Don’t get the tablecloths, or How not to overthink your career
I was watching a Top Chef episode (naturally), season 8 All Stars episode 10 when they are in Target cooking overnight in the store, and it occurred to me that the women chefs completely missed the point of the challenge.
Some of them, mostly Carla Hall (and I love her dearly, she is such a great person and chef with a catering background), went around getting tablecloths, center pieces and decoration for her table to make it look nice.
One of the competitors (a guy, Dale Talde), made a snarky comment that he didn’t realize it was a Suzy Homemaker challenge.
He’s not wrong.
It wasn’t a “Suzy Homemaker” (ugh I hate that phrase) challenge that was worth TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS if you won; it was a cooking challenge in a Target store, where you had to grab your table, all your equipment, ingredients and cook in 3 hours in the middle of the night to raid the store for 100 Target employees.
Somehow, the women (poor Carla), and a few others grabbed flowers, tablecloths, etc. Carla was just the one who really went overboard and tried to make it look presentable and pretty, without thinking about the actual challenge.
They completely misread the challenge. The challenge was to cook in Target in 3 hours for 100 employees and get your own equipment.
There was no evaluation AT ALL on how nice your table looked, etc. It was just about the food, and they missed the memo.
This is obviously not an exclusive-to-women thing, but it happens more often to women than to men from what I can see. They want to be THE BEST and think too much about things.
They think ahead, they anticipate others’ needs, they see the big picture, and sometimes you need to narrow down your focus to YOUR LITTLE PART in the world and make it the best it can be, and this can be hard to do.
STOP. OVERCOMPLICATING. THINGS.
Stay focused on what the task was, what the challenge is, and CRUSH THAT.
If your job doesn’t say that you need to manage social media strategy and marketing, along with your actual job which is to build a website (or whatever it is), DO NOT BLOODY DO IT.
Stop trying to anticipate or think of what others might need.
What did they give you?
What is your mandate?
What are they paying for?
What is your statement of work?
….AND DO THAT.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive:
“But you said to go above and beyond!”
YEAH. Go above and beyond… IN YOUR JOB.
What are you working on right now? Are you crushing it? GREAT. Keep crushing it, and have a life too.
If you aren’t being evaluated on baking brownies, keeping the plants alive, or working/helping other people in their areas, then don’t bloody do it.
As a freelancer, I absolutely understand (now) after years of being overhelpful, and so on, that it doesn’t do anything for my career. I am working more, with more responsibility, and more CRAP, and getting the same amount of money.
Did I get another contract / a longer one? No.
Did I manage to have a life and focus only on my tasks to make sure I crushed it? No. I overextended myself and worked FOR FREE in many cases because I wanted to help and be seen as a good team player.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way ($$$$) and now that I know it, I am seeing the light.
I wrote a whole Instagram post on this:
Sacrificing your own personal time and life for the company, is something we seem to have innately ingrained in our DNA as women, plus you know, all the societal cues and messages growing up about how women are selfless caregivers who should sacrifice themselves for those around them – lifting up their partners, caring for their parents, giving everything to your children, family and friends.
This is great if you want to do this in your own life because your love language is about care and love.
This is NOT GREAT at work.
Your job is a job. They are paying you for a certain salary for hours given a week.
If you are slacking in said job, working 10 hours when you should work 40, this is obviously bad, and you need to step it up and change your attitude.
If you are already working your job, and do little extra above-and-beyond things WITHIN your job description, or even a little outside, where let’s say you take on an initiative to be organized and responsible for a project when no one else wanted to, and you stepped up — YES. GO FOR IT.
If you are working your job, and thinking that bringing in brownies, or helping other departments do their job that they are paid for, and you have zero visibility from management that you are doing so. STOP.
You need to be a little selfish with your time and yourself.
THIS is true self-care.
Be selfish with what you commit to at work and what you do FOR FREE, especially volunteer-wise.
What does it do for me / my career?
Know who doesn’t need to ask this question each time they do something?
Generally speaking, a man.
Men are not taught to think of others’ needs the way women are (I’m sorry to say this), and men are not taught to generally think about being a good team player or helping others connect together, etc.
They are taught to be selfish and THE BOSS to crush it, and this is good in the sense that as they are more selfish and focused on the end result, they are able to lead as they can dictate what their commands are to the rest of the team because.. it’s just them. I LOVE THIS.
Women, are taught to be selfless and more, which is why our life energy gets sucked out at work on useless tasks that have nothing to do with our jobs, and have zero career impact.
This is great in the sense that they want consensus from everyone, and want to make sure we are all on the same page and happy before moving forward. Being a great leader also means listening and being a team player and understanding the needs of all. I ALSO LOVE THIS.
Both approaches in general, have great benefits as an employee / leader / manager / whatever.
BUT, we could take a page from each other, and learn how to be more selfish (women) and more inclusive (men).
Also, be more visible to management
If you are doing something that is invisible, don’t expect someone to see it – it’s invisible, duh.
You have to make it visible by mentioning it. You’d be surprised how often I was doing something on the side and when I mentioned it, my lead was surprised.
Be chattier. Be braggier. You are just talking about facts right? Fact – you worked on this project and delivered on time and on budget. What’s so braggy about that?