Are you familiar with the movie “The Miracle Worker”? In this film, based on the life of Helen Keller, Annie Sullivan, a dedicated teacher, tries heroically to reach a young girl who can neither hear nor see, and teach her sign language.
At one point, when Helen is getting water, Annie shows her – yet again – the sign for water. Helen gets it. She drops the bucket and the world opens up.
It’s a great scene and probably one of the best teachable moments ever.
Don’t you wish you could have something like that happen with your career?
The fact is, we do experience teachable moments all the time. But because they’re not as earth-shaking as Annie Sullivan’s and Helen Keller’s, we might miss them. Here are a few I’ve identified.
You bust your butt for a client and you get the contract. I think the lesson here is hard work pays off. And you know what? It’s really true sometimes, although not all the time. Do your best for the people you work for and you stand a better chance of getting the work you want.
You bust your butt and all you get is sick. This means you need to pay attention to the conditions under which you burn the candle at both ends. You’re risking your time, if not your health, when you go all in on something, so make sure it’s a calculated risk.
Your new boss knows less than you do. This means it’s time to make a few choices. Do you want to stay with this organization? This field? If you do, are you comfortable being subordinate to people who lack your expertise? If you are, fine. If you’re not, you need to find a way to get yourself some of those upper level positions. Does this mean another degree? Networking? Applying? You might want to find out.
Your boss gets sidelined due to office politics. Whether or not you care about office politics, this should show you that the game is played for keeps. It could help you learn to watch out for these cubicle coup d’états. Pay close enough attention and you could learn how to protect yourself, too.
You get downsized in a lay-off you should have seen coming. It’s a tough lesson, but sooner or later we all have to find out that hoping for the best is not a terribly effective career strategy. It’s not comfortable, but dust yourself off and figure out what you have to do to make sure this is one lesson you don’t repeat.
by Danielle Dresden