Continuing my series on life lessons, (read the first part here), today I’m covering three huge lessons learned when I took an executive assistant job in Jacksonville, Florida.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Before taking the position in Jacksonville, I had been working for a gaming company in Texas for ten years. It became evident that the studio I was located would be eliminated and everyone offered relocation packages to the headquarters located in San Francisco, California. Fearing I would never be able to afford living there, I started looking for new employment immediately.
I was flown out for an interview by the prospective company in Jacksonville. For what little I was able to see of the actual city, it seemed cool, and it was relatively close to where my parents were currently living in Savannah, Georgia. Looking back I think I was just blown away by seeing palm trees for the first time in my life. When they offered me the job, I jumped.
In addition to being offered the highest salary I’d ever received at the time, I also was to receive a moving package, clothes allowance and etiquette lessons. I guess they thought my manners needed tweaking after having worked at a gaming company for so long.
On a side note, the etiquette instructor was posh but not arrogant and went with me to assist in spending my clothing allowance. My time with her was most definitely the highlight of this particular employment.
My boss, Mr. Harden, was the CEO of an insurance brokerage firm. He proved to be quite a challenge for me. Usually, I am able to figure out personalities quite quickly. That would not be the case with Mr. Harden..
If I thought he was going to react one way, he would react the opposite. If I thought I had done a particularly good job handling an assignment, he was not impressed or pleased. I became quite intimidated by him.
One weekend, he asked me to come in so that we could clean out some old files and cabinets. I arrived first that Saturday and began working on something else until he arrived. He came in and went right into his office. I assumed that he would come get me when he was ready to start purging the files.
He was expecting me to come in and get him when I was ready to start. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it was almost noon before he came out to ask me what I was working on.
“Just going over some financial reports.”
“Is that a priority over what we actually came in here to do today?”
“No, Sir. I was waiting for you to come let me know when you were ready to get started.”
“Why on earth would it be my job to come get you? I’ve been waiting in my office for you to come let me know you were finished with whatever you were working on when I walked in.”
What followed was a lunch where he explained more thoroughly his expectations of my position. Probably a conversation we should have had when I first started and initiated by myself, not him.
This whole episode taught me a very valuable lesson on not making assumptions. Communication is very important and it’s not a sign of weakness to ask questions if you are unsure or need clarification, or to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Poor Planning On Your Part Doesn’t Constitute An Emergency On Mine
One day a division director called me in a panic. He needed Mr. Harden to sign off on a contract before the client would move forward with a very lucrative project. Mr. Harden had already signed the contract, but they forgot to include a particular element of the project in the original contract and the client demanded a new one be drawn up to include this element.
When the director called, Mr. Harden was in and out of meetings all morning. Between each meeting I would remind him before heading into the next one that the director really needed his signature. He would just nod and then go prepare for the next meeting. After lunch had passed and having received two more frantic phone calls from the director, I knocked on Mr. Harden’s door to his office. I offered to go retrieve the contract from the director and bring it to him to sign.
He looked up and said, “Poor planning on their part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine. I’ll sign the contract today, but he can wait until it fits into my schedule.”
Boom, mic drop.
Take the Severance Package
My time at the brokerage firm lasted a mere four months. I found having no support network immediately around you when you have a small child too much to perform my job for Mr. Harden to the standard he needed. I resigned, explained my reasons, and to his credit, he didn’t even make me pay back the relocation package even though my employment contract said I was suppose to if I left within a year.
So the final lesson from here is this…if you have been with a company for a good amount of time, stay put and take the severance package. No matter how hard the job market may be, the extra money will make the transition easier. There are plenty of jobs, have faith you will find a good one and wait for the severance.
Living without a safety net,