Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that workplaces have drama. Who’d have thought? I have two instincts when I hear about it. One is to curl into a ball like a porcupine, and the other is to prick my ears and say, “Tell me more.” Here’s how to navigate between those instincts. Hint: The curl up in a ball one usually works better.
- Smile and wave like the Madagascar penguins. This works in social situations too.
- When my boss mentioned some drama, I once said, “I have no idea how to fix that” and made a little cross with my fingers. Do what I did, only more tactful.
- On the other hand, everyone gossips. Don’t expect your office mates to walk around with duct tape over their mouths—that itches.
- Be kind. I told my mother that I valued kindness in the workplace even though it was archaic. She shook her head and said that we were truly living in Trump’s America. Etiquette rule one: Think of the most obnoxious thing possible, and then tweet it.
- Judge your co-workers by what you see them do, not what others tell you they have done. This is a modified quote from a Horatio Hornblower movie. The person who says it later ends up shooting a guy in the back after he tries to cheat in a duel with the protagonist.
Duels in the work place are generally a bad idea.
Dante said that the ninth circle of hell was cold. I say its cold calls. There’s nothing more awkward than telling someone: “Hi, I’m from Concern for Animals. You were kind enough to donate to our silent auction last year…” It’s for two good causes though, animal welfare and keeping my apartment. Here’s what I’ve learned about cold calls.
- You weren’t disconnected. They hung up.
- Get a list of previous donors. It will work five times better than randomly punching in numbers, and make it five times less likely that you’ll want to punch the telephone instead.
- It’s an ab workout. Your stomach tightens the minute you start dialing.
- Business 2.0 magazine says it’s a good idea to call around dinner time. Don’t do that. It’s rude.
- A lot of small businesses don’t have money to spare. It’s not personal when they don’t give, and it’s especially meaningful when they do.
- On that note, the ones that donate can make your day. I had a new prospect tell me: “Thank you for reaching out.” It still made me smile a week later.
Full disclosure: I have danced in my chair and sang “Money, money” after a successful call.
I started a new job this week as Development Director at Concern for Animals. I take care of grants, donations, and social media. I’ve been cold calling businesses asking for gifts and enjoying the fact that I have my own office. There are kittens just outside, so it’s a miracle work gets done at all. Here are a few things about my job so far.
- It’s possible to call the same business four times and still not get the person you need to talk to. I hope they haven’t filed a restraining order.
- Writing about cute kittens on Facebook is as fun as it sounds. I get to start sentences with “One of our little fur balls got adopted…”
- On the flip side, there are some desperate people out there. One guy called asking for medical help for his dog sent a video on Facebook of the dog coughing up blood. Oh boy.
- The funds I raise go towards helping people like the one in step three. That’s why I called that business four times.
- My own tastes influence the gifts I ask for. That’s why I called a frozen yogurt place, two tea shops, and a store that sells Star Trek mugs.
Note: When you take a (quick) break to pet a kitten, you have to pet them all. It’s only fair.
I’ve worked in non-profit for six months and it’s been fascinating. For instance, we have our own hilariously bad jargon i.e. calling those who haven’t given in years “lapsed donors.” Here is a list of things you experience in the non-profit world.
- You’re passionate—the type of passion that makes you re-write your letter of inquiry five times.
- Your office building is jettisoning nails and plaster.
- You want to make a difference in the lives of those you serve and empower the community. And you need to find a way to say that which isn’t mind numbingly boring.
- Your co-workers have big dreams. One of mine plans to start a half-way house for recent prisoners. Another wants to build a “free-range” playground. It sounds like free range chicken, but it’s a place for open play where kids can go get dirty like they did in the days before cell phones.
- You know overhead costs are important. You can’t run your programs if you can’t keep the lights on or pay your staff.
Tip: If you can’t get the building fixed, don’t park in the spot below where the nails are falling. My boss did this and one punctured her tire.
I’ve spent the past two weeks at work updating a 1,800 row, 18 column spreadsheet. By the time I got to row 300, I wanted to take the computer and wrap it around my boss’s throat (and she’s a boss I like). Luckily, she decided not to have me re-format it, so it could be finished during my lifetime, which made me like her even better. This is a list of tips for when, like me, you’re having a stressful work week.
- Everyone does it, just don’t do it at the office.
- Don’t take work home with you. Home is for reading in bed and binge-watching Netflix, not checking your phone every half hour.
- Do something that relaxes you. For me, that’s a hot bath with lavender bubbles. For my Mom, it’s swimming. Unfortunately for her, it’s 35 degrees out.
- Remember the things you like about your job. Personally, I like writing grants and updating our Facebook page. Work isn’t eight hours of straight misery. If it is, it’s time to switch jobs.
- Daydream about your time off. The holidays are almost here. All you’ll have to worry about is fighting your way through the teeming mobs at the airport.
And remember, only 1,500 rows to go. You may want to take a stretch break
I started my job at Morningside this week. It was like stepping face first into a whirlpool. I wanted to contribute, but I didn’t even know where the office supplies were. Here are some words of wisdom I gleaned from my seven days of employment.
- Ask questions. It’s awkward, but it’s better than making mistakes. I’ve popped into my boss’s office so many times she must think I’m a jack in the box.
- Introduce yourself. If you meet someone in the office who you don’t know, stop and say hello. “Hi, I’m so and so. How are you doing?” will do the trick.
- Enjoy wearing nicer clothes. It’s like playing dress up. Only instead of Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings, now I’m Development Associate from Morningside.
- If you’re enthusiastic, show it. Personally, I gave a squeal of delight when I got my first business cards.
- Write stuff down. By the end of the first day I had multiple pages of notes and an ink stain on my pants. But it was worth it when I needed to find my voicemail password later.
Lastly…it’s the weekend, so relax. Become one with the couch.
A couple of weeks ago I landed a job at Morningside, an organization that helps people with disabilities find work. My first thought was, “Yes, I have a plan!” My second thought was, “Oh no I’d better get my answer to them quick or my plan could fly out the window.” Being a recent graduate is scary and one of the scariest parts of it is trying to find a job.
I once applied for a job transcribing and editing recordings of car accidents for insurance companies. I sent my resume and never heard back from them. That’s right; I could not get a job writing down car accidents. This was lucky, as I believe that Morningside will turn out to be a much better fit.
One of the most challenging aspects of job hunting is interviewing. I have composed this list of tips for experienced interviewees that I believe are helpful, but that most people don’t mention.
- Write down a phone number to call in case you get lost. I got so lost going to my interview with Morningside that I ended up driving up the same stretch of freeway three different times.
- Don’t sound too rehearsed. After you’ve gone over your notes a lot, you can start to sound robotic. Most people aren’t interested in hiring See-Threepio For one thing, he was always falling apart.
- Check that your interview clothes are ready a day early. There’s nothing like discovering you have no clean underwear at 10pm the evening before your interview.
- Try not to wonder why you were turned down too much. Nine times out of ten it’s because you didn’t have the experience. Trust me on this one.
- Wake up a couple of hours before your interview. This way you’ll have time to do your morning routine. For me, that routine is a cup of tea and a session on my punching bag. It works wonders.
I hope this list gets you the job of your dreams, not writing down car accidents. And remember, the punching bag is also good for dealing with rejection.