Awkward

I started my new job this week, and so far, it’s been pretty good. I hate not having a work friend, though. Everyone is nice, but it isn’t the same.

I feel like I’m being pompous or boring because people keep asking me about Afghanistan, meaning I repeat the same stuff over and over.

Today, I got defensive about someone saying something derogatory about my undergrad, and I really should have responded differently. I need to learn to keep my tone steady, regardless of how I feel, when dealing with coworkers.

I like my new bosses. I was told by our staffing coordinator that she advocated for me strongly and even stronger to get me on the job I’m on because of my experience. That’s gratifying, but the content is less interesting than I’d hoped for, and the direct supervisor is a little behind the times. So, we’ll see how that goes.

I’m also struggling to accept the fact that I have to start totally fresh and prove myself all over again. I feel a bit rejected that people were hired in June and I wasn’t until November. The other hires are extremely competent and some have ridiculous levels of experience, which makes me feel inferior.

Blerg. I’ll get there, it’s just going to take a while to settle in.

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Ch-Ch-Ch Changes…

Well, things are definitely changing in my life lately. Finally *officially* ended the dating thing I had going on. I’ve had a couple of oddball maybe-dates since then, although it hasn’t panned out yet. I’m being picky, but really, picky isn’t always bad. Plus, I figure, if something is annoying the hell out of me now, it likely will continue to annoy me throughout a relationship.

Anyhow, work is where all the big things are at. I was offered a job two weeks ago to return to somewhere I interned. It’s been a complicated decision, but I’ve taken the job, given notice, and start in two weeks.

It’s hard because I was just promoted in my current job, and it’s a step backward in terms of management experience. That said, the new job is matching my salary, and has the potential (after 1 year temporary and a second probationary) to be competitive status/permanent. My current job is temporary in that the whole agency is temporary. So, that’s progress. On some levels, I’m totally a woman, but I don’t mind taking more time to learn and develop before managing my own staff. I’m hella-young for where I’m at with these moves, so I don’t feel terrible about it.

Giving notice sucked, though. I’ve never left a job without a reason. I had time-limited jobs and internships, and worked in fellowship-type positions that were intended to end.The only other one was retail, but I went to college and moved so I had to leave. Added to my recent promotion and my supervisor’s departure a couple of months ago, I shocked the shit out of my bosses. It was an ego boost, in that they kept saying how they’ll be working for me soon, and it’s a huge loss, and I’m awesome. It made me feel like I’ve made a good impact in my time there. I only wish my current product was completed before I left.

I feel good about my decision, but it will be sad to leave the work environment. There’s a lot of drama at my office, but I’ve made a home there. I’ve personalized my office. I know everyone. I’m our charity coordinator and the one who coordinates kitchen-cleaning. I have friends to grab lunch and coffee with. It took about 6 months to warm up to the place, but now it will be so strange not to be there. It’s going to be rough to make new friends at my new agency. I hope I can do so more quickly than last time around.

I’m looking forward to these changes allowing me to manage my finances better, my fitness better (gym access at work = yay!), and generally start fresh. It’s just in time for the new year, too, so very apropos.

Book Review: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

“Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg

This book was fabulous, and I highly recommend it. I will reread this every year as motivation. Sandburg discusses the modern day challenges facing women in the workplace and encourages women to lean in to their goals and careers. It is interesting and well written, and I never wanted to put the book down.

I went in to my professional life thinking my gender would not affect me, but the reality is that it hold me back because of how I act as a woman. Every story in this book related directly to my life, and it surprised and horrified me a bit. I read this right as I was due to renew my contract at work, and had I not read this book I would have just signed as is. Instead, I negotiated and advocated for myself. When it was difficult, I had a greater sense of self and more confidence as a direct result of reading this book. Highly recommend it! Quotes of interest are below.

“When more people get in the race, more records will be broken.”

“We [women] hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives – the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, agressive, more powerful than men.”

“We believe in choices. But choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you would make.” Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation and first woman president of an Ivy League University, on feminism.

“Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself – traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting.”

“Framing the issue as ‘work-life balance’ — as if the two were diametrically opposed — practically ensures work will lose out. Who would ever choose work over life?”

“She [Dr. Peggy McIntosh from Wellesley Centers for Women] explained that many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are — imposters with limited skills or abilities.”

“Women also differ when it comes to explaining failure. When a man fails, he points to factors like ‘didn’t study enough’ or ‘not interested in the subject matter.’ When a woman fails, she is more likely to believe it is due to an inherent lack of ability.”

“Taking initiative pays off. It is hard to visualize someone as a leader if she is always waiting to be told what to do.”

“Bill like a boy…men considered any time they spent thinking about an issue – even time in the shower – as billable hours.”

“In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.”

“Being liked is also a key factor in both professional and personal success…we need to believe in her ability to do the job and get along with everyone while doing it. That’s why, instinctively, many of us feel pressure to mute our accomplishments.”

“An internal report at Hewlett-Packard revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements…Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.'”

“A senior man and junior man at a bar is seen as mentoring. A senior man and junior woman at a bar can also be mentoring…but it looks like dating.”

“Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”

“Often without realizing it, the woman stops reaching for new opportunities. If any are presented to her, she is likely to decline or offer the kind of hesitant ‘yes’ that gets the project assigned to someone else. The problem is that even if she were to get pregnant immediately, she still has nine months before she has to care for an actual child. And since women usually start this mental preparation well before trying to conceive, several years often pass between the thought and conception, let alone birth…By the time a baby arrives, the woman is likely to be in a drastically different place in her career than she would have been had she not leaned back…When she returns to the workplace after her child is born, she is likely to feel less fulfilled…”

“Done is better than perfect.”

“Long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask – even if it seems like a long shot.”

“Every job will demand some sacrifice. The key is to avoid unnecessary sacrifice.”

“Gender should neither magnify nor excuse rude and dismissive treatment. We should expect professional behavior, and even kindness, from everyone.”

All Clear

I FINALLY got caught up with my “awesomeness journal” entries. I was 5 behind, and there was so much associated stress. I didn’t feel like I could really process anything else until I did that. Now I just need to go through the crap in my room and clean it out as well as choose a google reader replacement, and all the little to-dos will disappear.

I’m out of country for work right now. Back in the warzone, basically. It’s been ok, overall. I’m getting more familiar with my supervisor, boss, and some coworkers. Work is going very well. I’ve led some meetings successfully, was told by my supervisor to apply for a promotion soon, we’re getting what we need out of our trip, and our final product is going to get major press which will look good for my career. I’m learning a lot, too, including how to play spades! Today was a rough one – 4:30am wake up call with the alarms to take shelter. I heard several explosions, apparently they were about 2 miles away. It wasn’t as scary as I expected it would be, namely because my coworkers were with me and I was in a “hardened” building. Machine gun guys were all around, which also helped me feel better. I did, however, go through 3 cups of coffee to make it through the workday, which is a VERY rare occurrence for me. I was oddly having a dream about an attack on government buildings when I awoke, so that was kind of creepy too.

One good thing about this trip is how much I’ve been in contact with folks back home. I feel like I’m getting fun emails from friends that really make me value the relationships I’ve developed. I’m lucky to have these people.

I’m missing a new roommate moving in, which is sort of comical as the other prior roommate tries to adjust. She’s introverted, and the new girl is young…apparently they both were sequestered all weekend. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop upon my return.

I’ve read a ton of books while I’m here. I think I’m at 6? I need to blog/review a few good ones I read in Vegas. I also keep meaning to write about certain other topics, but we’ll see if I get there.

That’s all for now.

Tips to Getting Your Shit Together

A friend’s tumblr referred me to a few great articles lately: 50 Tricks to Get Things Done Faster, Better, and More Easily and 9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People. Below are the things that I need to remind myself of regularly.

Things of note from the first article:

  • One In, One Out: Avoid clutter by adopting a replacement-only standard.  Every time you but something new, you throw out or donate something old.
  • Slow Down: Make time for yourself. Eat slowly. Enjoy a lazy weekend day. Take the time to do things right, and keep a balance between the rush-rush world of work and the rest of your life.
  • Don’t Break the Chain: Use a calendar to track your daily goals.  Every day you do something, like working out or writing 1,000 words, make a big red “X”.  Every day the chain will grow longer.  Don’t break the chain! That is, don’t let any non-X days interrupt your chain of successful days.

Things of note from the second article:

  • The people around me are the people I chose. If the people around you make you unhappy it’s not their fault. It’s your fault. They’re in your professional or personal life because you drew them to you–and you let them remain.
  • Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn’t just happen to me.  Ask people why they have been successful. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns: I, me, and the sometimes too occasional we. Ask them why they failed. They’ll say the economy tanked, the market wasn’t ready. They’ll say it was someone or something else. And by distancing themselves, they don’t learn from their failures. Occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail. Most of the time, though, it’s you. And that’s okay. Every successful person has failed. Numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than you. That’s why they’re successful now. Embrace every failure: Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.
  • Volunteers always win. Whenever you raise your hand you wind up being asked to do more. Doing more is an opportunity: to learn, to impress, to gain skills, to build new relationships–to do something more than you would otherwise been able to do. Success is based on action. The more you volunteer, the more you get to act. Successful people step forward to create opportunities.
  • People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do. The people who pay you, whether customers or employers, earn the right to dictate what you do and how you do it–sometimes down to the last detail. Instead of complaining, work to align what you like to do with what the people who pay you want you to do.

Work Rant

I mentioned in earlier posts that I may have gotten a promotion-ish last week. The man in charge of our whole division said he envisioned me running my next project. I asked about training for such a position, and there happened to be supervisory training this week, so I was added to that list.

For background, I’ve been in this position less than a year. I have about 6 months of same-job experience prior to this position. In the 6 months at my last job, I was in an intern position, but I took on three projects at once, got great reviews, and won an award for my work there. In my current position, my boss is terrible at his job, and as a result I’ve been essentially managing-up this project since the beginning. Other supervisors have seen this and seen the work I do, and that’s why the head-guy is recommending I move to a supervisory role next time around.

On the surface, it looks like I have absolutely no place being in a supervisory role. I understand that, I really do. Honestly, I’m nervous about it – I have few examples of good leadership in this position to work off of, and it’s frightening. That said, I can’t turn down a promotional opportunity, even if it’s difficult, because that would be cowardly and stupid. You don’t pass up opportunities when they come by.

I haven’t explicitly told anyone at work that this discussion happened, but when I was added to the training, a popular, younger guy saw and I think he’s spread it around. He’s frustrated for his staff, and I understand that. There are at least 5 people, possibly 7-8, that have more experience in the field or have been at the agency longer and deserve to have this opportunity. Thing is, I can’t speak to their competence in the job since I haven’t worked with them, I don’t know how their managers rate them, and timing is 3/4 of everything. If I had a good manager right now, I’m sure I wouldn’t be getting this chance. It still isn’t 100% that I will, because it depends on so many other factors.

Today, young guy in my training was talking to the two men who sit near me (1 of which is very bright, but new to the type of work, the other of which has been with the agency for several years – neither of which has gotten to run their own project) about running projects and such. They were pointedly discussing the people who should get the chance, biding time, etc.

It’s frustrating, because it isn’t like I asked for the chance. I didn’t try to usurp the unspoken power dynamics at the office. I acknowledge that I’m relatively new to the field, my grade doesn’t even support the position responsibilities, and I have a lot to learn. That said, if they have faith in me to do it, and they’re willing to give me the chance, I’m going to take it. Who wouldn’t?

It isn’t like I won’t apply myself. I’ll take this training, read up on leadership books, thoroughly research the topic of the project, and meet with different levels of staff to set expectations and goals. I’ll look through as many prior project plans and processes as possible to understand the ideal. I’ll try to get everyone equally involved in the project.

I’m just worried that I’ll get assigned one of the staff members who feels they should have the position and everyone will hate me. Or, you know, that I’ll have to figure out objectives and a topic on my own instead of having one assigned, and I have no idea how to do that. Blerg.

Assorted Random Things

I bought an incredibly sexy pair of heels today; they’re this perfect fuschia color, about 3 inches, closed toe suede pumps. They are fabulous. I want to wear them everywhere, with everything.

The weekend was good, busy as usual. I need to slow down. I have been so busy, and the next few weeks look equally busy. It’s   a fine balance…part of me thinks if I had more down time I’d be productive, the other part thinks I’d get really overly emotional. I’d crave even more strongly letting go for a weekend. Sometimes I wish I had much lower standards.

Work has been ridiculously political as of late. I may have gotten a promotion…at least the promise of one. Our head dude said he wants me to run my next project. That responsibility should be with folks 4 grades above me. The deputy may not be on the same page, so it’s uncertain if it’ll happen. Word leaked, and it’s already pissing folks off. There are 3 people in my office younger than me (cue: I’m one of the youngest). There are people with far more experience than myself who haven’t gotten to run their own projects. It’s frustrating to them that I would be given the chance. On the one hand, I understand. If I were in their place, I’d probably feel the same way. They haven’t worked with me, so in their eyes, what makes me different? On the other hand, I know, as do my direct manager, the guy above him, the head dude, and a few tertiary folks, that I’ve been running our job. I have a lot to learn, and I’m far from perfect, but I do my job well. It’s gratifying to be recognized as excelling at what I do – I still maintain this field is perfect for me. The particulars of my office are shaky sometimes, but the field is still well-suited.