Welcome to Freelance Friday! Each Friday, I’ll share something Freelance-y that I learned during the week that will help other freelancers or entertain cubicle-queens. Thanks for reading!
As I dropped on Wendesday, this week started my first experience with an intern: my husband, Josh.
He deserves a medal for participating in this experience, because I can be a very demanding boss (apparently). Within two hours of his starting, I was already tallying a list of what really counts in an employee (and things I thought that mattered but don’t). Here’s the jist:
Things That Matter
I’ve always taken this one for granted because I’m a very motivated person when it comes to work. I do work because I want to do it — I love it, and even when I don’t love a particular assignment, I generally understand that it’s making me a better person.
In the work place, that translates into not asking tons of questions, figuring things out on your own first (with Google, at the very least) and making a list of question to ask all at once. I learned this from Josh asking me one question every time it occured to him for like two hours. A) He should save all those questions for one time and do what he can, B) I need to give an appropriate orientation to a task instead of rattling off some details and assuming he knows what to do.
Knowing What to Do Next
When your to-do list is one item long, you tend to stop working when you’re done with a given task. But I’m starting to think that a good employee finds a way to never ask, ” So, what should I do next?” and instead takes ownership over next steps.
If you often aren’t really sure of what you should do next at work, you can get there by obtaining a firm grip on your boss’s priorities and an understanding of how your work flow affects those priorities. You can ask about these things at meetings or check-ins all at once, then brainstorm ways your job comes into contact with those priorities.
Obviously sometimes you’ll need to ask, but for the most part asking comes across as laziness or cluelessness, and neither of those things inspire confidence or pride in your team. (On a side note, I think this applies within a marriage, too, when it comes to chores and tasks).
Confidence in What You Do
I don’t know why, but somewhere along the way I learned that asking questions is a good thing (which is true for interviews) and I applied that to my working life. Something along the lines of “the more questions I ask, the more interested I appear.” From a manager or boss’s standpoint, I now know that’s definitely not true.
By all means ask questions about deadlines and things you don’t understand. But the tiny details that go along with your job (like grammar things and blog post headlines)? No, thank you. The employee is there to outsource my own work and free me up for important things, not necessarily so I can teach them every detail or piece of strategy I have.
Things That Don’t Matter
Being Eager to Please
For some reason, I always thought this was a “happy puppy” bonus that bosses and managers really appreciated. It turns out that’s not a desireable attitude at all. In fact, it comes off a little unprofessional. As a boss, I much prefer a quieter, “on duty” vibe because it inspires confidence.
Especially in this entrepreneurial, creative age, I don’t think formal experience matters to me much in favor of practical experience. Josh’s experience updating and scheduling blog posts for his own blog makes me trust him with my blog. While a degree in programming wouldn’t hurt, I’m much more impressed with people who are excited about something and so learn it the hard way. (I bet that would differ according to each industry, though!).
New Ideas (At Least At First)
I now completely undertstand why my dad would say to refrain from sharing new ideas for your first 90 days on the job. The people who hired you don’t need to know what they’re doing wrong or what awesome idea they could track down. In fact, they might already know what to do. The problem is always manpower, and you’re hte manpower to help them through the task at hand.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t speak up if something is wrong or woefully out of date and awful. It’s just… make a list of your fun new blog or product ideas and table them until you’ve wrapped your head around your to-do list now. Josh is a total “Idea Man,” and while he had some awesome ideas of things to do, it didn’t make me feel good about the growing to-do list he was ignoring in favor of pitching those good ideas.