Earbuds & Success


From the looks of it,  this blog should be about earbuds.  It is, kind of.  I want to offer a few basic rules to make sure your earbuds don’t get in the way of your success in your new job or internship.

First, let’s consider a scenario:

It’s your first day on the job and the phone rings. You answer and an upset client is on the other end. You freeze, and get a bit freaked out, because it’s an important client and you don’t want to mess up, on your first day.

What do you do?

This is a scenario that many of you may experience on your first day.  It is one of many situations where you’re not quite sure what to do because you’re new.  So, what do you do? Listen, ask, and observe.  Sounds quite obvious, right?

You’re right.  These three simple words/rules – listen, ask, observe – can teach you so much.  Yet, if you have a moment where you tune out, maybe put in your earbuds and turn on some music to help pass the time or focus on a project, you could miss out.

I recently spoke with a new colleague here at Penn, and she reminded me of just how much you can learn from eavesdropping – the good kind. How do you handle an upset client on the phone? Listen to how another colleague handles an upset client.  What is going on in the office?  Look around and observe. How do you get invited to an important meeting, or even know if one is taking place? Again, listen and see.

These are three little things that can make a BIG difference in your first few weeks on the job. You may just get invited to an important meeting or lunch.  You can learn how to handle difficult situations. It’s important to make a good first impression. So, remember – listen, ask, and observe. Avoid putting in those earbuds to pass the time, because opportunity could pass you by.

Thoughts on Black Friday

by Barbara Hewitt

Unfortunately, my five-year old daughter made it to the mailbox before I did and quickly claimed the American Girl catalog which had arrived that day.  (Don’t ask me how we got on their mailing list…I have no idea why the publication mysteriously appeared in our box.)  Jordan and her seven-year old sister Sierra were absolutely thrilled with the many options presented to them in the catalog and spent over an hour deciding which would be the best choice for them. They then interrupted my bath to formally present their choices to me. (As any mother knows, this is the ONLY time a mom gets a few minutes to herself, so the interruption wasn’t entirely welcome to begin with!)

May have been fun in 1909, but in 2009 there are so many fancy alternatives!
This doll may have been fun in 1909, but in 2009 there are so many fancy alternatives!

American Girl dolls seem wonderful. Each comes with a historical back story explained in an accompanying book about the doll.  The downside is that they cost almost $100 each, and of course there are loads of additional items which you can purchase for each doll.  While I already had some other things in mind for Christmas for the girls, I hadn’t planned on spending $200 for the dolls, and I explained this to them, much to their disappointment.  (It prompted them to search the house for change to contribute, resulting in a grand total of $1.73…only $198.27 to go!)

On this “Black Friday”, a day when every retailer in America is pushing for us to go out and single-handedly save the US economy,  I’ve thought a lot about the various values each of us gives preference to as we consider career options. Face it – with most careers we rarely “get it all.”  While the massive amount of  Black Friday advertising may seem innocuous, it can send the underlying message that to be successful and happy we need to own it all.   Whether it be a big house in a swanky neighborhood, luxury clothes that will make a statement at work, or even an American Girl doll….as the amount of perceived “needs” goes up so does the requirement to find a job that will support the desired lifestyle.  As our financial demands increase, our career options decrease, as the number of positions that will pay a high enough salary to cover all of our “needs” is reduced.

Maybe we could reconsider what we really "need" and instead think more about the things we value.
Maybe we could reconsider what we really "need" and instead think more about the things we value.

I love working at Penn.  The atmosphere is vibrant, the students are smart and motivated, my colleagues are indeed “collegial” and the benefits are wonderful.  However, an impressive signing bonus, hefty annual bonus, and huge paycheck are simply not part of the equation when working for a nonprofit organization. (Yes, Penn is a nonprofit!) That being said, my job provides the work life balance I need right now in my life, so that I can eat dinner most nights with my kids and take them to their swim lessons on the weekends.  To me, that’s worth more any day of the week than being able to buy every new toy that comes on the market.