I landed my first “big girl job” way too late in life. This meant that I started my new position with a host of insecurities and misunderstandings. The beautiful thing about this was that it gave me the opportunity to learn some simple truths. Since there are a lot of people who might find themselves in new careers with the current job market, I decided to put together a list to help you feel a little more at ease. So, here are 6 things that I learned in the first few weeks of my new grown-up career.
1. You Can’t Teach Will, But You Can Teach Skill
One of my new coworkers would tell me over and over again, “you can’t teach will, but you can teach skill.” I understood the words that she was saying, but it took me a long time to let it be reassuring. She was trying to acknowledge my drive when I was still worried about not having the talent. On the surface, this is a very straightforward concept, but let’s break it down.
You can’t teach will. I think every parent who has ever had to tell their child to do something 785 times understands this with every fiber of their being. Will is something that has to come from inside you. It is, by definition, “the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.” If you don’t have the will, you simply won’t do the thing. At that point, whether or not you do it well or poorly makes little difference.
But you can teach skill. Obviously, skills can be taught. It seems like there is a class or tutorial out there for everything under the sun. So when you put them together it becomes clear: if you have the desire or the will to learn something then you are already a step ahead of someone who doesn’t want to do it. A sister saying to this phrase could be “where there’s a will, there’s a way.
In the end, all that is left to do is trust the process. Everyone at my new job is happy to show me the ropes. They all have experience that they can share with me. So if you find yourself in a position like me with a neurotic need to please your new boss, that is your will. You have a desire to do your job well, so let the coworkers with more experience help you figure it out. You’ll get there.
2. Confuse, You Lose – Don’t Overthink
One of the first *optional* tasks that was given to me by my new boss was to read the book Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller. I am so glad that I read that book, but more on that later. In this book (and repeated by my boss in later meetings) was the concept: Confuse, you lose!
Ok, so I have to admit that at first I was only externally applying this concept. “Danger Will Robinson, Danger.” I wish we all had a warning like that before making a huge mistake. Let me explain. In marketing your branding and message should never confuse your audience. Confusing messages do not get people to listen. If they don’t know how your product will help them, they won’t buy it. Ergo: if you confuse, you lose. So I thought, “when producing work for clients, don’t be confusing!”
Are you ready for the whopper? And no, I am not talking about a quarter pound of beef with an extra bun in the middle. This concept could be applied to me a little closer to home: in my own approach to work projects. Unfortunately, I was getting bogged down by trying to incorporate every lesson into every project that it was a confusing mess!
I wanted to please my boss, I wanted to please the clients, I was even trying to impress my new coworkers to prove I had what it takes. The result was that I was not always proud of what I was creating and putting my name behind, and ultimately I didn’t accomplish any of those things. My lesson? Don’t overthink! I was losing because I had such an unfocused goal. Overthinking was leading me to be confusing and I needed to simplify.
The easiest way to avoid confusion is to simplify. What I couldn’t see through my need for instant affirmation was that all of the things that I was trying to accomplish would happen naturally if I just focused on one of them: making the client happy. If I was able to make the client happy then my boss would obviously be happy. My coworkers would be able to witness that I was doing a good job, and I wouldn’t have to prove anything.
Even in attempting to make the client happy I could simplify. Why on Earth was I trying to give them a cornucopia when they hadn’t asked for it? Again, I would succeed if I just focused on one thing: giving the clients what they wanted. They didn’t need me to perform a magic trick, they just needed me to do my job.
4. Read The Books
Remember when I said that I was happy that I had read the book that was suggested to me by my boss? Yeah. It seems silly, but I actually am. I have never been one for non-fiction reading. I generally like to dive into 500+ page novels with a side of tea and wool socks. But when I started this job I became hungry for those dinky little 150-page self-help style books that were going to empower me in my new role. The best part was that reading them took barely any time at all.
If your boss takes the time to suggest specific books that should be helpful in your new career why wouldn’t you read them? Your boss is successful, and they think this book helped; it’s a no-brainer! I appreciated these books because they were calming and full of simple, catchy bits of information that you can apply to your life. Even if your boss doesn’t suggest any specific books, I would encourage doing a quick search for some in your field and see what you can find.
These books are meant to be easy to understand and empower you. I find myself constantly thinking “oh duh…why didn’t I think of that?” when I read them. Most of them even have a similar theme of simplifying since a lot of us tend to overcomplicate…well…just about everything. Not that reading them suddenly cured me of that. Luckily they are short enough that I can read them again since I am still working on actually implementing their wisdom.
5. Record Meetings
Ok…so this one might sound a little far-fetched, but hear me out. First of all, you are probably going to need to get permission to do this. You don’t want to end up breaching privacy or company policy. However, if you do have permission to do so, I highly recommend recording meetings with your boss and/or any other extended brainstorming session with coworkers etc. Why? There are two reasons. First, so you can reference it later. Second, it frees you up to be more involved in the meeting. It is kind of like taking notes in class or taping a college lecture.
Sometimes during these meetings, you might be distracted. Maybe so many good ideas are shared that you can’t keep track of them all. Maybe your boss drops a nugget of knowledge that you want to incorporate into your next project, but you don’t want to ask them to repeat themselves. Whatever the reason, if you have a recording of that meeting you will always be able to reference it without trying to keep all the information in your head.
A second benefit to recording these sessions is that you will be able to be more present and attentive. Our brains have a limited capacity for working memory. If we are busy trying to hang on to a bunch of points from the beginning of the meeting then eventually we are going to stop taking in new information and simply focus on the 3-5 things that caught our attention first.
We will also have less space available to share ideas and collaborate during the meeting because we are trying to juggle too many things. When we have a recording that burden is lifted. Nothing has to be remembered and you are free to share your ideas and opinions or even ask clarifying questions. That way, you don’t have to ask your questions later and everyone can benefit from hearing the answer.
6. Hurry Up And Wait – It Takes Time To Learn A New Skill
After all is said and done, the thing that is going to really make a difference is time. No matter how strong of a will you have, you won’t become an expert overnight. It is going to take time to train yourself to not overthink. Reading any self-help book and successfully implementing that knowledge will not come naturally at first. You might not remember to record every meeting and be left kicking yourself later. It is ok. I am in the same boat.
Most days I still have to remind myself to relax and find joy in the process. In any new job or chapter in life, you will need to be patient. If you can be patient with yourself and learn from my journey, you will be much happier. And let’s face it: these days we could all use a little more happiness. Cheers.