For almost two years, I’ve been a manager of a social media department at the company I work for. I’ve had two interns for just as long and spend the vast majority of my day working alongside them, my boss (the company CEO), our director of operations, graphic designer, and PR account executive team. Every day coming into work is a big adventure but it’s not for the faint of heart - I’m usually busy nonstop until the end of the day, in which case I tend to take my work home with me or go to a cafe afterward to continue working if I’m not yet done with something.
When people ask me how I do it, I don’t know what to say. I’ve been working since I was 11 years old and throughout high school and college juggled two jobs simultaneously. I’ve always been ambitious and never one to settle either - my mentality to a lot of things in life is “how can I do more today?” I am my own toughest critic and often believe I can do more and strive for that constantly. More than that, I have a lot motivating me. I have a family I want to make proud, a workplace I want to keep pushing higher and higher, past dudes I was once interested in who will rue the day they did not decide to date me (though I personally like to think the right guy would not be intimidated by me), and me, the person for whom I’m doing this for. You have to work hard for yourself. It’s not a selfish thing either. It’s difficult and there’s a lot of responsibility and accountability at hand and some people don’t want a part of that. But others do and those people who do and do it well, they’re the boss ladies.
Want to become one yourself? Take some notes.
1) Be Respectful
This is the key to getting a lot of things you want out of life. The job doesn’t get done faster or better if you treat everyone like they’re your own private punching bags or go on a power trip or micromanage everything. If you’re the boss, don’t look at everyone with a lower level title like they’re less on the totem pole of life than you are (‘cause trust me, we all have to start from somewhere and usually it isn’t at the top). Teams are meant to rise together and as the leader, it’s up to you to keep that optimism, drive, and determination alive and well. Rest assured that the moment you start pulling some high and mighty shit will be the moment that karma will ensure you get yours. (Or your intern could very well pull a voodoo doll number on you… gave you something to think about, didn’t I?)
2) Laugh and Laugh Some More
I worry about workplaces that lack some funny bone action in their day to day routine. I worry even more about bosses who crack down on taking breaks throughout the day to be silly - seriously? I’d be lost without my daily memes, YouTube vids, and Onion article reads. There’s a fine line between being professional and falling into the professional box to the point where you’re a stiff in a suit who refuses to smile at anything. Laugh with your team and work to make being in the office somewhere they’d like to be.
Why this one gets lost in the shuffle so often is a mystery to me. Encourage your team to come to you if they have questions, if they need help, and just because. (That last one extends to more than just commenting on the weekend or the weather, fyi.)
4) Use Good Grammar in Your Emails
I used to have an editor who emailed with me in the most haphazard, choppy fashion humanly possible - misspellings abounded and everything you could possibly abbreviate was abbreviated. Oh, the irony of it all. You don’t need to double check your spell check with every email you send but don’t abbreviate already short words like please to “pls” - it’s so fucking lazy.
5) Additional Golden Rules of Note
-don’t overextend yourself
-understand that you might not get everything done in the span of 8 hours
-go into meetings prepared, ALWAYS
-leave your bad day at the door
-come in earlier than most and leave later than most
-make a daily to-do list and prioritize
-take vacations when you need a break
-pace yourself when drinking at the company party
That’s all for now,
Sometimes in life, we have moments where we truly feel like we’re growing up and finding out more about ourselves and others. These moments take place within ourselves and occasionally they’re out of body experiences, in which we step outside of who we are and quietly observe ourselves in third person action. My week was filled with these moments and realizations that were bigger than me in some forms but ultimately not too surprising in others.
(Note: Upon rereading this, I realize that the week that was is basically just two days written about here. So there’s that.)
Monday: My Lightbulb Bathroom Moment
I came to a conclusion on Monday when I was in the bathroom at work that I kind of already knew about myself. Like a small lightbulb lighting up in my head. Ready?
I am at my very best whenever I’m working constantly.
Wow, I’m so surprised! -says nobody who has known me since the age of 11 (when I first started working). But really now, this is important to me. There was an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie quit her columnist job to move to Paris with the Russian and Miranda is horrified, saying that she can’t quit her job because it’s who she is. “No it’s not who I am, it’s what I do.” Carrie snaps back. The reality of course is that Miranda is right because Carrie is what she does.
"We are what we repeatedly do" is one of my favorite quotes from Aristotle and both in the case of Carrie and myself, it couldn’t be more true. I write constantly, but last month I burned out for a moment there. I am of the belief that you write when you’re passionate and if you don’t have the passion working as your drive, then don’t write. Trust that the passion will return when it does and it will.
What brought me around was the death of Nora Ephron whom I’ve always had tremendous respect and fangirlish admiration for. A friend of mine pointed out to me that both Ephron and Jennifer Weiner, a great chick lit author, had gotten their start early on by attending and covering the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Which I did too!
Knowing that these great women’s minds had thought so much alike motivated me back into the game. I checked out a pile of books from the library, started reading, emailed all of my closest PR contacts (uh, there’s like 60+ on that list) and before long I was back where I felt at my strongest: in a sea of words and sentences and press releases asking me to try new mascaras. Later this month I’ll be North Carolina bound for a few days for a big surprise that only a slim handful of people know about. I don’t plan on discussing it outside of that slim few either. My dad has already described the impending visit to be “another feather for your cap” which is a perfect description of what’s to come.
When I’m working all of the time, everything feels right. I am whole. I am what I repeatedly do and what I repeatedly do (work and writing) fulfills both me and hopefully the people who read what I have to say.
Tuesday: Passing the Torch
I am particularly proud of the events that occurred on Tuesday because they had been in the making for some time. In my head, I had known I would make this proposal and after discussing it with my boss briefly and receiving her blessing, I knew there was no day like Tuesday to go ahead and offer it.
On Tuesday, I sat privately with my intern Kelsey and offered her the chance to come on full-time at the company after she graduates from college this year.
She said yes! It was a beautiful moment. I felt massively grown up all of a sudden. We both started crying almost immediately. Moments before the offer was made, we had both been discussing the senior year of college and she asked me if it goes by as fast as it looks.
"Well, not the first semester. But the second semester does. There’s a slow moment in January and then it takes off and doesn’t stop and all of a sudden it’s May." And that was the moment where it hit me. I remembered my own graduation two years ago and how when I graduated, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a job interview lined up but that was it. No future career in place to jump into, no home post-dorm established. I’d like to be able to tell you that not having all of these security blankets made for an exciting adventure to come, that I was free to pursue whatever I wanted, but that’s not how it feels, not at all. You’ve read my Monday realization: I like working and need it to be myself. I also really like money and being able to pay my student loans and afford Starbucks lattes. Most of all, after all of the exams and studying and ceremonies and tearful farewells to best friends, I really wanted to be able to take a nap and you kind of need to live somewhere in order to do that.
I had always known I would ask Kelsey to stay on within the department if she wanted, but in that moment, that flashback to my own life, I saw that this question meant more than just keeping on a great employee. For the first time, I had the power to take a person’s future, uncertain as it may be, and erase the question mark and replace it with an exclamation point. The offer was bigger than me. I was both inside and outside of myself in asking the question. And when you see yourself on the outside is when you see just how far you’ve come from where you started, some 13 years ago when I was 11 and my job was assisting with Avon orders.
"Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit" is the other portion of the same quote from Aristotle. We never know where our lives will take us or the bigger plans in store. To practice excellence in what we are gifted at, to be thankful in the good things that come our way, and to continually pass that torch onward and upward to those that we meet and know is what we should do.
It’s what we are.
The weekly conference call with our PR firm got a little warm ‘n fuzzy today.
First off, I just want to say I love our PR girls. As a person who works daily with PR people of all names and with various agencies all throughout the country, I have the unique perspective of knowing what it’s like to work with PR from a media/press POV as well as within a company that they actually represent. Obviously they’re both different. Writers plug the products from companies and being within a company, you work to get your name out there to said writers. That being said, our PR girls are pretty amazing. When I first started interacting with our head account executive she was very formal and proper in her emails. Which is cool and all but I’m in this for the long run- let’s get to know each other! Several months of interactions and a margarita mixer later, she and I are a lot less formal and more fun in our email interactions each week. I only have a handful of PR people I make an extreme effort to get to know on a deeper level than "Hi! Hope you are well. We just wanted to let you know that _____ has a new ________ product that will be available _______ for any upcoming interest stories at ________"
During the call today, the whole team was there and they told us about how much they love reading our various blogs and outlets we write for and how the content is always so fresh and engaging but also super topical and relevant- it ties back in with us every time. To me, this is the highest of compliments that can be paid to my team and I. It’s also the most touching. Any writer will tell you that being told by someone of influence “I love your work!” makes the tough profession worth it. I know working in business is not always perceived as interesting or engaging. I know that online interactions and creativity don’t always rank high on the ‘to-do’ list of many old school suit-clad corporations and even some of the newer ones. But I work hard to make sure that my little department has a voice. A good voice. A strong and thoughtful voice that can touch on nearly any topic and tie it back in with the main picture. It’s not easy and
sometimes I worry that I don’t do enough but you know what I can’t worry about that because every manager worries that they aren’t doing as much as they possibly can. Every day is different which is the beauty of social media. You learn to take sudden things that need to be done and make them your priority immediately. You play around. If it works, cool, if not, move on!
What always works here is my little team of interns. Lots o’ snaps for them today!
Also, through experience I’d just like to say that the more you praise a person for their hard work and for doing better and better over time, it helps encourage them to keep it up and feel like they’ve got a great worth in where they are and what they do.
I speak from experience but mostly I speak as a human being. So if you have interns, give them some love today. Or SpongeBob gifs like I do.
Below is an example of our multitasking brilliance!
-Heather Anne (as is my affectionate nickname/actual name)