customer service, attention to detail. Turns out- that is relevant everywhere. And honestly, what is the difference between spin and presentation? It is important to know how to tell your own story and communicate effectively about your experiences. Internships, years spent studying abroad, a stint at a fast food restaurant- the only mistake in taking these opportunities (risks) is if you don’t bother to reflect and learn from them.
2. Work with your friends, but not for them. This is important. Definitely work with your friends. Your friends are so smart, and creative, and they can problem solve things in ways you would have never dreamed. (At least mine can.) Work on volunteer projects, plan events, start a nonprofit. Go all in. I think your friends can be your best partners. But don’t work for your friends and don’t let your friends work for you. I’ve seen it work best when both parties have an equal share of the pie. It encourages kindness, patience, and some incredible communication.We should all be working on our management skills and things can get hairy when its time for performance evaluations or corrective actions. You’ve got to be bad at something before you can be good at it, including being a boss. Don’t let your friends be your guinea pigs.
3. Be your own advocate. There is one person who shoulders the responsibility for looking after your best interests- you. It is no one else’s job to take care of you. Whether you realize it or not (spoiler alert: I didn’t realize it) you’ve got instincts and they’re worth listening to. I can’t tell you what that process might look like for you, because I’m still learning what it looks like for me. I often struggle to determine the difference between “is this Work (with a capital “W”)” or “is it just this work?” What I will say is this, while there is little that will make a bigger difference in your work satisfaction than a great boss- it’s not your boss’ responsiblity to look after you at work. If you are in the wrong field, it’s up to you to branch out. If you are getting underpaid, it’s up to you to negotiate for a better salary. If there’s no upward mobility, it’s up to you to find a position where you can shine. Be your own best influence.
Look y’all. I’m a mess. I am in the infancy stages of my career and the world can seem like a big bad place sometimes. But I’ve been just blessed by great bosses, trusted mentors, and colleagues that I knew could totally hang if things got rough. (They can and they did.) I think there is so much value in getting vulnerable and being real with your people about what scares you, what motivates you, what makes you feel alive. Find your people (I’ll be one!) and be brave. This is definitely the right thing.