Thursday, August 21, 2008

On the job: my recipe for success

Last week the president of the company I work for called me into his office. “I may be out of town next Thursday,” he began, with a dangerous twinkle in his eye.

So what does that have to do with me? I thought. You’re always out of town.

“And I’m supposed to give a speech at Caesar’s Palace. I might not get back in time, so I’d like you to stand in for me.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, my head filling with a million questions and concerns. “You might not get back in time? When will you know for sure?”

He smiled, enjoying the torture. “Just come in Thursday ready to go. No pressure, but this is an important presentation. There’ll be about 200 people there.”

I sighed heavily. “Well… I guess I won’t be putting Bailey’s in my coffee that morning.”

Yes, I really said that. Out loud. I always say career-sabotaging things, and right to the big guy. I’ve told him a hundred times, “You know, I work only because I’m between husbands.” He laughs as if I’m kidding. Once I substituted his photo with a picture of George Clooney on his bio page on a PowerPoint slide. He loved it.

I break every “dress for success” rule; I wear totally age-inappropriate miniskirts, I know just how much cleavage I can get away with and I sashay around the cube farm like an aging cocktail waitress. I can’t seem to make it to my desk on time in the morning, but I dart out of the office at 4:00:01 like my ass is on fire.

And I’m the one the president asks to stand in for him.

I’m no Nancy Kerrigan, but “WHY MEEEEEE???”

You want to know why? Because despite my pathetic work ethic, the fact is, I’m good. I’m a damn good writer and an engaging speaker, and that’s essentially what I’m being paid to do. That’s why I’m the one the president of the company turned to.

Nonetheless, in the workplace you’re still expected to play the game, and most of the time that involves editing out a good portion of who you really are. For me, that would take an incredible amount of effort—I’d have no energy left to get anything done!

However, I firmly believe that the higher the quality of your work and the more talent you have to contribute to the bottom line, the more you’re allowed to break the rules and the more you’re allowed to be your full frontal self. And that’s important—our jobs consume a huge portion of our waking time. Who wants to have to assume a professional persona and act the part all freakin’ day if it’s not really you to begin with?

So maybe you’re like me, with essentially no career aspirations and you work only to make money so you can have fun in real life. That’s okay—but make sure you always excel at what you do. Make the most of your natural talents. Make yourself so valuable to the company that people can’t help but put up with you. I can’t stress this enough. And, be a nice person to be around—that always helps, too.

As it turned out, I got a call from the office manager last night at 8 p.m. saying the big guy made his flight okay and he’s on his way back to town so I’m off the hook. I guess the Bailey’s goes in the coffee this morning after all. (Kidding.)

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