The decision you make at the end of your university/college studies will ultimately decide your entire future.

Let’s go even earlier, the end of high school?  The end of earlier schooling?

When written like this to me, it does sounds pretty silly.  But why do I think this?  I suppose all along it’s always been about delaying what ‘you’ll be when you grow up’.  Choosing my subjects in high school, choosing my subjects at uni, choosing my internship, choosing my rotations within my graduate program.  All along it seems as though I’ve been putting it off.

Is it a generational thing?  Talking to a lot of my friends and colleagues who are about my age, they think the same things.  We don’t know what we want.  But we do know that we want it soon.  And we definately know what we don’t want.

I lot of information I read says follow you passion, do what you like, make your dreams.  I think this is a load of rubbish…if…you don’t know what these actually are.  There is only so far a list can take you.

I suppose all this is to do with an inability to make some long term plans.  This scares me and my generation.  We are the adaptable, changing and fluctuating generation.  Long term doesn’t figure into the equation.  I don’t know if this is a bad thing or not.

So I might have a go at drawing up some medium term goals.  Perhaps this is my short term fix to a long term problem.

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Once Is Enough Thank You

October 13, 2009

I get frustrated when I have to be told things twice.  If it’s a complicated thing maybe I’ll let myself off.  But generally I really get disappointed in myself if I have to be shown the same thing multiple times.

But as a young professional, especially during the early times of a new position, you’ll spend more time learning than reviewing.  This leads to what I call (but probably has a more technical name) as learning fatigue.  There is definately a limit to what you can take on board.  There are two ways to address this problem.  One is from the perspective of the learner, the other from that of the teacher.

The Teacher

  • No one is going to get it all right, the first time, ever.
  • There is more than one way to do something.
  • Know what is important to teach and what is important to learn.

The Learner

  • Actively pay attention – ask questions, take notes
  • Try something yourself before asking again – the same question asked differently can help
  • Know that you can’t know it all at first.  Patience!

I’m not talking about knowing how to tie knots or make a raft (though I’m sure somehow these skills could come in handy to the young professional).  No, I’m talking about that old motto “Be Prepared“.

I wanted to follow up on a great comment by Lance on a post of mine.  He refers to a few techniques he’s developed to deal with both time poor and less guiding managers.

  1. Regular meetings with preparation.
  2. Multiple solutions to any problems.

Which leads me to the reason behind the title and a story from personal experience.  A long lasting problem that no one was aware of surfaced at work.  I was tasked with finding and implementing the solution.  The ultimate results though weren’t going to be immediately visible by myself.  Sure enough, a couple of days later I get a phone call.

“Um, Anthony, we’re not to sure about the results.  Can you explain these numbers?”

So I’m pulled into a meeting a fair few floors above my own.  But I had unknowingly followed the above advice.  I had two solutions to the problem.  So in the meeting I was able to accurately explain what had gone wrong and what corrective steps were required.  It worked out so well that the senior manager commented later on that he was impressed with how I had handled the meeting.

I suppose it went alright; I never heard of the issue again.

Teaching those older than you

September 20, 2009

By definition a young professional is probably not going to be as old as our colleagues.  Der. So there will be times in the workplace when we know something these other guys (or gals) don’t.  They’ll need to get taught.  And here the difficulties can arise.

I can find it difficult to teach something to someone who has been doing the basics of my job for years.  10 plus sometimes.  Wow…10 years ago I was running around high school playing barefoot soccer at lunch.

Here is an example.  The other day at work we got a group email inbox set up.  I know, not mind blowing technology but a simple step we’d been missing.  Everyone in the workplace knows how to use email.  I work at an investment bank, so we live on email and spreadsheets.  Anyway, I had to run through the basics of how to use it and the strengths of it.  Then a couple of days later I ask

“So <insert manager name here>, you haven’t been filing away your emails I see.”

“Oh yeh, how do I access it again?”

So obviously I need to work on my teaching skills a little.  But it leads me to my important point.

How to teach without patronising.

  1. Use simple terminology but not dumbed down.  Unneccesary a.c.r.o.n.y.m.s and explaining how to turn on the PC aren’t required.
  2. Use analogies.  My favourite is for explaining hotmail to my mum –  “It’s like a Post Office Box which you can access from any computer in the world.”
  3. Understand that they won’t get it completely the first time.  Who does?

So go to it.  Teach away readers.

It’s On A List

August 5, 2009

I use a To-Do list.  Unique.  Mind-blowing.  Earth-shattering.  Not.  My list is none of these things.  It’s a simple rolling list; if I don’t do something on that day it gets added to the next days list.  I get some sort of satisfaction by crossing things out.  My book is full of lists for each day, with each line scratched off.

Anyway, if you don’t use a To-Do list, a WIP (Work In Progress) or some variation you either should or you don’t have enough going on (in which case you should find something to do).  They are very handy.my-desk

But the problem I find is that some things, the hard things, get rolled over day after day.  I have some tasks that the only progress I make with them is to write them down each day.  This is pretty hopeless.  I obviously need to do something about this.

So what I’ve decided is to write a tiny, tiny action plan next to each.  I’m not talking about the full SMART principle (if you’re interested in that, see this handy blog post).  More like a name, a verb, some key point.  Hopefully this will point me and keep me in the right direction.

Do you have any hints or tips?

I think I first read this in a Tom Clancy novel, but Google/Wikipedia tells me it’s attributed to Grace Hopper.  Regardless of the source, I like it.  And a lot of people who know me would recognise I try and live by it during my working hours.

It’s not a mantra for everyone.  I’ve learnt that some people are not comfortable with making decisions where they are not certain of the outcome.  Some people like to understand the complete context before launching in.  Not me.  I have a go.  If it works great.  If it doesn’t, less great, but I’ve still at least learnt how not to do it.

Problems can arise in a work situation when there is a clash of personality.  People like me get frustrated with people asking conceptual questions, making checklists and seeking more and more information.  I just want it done.  I have learnt though that they definately aren’t doing it to frustrate you.  It’s their way.  And I have also learnt to use it.  Whilest they are collating the information, formulating the plan I do something else.  Then I can be presented with the most probable solution and can pretty much jump straight into it.

I think as a young professional we may be in a slightly advantageous position to other employees regarding making mistakes.  We’re early in our careers, inexperienced, learning the ropes.  At least I hope that’s what my boss thinks when I “have a crack.”  Try it out.