The Worst Career Advice I Ever Received


I was reading this post on the Personal Excellence blog about a defining moment in her career when she realized she needed to stop complaining and change her perspective. I think her point is a good one, and you should read her post.

It got me thinking about a time earlier in my career that I had a similar standing-in-the-shower-everything-is-awful moment. It really wasn't, but I can see that 10 years later. But I did get the worst career advice, and that post got me thinking about how I flipped it on its head. 

At the time I was working my way up the non-profit ladder, doing PR and fundraising for a research institute and hospital I still love. I met weekly with my boss, going over status updates on each project, carefully written in my black binder. One day, seemingly out of the blue, he turned to me and said with a straight face:

"You know what your problem is? You have too much passion. You get too excited."

I was speechless, mortified as he spoke about how my face got flush when I was excited to share something new I was trying with our magazine, or an idea for a project to help our patients. (Yeah, looking back it was pretty mean.)

It made me feel awful. Someone had discovered. I was enthusiastic.

There's something you can take to prevent face flushing -- beta blockers. I did take them for a while, but I got tired of keeping up with having medication in my purse just in case I got excited and my poker face wasn't up to snuff. I was done with that by the time I left that job. 

The memory has popped into my brain a few times times lately. It makes me laugh now. What bad advice. 

At this point in my career I realize how uncool it was to treat an employee like that -- especially a young, formidable one. I learned from him, alright -- learned to never hide my enthusiasm

In fact, I'm pretty proud that I've been able to maintain unabashed enthusiasm (Ok, sometimes it gets slightly bashed. Never said my name was Pollyanna).

Perhaps at points people, like this old boss, thought it was naivety, but it is not. It is most certainly not. Enthusiasm continues to work for me, extending far past work. Enthusiasm gets me out of bed when I have a 13-hour day ahead. Enthusiasm keeps me focused on the big picture.

It does help to have more years behind me, more life experience. If someone said something along these lines today I would laugh. Really loud. "Now about your abundant enthusiasm, Ms. Shaw Street." 

Am I a little flush? You'll have to forgive me. It's the enthusiasm.