Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The View from Above

If, in your career, you've...

been paid well
had a high-ranking title
mentored others
been regarded as an industry thought leader
been respected, assisted, praised and rewarded

and then you take on a new assignment which reverts your role from strategic to tactical, but in an area you have little to no experience in,

how can you say you're above it?

Is it humbling to admit that I don't know how to, for instance, wash windows?

I've started two jobs recently that have put me in the position of learning some very basic clerical and administrative work that I have not done before. Am I above it?

After all, haven't I already paid my dues? Didn't I already start out in the music industry as an assistant and work my way up? Must I be my own assistant now? Must I answer my own phone and empty my own trash?

But when I start complaining about my lack of administrative support, my inability to delegate because there is no one to delegate to, I know that I have to get over myself. I'm doing a lot of things that are new to me. How could I oversee someone doing them if I don't know how to do them myself?

Am I humbled?

The second job I started is admittedly potentially more humbling than the first. When I tell people I've started training to become a Weight Watchers* receptionist, they look at me curiously, wondering if they should feel sorry for me or think it's cute. After all, I don't need to work nights and weekends in addition to my new full-time job back in the music industry. But Weight Watchers requires all of their meeting leaders to start not only as members, but also as receptionists - so they know every step of the process, from both sides of the desk. So if I'm ever going to give back - become a meeting leader, or more - I've got to start at the bottom, counting a cash drawer, scanning in snack bars, restocking the shelves, rearranging the chairs, and, yes, emptying the trash.

Is it a step back? Or a necessary path to independence? If you've never dug a hole yourself, how will you ever know if your hired hole-digger is doing his job correctly?

Do any of us have the luxury of placing a limit on the amount of things we can learn in a lifetime? Can we deem information unnecessary or tasks unuseful?

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*I am now a Weight Watchers employee but I am writing about my own personal experiences and views. The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of Weight Watchers.