I'm pretty good at some things. I’m a fast reader, I can bake really delicious gluten-free peanut butter cookies from scratch, and I’m excellent at making up answers to questions I don’t actually know much about. If anything, I am sometimes overconfident in my abilities. Yet any ideas I have about having gift for public speaking are entirely fantasy.
My friend Mark is the type of person who regularly reads the business section of the newspaper, and I often go to him for financial advice. He has a well-paying job and owns a house. So I was surprised to learn recently that he didn't start out being very knowledgeable or responsible with his money. In fact, Mark started out with credit card debt and car payments, just like many of us. Since then, Mark’s way of thinking about money has shifted as he has learned more and entered new stages of life, or "stages of financial development" if you will.
"I'm not sure I like California," my mom said the last time she was out here to visit me. "You can't order coffee here without them asking you how your day is going." She's a New Yorker. She insisted that her barista didn't really care how she's doing, and that this polite inquiry was just wasting her time.
Hands down, my worst work experience to date was trying to tell someone they have a bad attitude. This someone was my coworker, Ruth, and technically, I was her supervisor even though we were the same age. My boss directed me to give her this feedback during her annual review.
I have always been very concerned with becoming a respectable job candidate, even before I really knew what I wanted to do. I’d thought the goal was to master information that would set me up for a successful career. I took school seriously and got good grades, and I believed that doing well on tests was a good indication that I was doing well, that I would be successful in life.
On April 8, President Obama signed an executive order to address unequal pay for women among federal contractors. In his speech on the issue, he promised, "We are going to work to make sure that our daughters have the same chance to pursue their dreams as our sons." It horrifies me that in an era of delivery drones, equal pay is at the forefront of the feminist movement. Sometimes I get a panicky feeling—is this it? Will it ever be better?
There are many reasons to say no to an offer. Sometimes it’s not a good fit; the position isn’t exciting, the company culture isn’t right, or the salary is too low. Sometimes, after going through the interview process and envisioning what your life will look like in the position (that you’ve yet to accept), your real priorities become clear. I’ve had a few opportunities to say no to job offers, which I recognize is an enormous privilege, and it hasn’t always been a good thing. There are a few types of jobs that I’ve said no to.
Last year, a Gallup poll found that a lowly 30 percent of Americans are actually happy at work, and many complained of "bosses from hell" as a major reason. The truth is that it's difficult to be a good manager. A good manager should, ideally, both direct your work and help you grow in your skills and career. She should be supportive, provide timely feedback, and help when you are stuck. She should be able to do all of this on top of the work that she needs to do herself. It's said that people are promoted to the point of their incompetence, and this is especially true when it comes to management, since dealing with people is a skill that few people actively cultivate. And there are so, so many ways to be a bad manager.
"I think if we make a special effort to cultivate good relationships with people at work, get to know the other people, and bring our basic good human qualities to the workplace, that we can make a tremendous difference," he writes. "Then, whatever kind of work we do, it can be a source of satisfaction."