“It’s not who we are that holds us back….it’s who we think we are not!”
This quote floats by on Twitter occasionally. I liked it so well the first time I saw it, I wrote it down on a post- it note and put it at eye-level in front of me. Not sure who coined it, but it’s a keeper … which leads me to the topic for today. If you tuned in thinking this is a post about truth, justice and the American way, sorry to disappoint. This addresses the use of that four-letter word “JUST”.
I belong to four professional career organizations and read each of their online discussion groups daily. The career industry is incredibly collegial, collaborative and giving. I’ve learned a great deal about resume writing, business, technology and everything related to entrepreneurship and managing clients from my colleagues. They’re wise and generous in their sharing and have the credentials, education and training to back their wisdom. They write eloquent, insightful responses to questions about myriad topics and have, on more than one occasion, helped me personally with business, client or technical issues. And I’m not talking “140-character” short responses. I’m talking long answers with references, links personal experiences and information that never even occurred to me before they shared. Judging by the sheer length and breadth of the response, these elist posts must take hours to write. The author will sign with their “canned” signature (like we all do) listing degrees, credentials, publications and other honors. But wait, what’s that at the end of the post, right before the signature listing out these accomplishments?
“Just my $.02“
What?????? You spent three hours researching and replying with brilliance, signed with a laundry list of highly regarded credentials and you diminish all that with “Just my $.02″???(Or something equally apologetic.)
I run into the same thing with my clients. They describe amazing career feats, where they “moved the mountain to Mohammed” on a daily basis, and in response to my, “Wow. Really? Tell me more…” they respond with the verbal equivalent of kicking the ground, head down and uncomfortable, “I was ‘just’ doing my job.”
I wrote for a client a while back. She worked in a busy municipal court office. People went there to pay fines, fees, gather court information … you name it. She helped, in person and on the phone, probably 100 people a day, every day. Do the math … 100 people in an eight hour day, means interacting with an average of one person every five minutes. And these weren’t “where are the coffee filters” kind of interactions. This was responding to a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life in regards to legal issues. When I wrote her resume, I bulleted the information regarding her prowess in keeping a service line moving, while still giving the information needed and keeping order in the office. She called after I delivered. That call went something like this:
Client: “Resume looks good, but I’d always read you only bulleted important things.”
Me: “Yes. That’s true. Why do you ask?”
C: “Well, I don’t think the part about me helping 100 people a day is that big a deal. Everyone was expected to do that, so it’s not that special.”
M: “Really? You don’t think an ability to keep a line moving, respond to requests and do it quickly and efficiently is a marketable skill, deserving of being highlighted?”
C: “Ah no. Like I said. Everyone in that office is expected to operate at that level of efficiency.”
M: “In that office … but have you ever been anywhere where simple questions took forever to be handled? Lines moved at glacial speed and you knew there was a better way to manage the process.”
C: “Well … ya.”
M: “And you don’t think a manager would jump at the opportunity to find someone like you, able to move a line and provide customer delight, quickly, efficiently? You don’t see that as a marketable skill?”
Suddenly the light went on. I’d managed to remove the “just my job” blinders and helped her dig down and realize her career wonderfulness. She emailed less than a month later telling me about her new job. She made my heart sing with the following: “I want to thank you for all you have done for me. It was your magic words that caught their attention.” My “magic words” properly conveyed the value she brought to an employer. Something she couldn’t do because she was caught up in her “just my job” thinking.
Many years ago, during a time when my first marriage was disintegrating and self-esteem was at a low point, I went to pull a file from a cabinet near a coworker’s desk. He was head-down engrossed in a project and I startled him when I opened the drawer. Seeing him start, I smiled and said, “Relax. It’s just me.” He paused, then said, “Dawn. There is no such thing as “just you.” If you asked him about it today, he probably doesn’t even remember the exchange. I’ve never forgotten the impact of that simple, yet powerful statement at such a low point in my life. It was the reminder I needed to help me realize I was special and had good things to offer; in spite of what my now ex-husband kept telling me.
Today, right now, I challenge you to take the word “just” out of your vocabulary when it pertains to you or something you do. If you don’t see your own wonderfulness or the importance of what you do in contributing to the bottom line, how will you ever convey your value to a potential employer?
If you “just” walked in the door, that’s one thing. If you think you “just” move mountains, then change your perspective.
Hmmm. This is a post about justice … justice and fairness in the treatment of yourself.