One of my biggest ongoing challenges with adulting is acting consistently professional at my job. There are obvious things you need to do: get your work done on time, take direction, wear professional clothing, be on time, etc.
Where it gets more complicated, at least for me, is how my personality, quirks, strengths and weaknesses fit into the workplace. When I think back about some of the things I have said and done throughout my career, I cringe. I don’t even have to think that far back for a few of them. While I’m relatively successful in my career and doing a job I love more days than not, there are still many times I stop and ask myself, how did I get here? I’m in charge?
It’s getting a little easier to accept now that I’m in my 30s. When I first started at my current job 8 years ago, I definitely felt like I had to grow into my appointed role as Senior Editor — and office manager — a little bit. For one thing, while I was the manager of our editorial office of three writers, I was the youngest at the company. That’s changed since I started, but it was a little weird at first. My experience and the success of my interview and clean editing test landed me the position, despite my age. Not to say I was “too young” for the job, but Senior Editor seemed like a lofty position at 25. And coming from past positions as intern, copy editor on a desk of 6, copy editor in a firm of 100s… this was new territory for sure.
I remember my editor saying to me a year or so after I’d been at this job that things were going well, but in the beginning, it seemed like I was crying a lot. Yikes. Crying at work?! The horror. The truth is, I don’t really know how to hide or properly channel my emotions. At least I didn’t, but thanks to EFT Tapping, a wonderful life coach, amazing friends and some nifty meds, it has definitely become easier to deal with things in a productive way and move on.
I’m also one of those people that cries at every emotion. Whether I’m extremely angry, telling an exciting story, giddy, sad or feeling love, the tears are coming. It gets even worse if I’ve had a drink or two, and I worry people wonder what the heck is wrong with me. Sometimes I blame allergies.
But there’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no crying in the office, either. And this isn’t just for the workplace. Lately, I’ve really been trying to deal with life in a way I never did before. Frankly, I can be a real baby/spoiled brat a lot of the time. It’s like I just never learned real adult coping skills, and there’s no good reason for it. I have to say my Mimi — god rest her beautiful soul — never really learned, so it comes from somewhere. But this past year, even I got fed up with myself.
The thing is, no matter how much you prepare, are a good person, etc., life is going to throw shit at you. That’s inevitable. What’s not inevitable is how you react and choose to handle it, and that’s something I’m trying to do a much better job on than I have in the past.
Bringing it back to work, though, I have typically let my stress over things completely take over, and it has a trickle-down effect on the writers. I came across this , and it seemed fitting:
Now, this isn’t exactly what I mean. I’m more focusing on this trickle-down effect of shit. Our company certainly isn’t set up to where there’s one person at the top lording themselves over others and doing none of the work. But I do think the stress can come down in a similar pattern. As a manager, it’s up to me to try to keep a positive attitude and keep things on course.
About a year ago, I got a little talking-to from my bosses about this, and it really freaked me out. I thought my system was working. I might vent, be stressed and fuss about things, but they always get done. And the work is GOOD. So there’s a method to my madness, right?
But the madness isn’t acceptable, and now that I’ve really been working on it, I see it wasn’t really productive, either. The thing is, in this position, I really have to set an example. If I come in late a few times, the staff will do that. If I whine about an assignment, they will. It’s hard to put on a brave face all the time, but it’s really sinking in now that HELLO, that’s what they hired me for.
At times, it can be hard to wrap my mind around. After the talking-to, I was talking with my mom and she said “Yeah Alyssa, I mean, you’re the equivalent of an upper level executive position, just at a really small company, and they expect you to act as such.”
Why is it so hard for me to accept a real adult level of responsibility and behave as such? I’m still floored at times looking around at my friends and realizing they’re teachers, lawyers, doctors… how did this happen?! WE’RE IN CHARGE?
It’s scary sometimes, but it’s also an opportunity. It’s not as though I want to perpetually be in my 20s and not experience personal growth. Really.
I have to cut myself some slack at the same time. I’ve had no formal management training. Management is very hard. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. You really do have to set an example. I like to view my colleagues as peers and I hate micro-managing, but sometimes you have to be tough, and really, you should try to keep your weaknesses and personal stuff under wraps. Maybe this is really obvious to some of you, but it took awhile for me to fully grasp. I’m a pretty open-book gal. If you know me at all, you know that and you likely know something about me you didn’t need to know!
Last week, I had my annual performance review and it couldn’t have been more different from last year’s. I actually got a promotion to Managing Editor — my first in my 8 years with the company — and I feel like I’m actually at that level! I think back to those weeks following last year’s review, feeling lost and completely “wrong” and just frustrated beyond belief, but I took those feelings and the feedback and I actually learned something. I actually did something and worked toward positive change. It feels AWESOME.
The past few months in particular have been life-changing. It’s all starting to come together. And things didn’t magically just get easier — I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, my pants are still too tight, I’m still taking things very personally. But I’m dealing (most days… hey, I’m still human!) in a way I’ve never been able to deal before. And now I’m even advising people. WHO AM I?
Not to say I’m not still growing and figuring things out, of course. Aren’t we always? We ought to be.