Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Embrace the Fool
When I got this new position in June last year I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into. And I wallowed. I wasn't sure I liked it but had no alternatives that gave me an income sufficient to pay the mortgage, I certainly lacked job knowledge and whilst I knew that I can be a bit of a sponge, the 50+ year old brain isn't quite as absorbent as it once was and I found that a lot of what I was trying to learn seemed to go in one ear and out the other. That combined with the obvious competency and intellectual capacity of my new colleagues left me doubting my own ability.
That too was nothing new. I'd spent the previous few years with major self image and self respect issues, hidden to most people I think. The first was my own fault, the second foisted upon me because many people had judged my marriage breakup and the subsequent upheavals and come to the decision that I was the sole person responsible for everything that had gone wrong. And I didn't discourage that. It seemed easier to take the blame because that tended to vindicate the self loathing and ultimately meant that other peoples judgement of me vindicated the way I felt about myself.
Then of course I was sacked from a job that I loved and that I was good at, so again it's very easy to start thinking the worst about yourself. Combine that with the fact that I got my new job as a result of who I knew, not what I knew, and that first few months in the new role left me wondering what the hell I was doing. I didn't want to let down the person who recommended me for the job, and yet I felt absolutely useless.
But slowly I got a handle on things. I coordinated and lead security and privacy audits, I was the key contact for the recertification of our Quality Management System to ISO9001, I began to make myself an expert in Privacy law, I developed and maintained relationships with our major client and other stakeholders and I think began to earn the respect of my peers. I have done things in the past year that I never expected to do. I make no pretense about the fact that I still have a lot to learn, but the greatest lesson I brought with me into this role from my previous working lives is that it is not shameful to admit gaps in knowledge and experience. In fact it is far better to be honest and tell people that you don't know something than it is to give bad advice simply because you don't wish to appear foolish.
Maybe as you get older that ability to embrace the fool with honesty rather than put on the mask and deny it's existence is a gift that comes more easily to us.
Upshot of all that is that I have now finished my first 12 month contract and been made a permanent member of staff. I received a pay rise which was more than twice what I got in the entire six years at my last job, and more importantly it has come with more responsibility and with the opportunity to become involved in other aspects of the business as well.
But you know what, the most important thing is that I am now a contributor and that I am enjoying what I do again.