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28 August 2011


Douglas Hill

Right on, and worth study by anyone who is starting to realize they actually have to deal with a career.

Two things I'd add. One is that most twenty-somethings are still putting much of their energy and attention into exploring and expressing their identity. It is tempting to define your identity in opposition to your coworkers, constantly emphasizing how you're not like them, especially if this is a pattern you developed at school. That's dumb. These are people you have to work with every day. You'll all be happier if you try to find the ground you have in common with each one, even if it means expressing a part of yourself that you're trying not to emphasize at the moment.

The second is that you are engaged in a work of art. The first marks on your canvas seem arbitrary, imperfect; not what you had in mind. But if you engage with your work as if it had meaning, meaning will emerge from it, and you will start to see connections you didn't know existed. You will eventually have a career no one else could have had, and you will look back on your worst jobs and be unable to see how you could have gotten here without them. This sounds all mystical and hand-wavy, but how could it be otherwise? If you build your house from the rubble of disasters (to mix some metaphor) they become part of its foundation.

Meg Houston Maker

Doug, thanks for your extremely thoughtful comments, beautifully said.

Joel Vincent

Meg - I like this in general. I'm not a fan of over analyze but given your background I think I understand where you're coming from and given you're 29 years old like me ;) I think this reflection is nice to see for those that follow.

One thing I would add and maybe its my high-tech/silicon valley roots (for my career anyway) and that would be this:

Make a decision and commit - you will make mistakes and you can use your point about post-mortem to learn from them but nothing will kill you more than not being able to commit to a direction. Consensus build to a point but whether or not you build consensus, its your ass on the line so make a decision and commit to the follow through. If you're in a group and there is an intractable disagreement then get the team to agree to disagree and make sure everyone commits to a given direction. Don't walk out a the room saying "I don't agree so I'm gonna half ass it". Even if you disagree, disagree and commit to the direction as if it were your own idea. You do this and you WILL build a reputation as someone who can "get things done". You get other members of the team in sync with this concept and you will be seen as a "leader".

If there is one skill you learn few will be as valuable as learning to make a decision.

Joel Vincent

Oh, one more. Around my latest office we call it "Eat the Frog". The expression means this:

If there is an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with someone - customer, co-worker, boss, whatever - the do it and do it now. Get it out of the way. Eat the frog. It clears your mind and allows you to move forward. If you put it off it will drag on your productivity.

Eat the frog...

Alfonso Cevola

Thanks for a good read. I referenced it on my blog recently - you nailed it!

Meg Houston Maker

Joel, many thanks for your thoughtful remarks. I concur that tenacity and commitment are important, especially once a person steps into a management role. And I love "Eat the Frog;" a vivid reminder to be forthright.

Meg Houston Maker

Alfonso, thanks for reading, and I enjoyed your post, too (read it here).


Thank you so much for this brilliant and enlightening post, Meg! Reading this was a humbling reminder of mistakes that I have made in previous positions, so I suppose it is relevant to not so young professionals as well. I am about to switch careers myself and I plan on committing this piece to memory as I start out on my latest venture. Keep the fabulous content coming!

Meg Houston Maker

Thanks so much, Amy. I think you're right—this advice holds for anyone at any age, though sure wish I'd heard it, and taken it to heart, earlier in my career!

Like you, I'm in a career transition now, though segueing back into consulting work instead of working for a single company. Although the recommendations here are largely targeted at those working within the corporate organism, I'm certainly keeping in mind the first two maxims, viz., "don't assume you know everything," and "be easy to work with."

I wish you the best with your career switch, and can't wait to see the results!

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