Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Knowing Yourself is Saving Yourself & How To

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed I’ve mentioned Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project a couple of times here and there. I’ve been mulling over how to improve my already good life to appreciate it more. Through her daily blog she also tackles how difficult it is to truly live a happy day every day despite knowing herself well.

One of her main obstacles was figuring out what brought her joy. I also struggled with that although I consider myself very self-aware. Sometimes knowing yourself too much limits you and leaves you stranded just as if not knowing yourself at all leaves you confused on where to start. While I know what I like, a bigger problem was finding the time when I have 10-11 hour work days.

They say the rule is 8 hours of work, 8 hours of play, and 8 hours of sleep. I try to abide by that as much as possible, but ran into how else to take advantage of my personal time and life when I had such little waking time left. As a lover of learning, growing, and taking classes (and also sleep), there are very few night classes available for anything between needing to eat dinner and driving through LA traffic.

I’m very inspired today because I’ve found a few solutions after a lot of research and experimenting. I found a gymnastics class and also an intense stretching class that is offered 4Xs a week late enough that I can attend or get a good work out even if I am a few minutes late because the class is 90 minutes long. Although I have asthma, I may have found a way to run without medications - using athletic breathing masks. I also found a lovely park near my house to rollerskate, bike ride, run, or play badminton. These are much better solutions than what I tried before.

Archery was fun but without lessons, too hard to master. Pole dancing class was too expensive and required investing many, many hours to even be proficient. My former love of hula dancing was only offered at times when I couldn’t go. Being a Big Sister during work hours through a work/community option was no longer possible for me.

As you try to figure out how to live your best life, be patient with yourself. It’s taken me weeks to even get this much progress because I had to self-reflect a lot to even know which direction I wanted to go in. Then I had to research classes and options what would work with my schedule.

If you are still searching for your self and answers, ask yourself these questions.

If you had an entire day to yourself, how would you spend it?
Do you thrive in your own company or with others?
What makes you feel alive and inspired?
Do you get more joy and satisfaction out of exercising your mind, body, or feelings?
What did you enjoy doing as a child?
What values, beliefs, and actions do you want to exercise at play and even at work?
What don’t you like and why?
What current hobbies that you have are similar to newer ones that have the same skills or traits that you might enjoy?
Do you volunteer and with what organizations?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Hardest Task You’ll Ever Overcome

In times of turmoil, despair, or confusion, the hardest task to overcome is the feeling of being helpless, lost, or uneasy. That distinct feeling of anxiety, panic, feeling nothing, feeling too much or being torn between trying to do everything and doing nothing is what I am referring. To not know what to do or to no longer feel comfortable in your own skin is scary. To no longer have clarity, peace of mind, and good sleep because it has been replaced with racing thoughts, physical discomfort of a heavy heart, a stomach as if gripped in a vice, or no appetite are the hallmarks that things are awry.

Regardless of what caused it, the hardest task will be to just sit with these feelings, thoughts, and physical ailments. It is also probably one of best things you can do. Avoidance, numbing, self-medicating or denying all of it only compounds the problem. The sooner you face everything, the faster things will resolve. In this age of instant gratification, money seeming to buy happiness, and awesome technology, it seems counter intuitive to sit back and just immerse yourself in the situation.

While friends and family will want to help you, the reality is, some things can’t be taken care of by others. You and only you alone can go through a trying experience. Only you know yourself best and how to proceed once you feel a little bit more aware and calm from whatever situation you are trying to resolve. If you can learn to face yourself, alone in the middle of the night, and accept your inner voice, the private thoughts you think, and the swirling chaos within you, you have won half the battle.

There have been times in my life where I met sheer terror through life events. In the beginning for first couple of days, the only thing I could do was sleep 3-4 hours as my life spinned out of control. The remaining waking hours were spent with heart palpitations, talking to friends trying to sort out what was going on and how I felt about everything, and vague plans for how I could fix the situation. Sometimes there was no solution. The only solution was to live with the new reality that I didn’t want to face.

Whenever I feel life couldn’t get any worse, I wallow in whatever it is I’m feeling. I’m the type that tries to get everything out of my system all at once to get it over with. If I’m sad, I’ll cry as much as I want as often as I want. Maybe it will be for 3 days, it might last 2 weeks. The point is, whatever I’m feeling, I know if I can just get through that emotion, I can find the healing place sooner. If I’m angry, I think about all the reasons why I’m angry. I read, I make lists, I solidify my arguments. My goal is to acknowledge my feelings as strongly and deeply as I can to use them as step stones to finding peace again. If I’m not hungry, maybe I’ll only eat once a day. If I’m tired, maybe I’ll sleep more as long as I’m taking care of everything that needs to be taken care of. Do what you have to in that hour to get to the next hour and to get through the day. As long as you are not being self destructive, you are doing okay.

And that’s the key, what is it that you do to relieve your stress and anxiety in a healthy way while facing your obstacles? Is it to exercise, socialize, read, or help others? Cultivate activities or minor distractions to preserve your mental and emotional state from unraveling further. Those are your strongest assets to moving on. There is nothing more precious and valuable than human capital - thinking, feeling, and reacting well during life’s most difficult moments. Learn to live with the decisions you make because only you can live your life; no one can live your life for you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Answering Reader Mail: What Do Employers Look for in High-Level EA Candidates?

“I came across your blog while surfing the net for information on high-level executive assistants. There wasn't much information out there. I found your blog very helpful. I have some experience as an executive assistant for mid-management, but I am starting to apply for jobs that support high level executives, such as CEO, Chief Counsel & managing partners. Can you tell me what they are looking for besides experience?

I am being considered as a potential candidate because I am bilingual, have a paralegal certificate and masters degree in financial analysis. Beside being a junior level EA and having multiple administrative support jobs in the past, I am not sure how I can present myself as a capable and competent EA.

Do you have any suggestions/advice for me? Thanks.”

Dear MJ,

I’m glad you enjoy my blog. I hope I can be of some help! It’s always nice to get questions from my readers! Since you asked 3 different questions, here is my advice for you.

5 Things Companies Look For Besides Experience:

Besides looking for experience, a lot of companies are looking for the right fit. Whether it be personality, management style, corporate culture fit, and likability, there’s a reason why people would rather work with someone fairly competent with a great personality versus an amazing assistant that is a Debbie Downer/etc. So how does this translate to you?

1) I’ve always found it extremely helpful to be and communicate that you are experienced, but willing to learn, be humble, and fine with doing the mundane tasks or dirty work. The goal is to be well-rounded in all aspects. If you’re afraid you’ll only be picking up dry cleaning all day, you can state what you are looking for by saying, “My background has been as an executive assistant, where 90% of my workload related to the office and 10% was personal business handling x, y, z.” Keep in mind this most likely doesn’t mean you’ll get out of picking up lunch or making coffee on occasion. In interviews I’ve said that I’ve worked for introverts and extroverts and my job is to conform to the needs of my boss. I state my job is to assimilate to what already exists at the company and to be team player and to do what is best for the company because without the company, I wouldn’t be here. So bring your experience, wisdom, and people skills to the table, but have a “I’m green, hungry for the job, I’ll hustle” attitude as well. The reality of being an EA is that while the phones, calendar, and travel are essentially the same in every office your boss and your team are always unique people with their own work styles and needs. First and foremost, your job as an EA is to master working with many different people in a customer service role, and the admin work is actually secondary.

2) Another suggestion is to be happy about working with all levels of staff from the security guard to the executives and treat them all well. This means when you show up for the interview you are courteous to everyone. Your interview starts even before you shake hands with anyone or answer an interview question. It’s not uncommon to hear others’ weighing in on what they thought of you. If appropriate and true, during the interview process, you can mention you take the time to have lunch with other assistants, interns, or other co-workers just to understand them better as people, the office environment, and pick their brain for advice. The point is to communicate you realize you are “the face of the office/company” and will ensure to put your best foot forward in all scenarios.

3) Communicate you navigate office politics well and understand seniority. This can be illustrated during the interview portion as you see fit. For example, when I’m asked how I got started and to explain my work history, I always want to tell a great story. I mention how I worked for all my CEOs because I was recruited away as a temp. I point out the only interaction I had with many of the CEOs were through their assistants by delivering memos. And they noticed that I would come in, drop off the papers, and leave. But what did this illustrate? I wasn’t there to say hello, get in “good” with the higher ups, network, or gawk at any famous people that might have been there. I was there to do my job; I didn’t loiter. And what I’d end up hearing was, the CEO’s office noticed me because I was there to do my job and only do my job. I wasn’t there to socialize or go out of my way to point out I was a temp to try to get a full-time job. I wanted to do my job well for whatever it was they hired me to do. My goal as temp was to be asked back as a temp repeatedly - that’s it. Proving I was a good temp, proved that I would be a good full-time employee.

4) As appropriate, illustrate you understand how vital discretion is. It’s perplexing to me that even during interviews, I’m actually asked point-blank if I’m very discreet and won’t share confidential information even though my career obviously illustrates I’ve been trusted and referred by some very credible people. I have even been asked about how much I socialize at work. I answered that while it is nice to have friends to go to lunch with occasionally, I mention how I was groomed the same way by all the CEO’s offices where one never knows if they befriend you at the office for hidden agendas. So I state I don’t talk about work with anyone just to be safe.

5) Learn to never say no.
One of the best traits as an executive assistant is that you never want to say no. When asked a question or a request, you want to either have the answer or get to it immediately. Exhaust all resources. One of my toughest assignments was when I had less than 24 hours to find a new location for an all-day recruiting event. The difficult part was between the 3 hour time zone difference and finding out late in the afternoon meant I really had less than a couple of hours to actually take care of it all. Luckily, I did! Phew!

3 Things To Demonstrate To Present Yourself As A Capable and Competent EA:

1) Show you have supervised others even if interns or 2nd assistants and your jobs put you on a path to constantly learn and grow

2) Have really good problem solving stories for your interview

3) Bring a portfolio of your work on Powerpoint presentations, Excel documents or legal documents that demonstrate your mastery and skills

3 Miscellaneous Suggestions and Advice:

1) When asked why you want to be an EA and how long you plan to stay, have a really good honest selling answer on why you enjoy the work. A good executive assistant is hard to find, one that will stay more than a year is even harder. It also is very helpful to have many credible referrals and recommendation letters from people that give a 360 view of who you are as a person and a professional. I often turn these extra documents in before my first interview or bring them to the interview. I also always bring many copies of my resume, cover letter, and recommendations. I've actually been interviewed panel style with4-6 people in one room.

2) Brand yourself and your specialties well from cover letter to resume to your LinkedIn profile and your entire online presence. I've actually been headhunted by my LinkedIn profile alone. I also always have the link in my email signature. Think of your unique selling point, it should be one sentence long. Mine is:

High-Level Assistant for Chairmen/CEOs of Fortune-ranked companies, including Exec Producers

3) To take your career to the next level aim by being the 1st or sole assistant to a C-Level executive at a small, but reputable company or 2nd assistant at bigger, well-known place.

Keep in touch, ask more questions, and good luck on your journey!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to Navigate Work/Life Balance & Your Quarterlife Crisis

Upon graduating from college, I spent the next 6 years or so being a workaholic. I love working and I always wanted to pay my dues and have a solid foundation early in my career. Around the 4 or 5 year mark, I found myself very tired and uneasy. The long hours without a vacation and without any balance were finally taking its toll and it’s no wonder why.

This isn’t taking into consideration that I had worked since the age of 12 first as a babysitter throughout the school year and summer jobs as a waitress at the age of 14. However, by the time I was 16 I was teaching ESL to doctors, scientists, and children along with my last years of high school doing internships as a journalist or summers as a local TV broadcaster. I was always challenging myself and had been in professional settings at a fairly young age. This obviously paid off in terms of poise, self esteem, and understanding corporate culture. I was always working with people two or three times my age where I had to hold my own. I was very often the youngest person and the only person my age or even close to my age. By my mid-twenties this all work, no play began catching up to me.

At the height of my workaholism, I was working 16 or more hours a day. I ate all meals at my desk in about 15 minutes. I only went home to sleep and shower. All my housework was done by paying others. I worked weekends. I could barely call in sick and was too busy to go on vacation. When I was so stressed I needed a break, I could only call my best friend at the oddest hours. I was so exhausted I spent all my free time sleeping and maybe reading because that was as much as I could handle.

When I started to realize my life was literally passing me by and all of my days were looking the same, I started to make small changes to make myself happier. So many questions went through my mind. Is this all there is to life? Just working? And then I die? Is this all it will be day in and day out? I started to go out even if it meant leaving work at 11pm and being out for a couple of hours and barely getting enough sleep. After a few weeks of this, my body gave out. So then I had to think about what to do to change things. The more I thought about it, as much as I loved my job, I realized I need a new one that provided work life balance. So I quit my job.

I spent the next four months resting, soul-searching, temping here and there and took a 2 week vacation. It took me the entire four months to unwind and finally feel normal. I had a better idea of what I wanted out of my next job. It did take me a couple of years to finally land where I wanted to be since I first realized I needed to make a change.

Here are things to keep in mind as you transition.

1) Be patient with yourself. Cultivate a strong mind and emotional attitude as you go on this new journey. Sleep well, exercise, eat healthy, and get the support of your friends and family.

2) Know what you like and dislike about your job and life. Know yourself well. Take personality tests to figure out the best careers for you. Read The Power of Story by Jim Loehr. Write a list of 3-5 items of what you must have in a job and will not accept. (For example - a long commute, working more than X amount of hours, etc.) The rest should be open to compromise.

3) Plan small steps to get to where you want to go. Some of them might include taking new or refresher courses, doing informational interviews, networking, and volunteering.

4) Have a huge savings account to get you through your transition period. Many people take the first job offered to them because they have no money.

5) When you succeed in making your transition know what you want to do with your newfound free time. Maybe you want to take art classes, date, make new friends, or take more weekend trips. Learn to purse your personal goals as well as your professional ones.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Beauty of Life

In Gretchen Rubin’s, The Happiness Project, she embarks on a year-long journey to further appreciate her life and be happy. Mind you, she is already happy with a wonderful husband, 2 beautiful kids, a job she loves, and has everything she could ever desire. But she doesn’t feel as grateful as she thinks she should be. She didn’t want to live her life and some catastrophe happen to look back and realize how truly happy she was earlier, if she only knew how to enjoy it THEN.

One of the many many things she does is read about death and other horrible topics as part of her exercise. I have been doing that too. Sometimes I find myself being able to relate well to what has been written and find comfort that many of the human experiences are the same. Sometimes, it becomes too much and I need a break from it. To counteract my sorrows, I thought about what brings me joy.

Although I am not very creative or imaginative in the artistic sense, I do find great joy in the talents of others precisely because I know I lack them. To be moved and inspired by others is one of the most profound experiences I have been most grateful for. I wish I had more moments like it.

I am a big fan of classical music, movies, and non-fiction. Most of my iTunes collection is relaxing classical music. I read 2-3 books at a time. And have been known to finish 3 books in week. I work in the film industry and will watch anything if a friend wants to go to the theatre. I’m by no means an expert in any of these areas. I love the mainstream stuff and only know a few works that may be common knowledge to aficionados. I just thoroughly enjoy having my thoughts and emotions exercised, moved, and affected. That connection to a song, word, or person is what makes me feel alive.

When I first heard Vitali Chaconne, my life changed in an instant. By this point, I had a rather large classical music collection. I had been listening to KUSC, our local classical radio station, for a couple of years. I had never heard Vitali Chaconne and from the first few notes I felt I was in a trance. The first few bars are barely perceptible. The melody starts and it’s haunting, full of sorrow, dramatic, yet hopeful. The notes rise up, then go quiet. It is both powerful and delicate, light, and graceful. It feels bold, maddening, relaxing and defeated at different parts. The piece is almost 10 minutes long and by the end of the first minute I was actually crying my eyes out in the car as I was driving. I felt both embarrassed and lucky to have reacted the way I did. I was so in awe, so majestically at one with the music. I had never heard anything like it and my body felt electrified in a hyper-aware state as each note played out. It is now my favorite classical song.

Aside from Vitali Chaconne, I have been moved in equal measure in the first few words of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I cried my eyes out upon first hearing the Swell Season’s song Happiness. Avatar, The Hangover, Wall-E, and Toy Story 3 were grippingly moving, amusing, funny, and touching.

I contemplated the almost-religious experience of Vitali Chaconne and wrote the following quote:

“There is no greater joy or beauty in life than hearing, reading, or seeing for the first time what will become a favorite song, book, or movie. Nothing can rival the uninitiated mind as being moved to such great lengths in an instant.”

That’s what’s also so fleeting about life. The first time experience of anything can never be repeated again with that same person, song, book, or movie. The novelty, the newness, the virginity of it all can never be recaptured. The second time around you know what’s coming, it’s expected, it’s no longer fresh to your mind, your senses. How untouchable it all seems. I can only hope I will have a thousand more moments...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Life & Taking a Risk

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted" -Randy Pausch

There was a time in my life when I decided to take a huge risk. The memory seems like a lifetime ago. I’m extremely, extremely risk averse so this was unlike me. And even as I sat there in the middle of a deep conversation, my mind actually said, “There’s a very high risk in what you’re about to engage in.” In fact, my mind said it more than once that night and it was crystal clear in each of those instances. I remember them distinctly. The thoughts were a flash, a mere split second, but I was too enthralled, too enraptured. But they did in fact register in my consciousness. I decided to forgo taking the safe route for once. And later on, that night or another day, somewhere inside me, I used logic to address those split-second hesitations and reason my way through the different scenarios that might take place. I finally told myself, “Yes, it’s a huge gamble. I’d rather be wrong than live with the regret of what if... If you’re going to take one risk, this is the risk worth taking.”

That big risk I banked on did not turn out the way I had hoped. Did I get a lot out of it? Yes. Did I get what I ultimately wanted out of it? No. And it’s not so much that I am mad at myself for taking that risk and that huge leap of faith, but perhaps more so that subsequent actions were made with too much optimism, even though I would mentally note each aberration that may not have been a good sign. For such a huge risk, I calculated the first major decision well. But I didn’t know how or didn’t know any better to handle and weigh the tinier pieces of information that followed, that may have been helpful in influencing following decisions. I duly noted each questionable or eyebrow-raising moment whether mentally or written. But since everything was fine and things were progressing extremely well, I believed I had no use for all the collected tid bits of random information. Perhaps the mere existence of them should have been my first clue that something could become amiss. I honestly didn’t know. Where does one draw the line when life and humanity are never perfect? The gray areas are so tricky and of course hindsight is 20/20. When is preventative action wise and correct, versus overly careful, limiting and rigid? When is something an actual mistake instead of a passage through learning, growing up, and becoming wiser?

During the whole debacle, which at its worst dragged on for a couple of weeks, someone I didn’t know well, but who knew the details of my ordeal very well actually said to me, “I wish I had that problem!” At the time, in my grumpiness and helplessness, I was almost insulted at that comment. While they did not mean to be dismissive of my predicament or feelings, and the tone was certainly not so, I brushed it aside as being less than insightful. The message of “be thankful for your problems” was one I did not want to hear.

However, it is true that the problem I was having could be viewed by others as complimentary or flattering, perhaps even an embarrassment of riches. That acquaintance could only dream to be in the position I was in, as truly miserable as I was. In looking back, I tried to see the bright side of it all, while I still grappled with the fallout.

Luckily, the damage was relatively minuscule in comparison. Although, my private hell lingered faintly like ghostly wisps of smoke long after the devastation. In reality, I didn’t lose money. I didn’t ruin my credibility. And I didn’t lose my health. I had seen worse and endured much more, though it was so long ago that this event seemed more overwhelming. I was really, really stressed out, frustrated, and upset for awhile. For two whole days, I was completely out of sorts. In the grand scheme of things, this was something I obviously needed to learn, very urgently and quickly before it was too late. The long-term ripples of my big risk actually reaped more good than bad. It was very hard to swallow since what I really wanted, I didn’t get. As much as I hated going through it, it happened for a reason and I did make that choice. This lesson has and will positively reverberate my entire lifetime; that was the sole huge consolation prize.

In trying to salvage the experience, the question I asked myself was, “HOW was it worth it?” not “Was it worth it?” or “Did I regret my decision?” In understanding HOW it was worth it, I was able to learn something about the experience. Sometimes that may take a long time. I’m sure years from now I’ll still happen upon clarity and wisdom in moments of silent reflection or when a memory is inexplicably triggered. For some time I had to search and put the pieces of the puzzle together. I understood the disappointing outcome on a logical level, but that is often not enough. After much reflection, research, and distance, I learned I wouldn’t have gotten what I wanted anyway. I’m 1000% sure it was not meant to work out although facing that reality was painful. I came to comprehend the best-case scenario was the lesson would have been a little less heart-wrenching and unexpected had I treaded lightly.

In the end, everything is at least half my fault, if not more. In Donald Trump’s first book, he always made decisions by imagining the very worst possible outcome and seeing if he could live with it. Oddly, I had always done that myself in all areas of my life and continue to do so. I did it with the same scenario mentioned above. I gave 150% of myself, I didn’t hold back, and I didn’t second-guess myself. I went all in. However, the lesson became: It’s good to take a calculated risk. I am so very proud of myself for trying to live outside my comfort zone to take a chance. I should learn to still say yes and and not rush in, jumping eagerly into a new journey. Risk big with many alert, small, slow steps and act accordingly. And most of all, try not to fear the old adage: “Experience is the worst teacher. It always gives the test first, and the lesson afterwards.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

5 Ways to Make Your Office More Inviting

Having an inviting office is key for any assistant. It helps to act as a social lubricant and make others feel welcome. Here are 5 tips you may find useful.

1) Have extra supplies on your desk - For any office I inhabit, my desk has two sets of supplies laid out on my desk. On the outer edges of my desk, I place extra pens, pencils, highlighters, ruler, scissors, tape, tissue, stapler, Post-it notes, staple remover, lotion, hand sanitizer, and an extra phone if possible. The reason why I do this because there’s always that office guest or executive that wants to borrow my stuff and they either run off with it or have to come around to my side of the desk where important documents may lie or where they can see my computer screen. They also want to make a quick phone call and if they were to use my phone I can’t grab other lines if they were to ring. Having the extra set of supplies for them makes it so much easier for them to do any final stapling or leaving notes for my executive. They are always so happy to have their own section of supplies and an area of my desk to do what they need to without interrupting me to ask for stuff.

2) Have personal photos - I always place 7-10 small photo frames in a very visible, front area part of my office or desk. The photos are me with friends, families, or something that highlights my personal life. A lot of the times, people passing my office will see the photos and come over to look at them and start asking questions. Sometimes they are total strangers visiting our offices or co-workers I barely work with. I find it’s a good ice breaker and a way for people to get to know me or me to get to know them, especially if they are waiting for my boss to wrap up a meeting and are bored.

3) Have a candy dish on your desk - Having a candy dish on your desk is key, especially putting it in a spot where people will be forced to say quick hello when they take a piece of candy. The trick is to encourage people to take as much as they want and to come back and visit. LOL People inevitably ask if they can have a piece and I always reply that it’s there for them! I make it a point to never buy the same treat once I run out. Sometimes I even take suggestions and I really try to vary the treats. I’ll go from chocolate to mints to gummies, etc. I make sure whatever they take is small, bite size, and can be easily eaten. Lollipops aren’t good because they take too long to eat. I also try to buy things that are atypical. Sometimes I bring in Japanese candy that everyone would like - for example, candy that tastes like Coke or Sprite. Free candy is just another way to spark conversation and make people feel cared for.

4) Have a community decoration wall or door - I have a large bulletin board on my desk that has my favorite quotes and cute animals plastered on there. If you don’t have wall space, perhaps your office door can work too. The idea is to allow people to contribute their favorite quote or pet to your wall. I think this is something anyone can relate to or can comment on. People do actually bring photos in or their favorite quote. Later on, when they come back they are so pleased to see that I did put up their contribution. I once had a co-worker I didn’t know come to read my wall. She loved one quote so much because her best friend just went through a terrible break up. So, I did the only thing I could that felt right - I gave her the quote to give to her friend. My co-worker was so touched and so grateful beyond what I had expected. I assured her it would be totally fine, I could just print another one out and replace it. It was nice to make her day and hopefully her friend’s too. The wall then becomes a focal point in the office. People gather around it and point out their contribution or hear about another executive’s fave quote or pet. It gives a lot of insight into your department. Others can feel they though co-workers a lot better because it is now a public space to share.

5) Use your office space to give out freebies - If you’re an assistant, it’s very likely that you will have to set up a lunch and there is food left over from it. Instead of taking it into the kitchen, take the 10 minutes to bring the food to your desk area and personally call or email people to come get the freebies. The point here is to call people that you want to express gratitude to or you want to forge a good relationship with - other assistants, security guards, mailroom staff, janitorial crew, etc. By calling people specifically, you are saying I thought of you, I thought you might like this surprise treat, only those I select are getting the freebies. This translates to you are important, I value you, thank you for everything. By asking people to come to your desk you can make sure that they realize they isn’t enough food to go around to everyone and it’s a chance for you to say a quick hello as they pick out food they want. It’s always nice to make people feel special! Sometimes if I can, I will personally make a plate of food and walk it out to the security guards since I know they can’t leave their post. I first will call them though and tell them all the yummy food I have and get their requests on which items they want.

The bottom line is, being an assistant is very much a customer service role. Little tweaks here and there can make a big difference for guests and colleagues!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mentoring & Stories We Tell Ourselves

Ever since I was teen, I lived by the following stories about myself that helped me navigate life, and later on, my career.

1) I’m lucky.
2) I create my own luck.
3) Life is what you make it.
4) You always have a choice, even if you may not like the choices.
5) Everything is half my fault, if not more.

As you can see, much of the stories I told myself were a mix of optimism, realism, and good ol’ hard work.

I’m lucky could be seen in anything from being blessed to be born in America, a free country, to everything from my parents who put their daughters through college although they weren’t grads themselves.

I create my own luck was a mantra I told myself that meant all the small tiny actions I took today would somehow pay off in 6 months or years from now in so many ways I wouldn’t even realize. I think this helped groom some patience in me. I always tried to take the right steps and tell myself great results take a long time.

Life is what you make it is just that. My high school senior English teacher lived by the phrase Carpe Diem - seize the day!

In fact, my 5th grade teacher also taught us you always have a choice even if you may not like it. While many of us think we have to do things, the reality is, we do them because we want to - maybe not with joy, but we see the consequences of not doing something is worse. In elementary school, that 5th grade teacher said we came to school because we wanted to, not because we had to. We thought on that for awhile since we all felt we came because we had to. She got us thinking: Well, I walked to school or took the bus. I could have just as easily walked to the park instead or not gotten on the bus and ditched school. If I did that though, my parents would find out and get really mad. And then I’d get grounded and I couldn’t see my friends or do fun stuff. And while it would have been years before we could have learned anytime we act out or rebel it only hurts ourselves, our critical thinking skills had already been triggered. Oh how I consider myself so lucky to have such great teachers all my life! :)

Everything is half my fault, if not more... That lesson I oddly learned from Oprah. LOL I remember watching a show about people with unfaithful partners who continued to stay or date similar types of people. Oprah’s point was, if you stay, you’re to blame, not your partner - even though what they did was wrong. If you continue to seek out or end up with the same kind of people, you’re also to blame because you’re not seeing the signs or you’re allowing yourself to make the same mistakes repeatedly. I remember thinking it was a pretty harsh view, most likely because I wasn’t that age where dating was a big part of my life. Nonetheless, the older I got, I did realize I have a choice - stay or leave.

Because I had these and many other stories largely to the credit of other people, I never paused to think how much they shaped my life, much less that they existed as mantras until I started mentoring other people. In mentoring others, it’s a lot of clarifying what you believe and dispensing advice. But first you must actually take a moment to figure out what your message is, why you believe it, and then how to deliver it along with exact steps to carry it out to get the desired results. This is one of the reasons I enjoy mentoring, it’s an exercise in self-knowledge, teaching, and giving back to someone.

This leads me to my newest revelation. If you aren’t creating new mantras for yourself or you can’t even remember the old mantras that worked for you, something’s wrong and you’re stagnating.

So I was stagnating, or more accurately, I was stagnating because I was tired. And I wasn’t tired in the sense that I need more sleep. I was tired emotionally, psychologically, or as others’ may say - spiritually exhausted. If you find yourself relating to all this, I can only say what I’m planning on doing - take as much “me time,” relaxing, and resting time I need on a daily and long term basis, really cater to myself and what I want to do to rejuvenate (reading, thinking, seeing movies), not fret so much about being in this lull, and continue to sleep, eat, and socialize as I have been while going to work. I am trying to live my life each day like a mini vacation because I realize that is what I need. The last thing I need is to over-extend myself, say yes to everything, take on new outside interests, and spread myself thin. I know with time my spiritual energy will return and I will go back to living my other mantras that I’ve dearly missed... (Note to Future Self: It only takes one and it only takes an instant for it to appear!)